17 comments on “Choosing slavery. 1912.

  1. I guess for this group, it’s the choice between lving and dying. And, even entering to slavery is no guarantee of living. Mostly we think of people being forced into slavery by heavy handed or illegal tactics but it’s quite something else to read about people selling themselves into slavery.

    • We always think of slavery as something forced upon a defeated army or town, or groups of people who have been forcibly removed from their homes don’t we? To think of it being the thing you choose really brings to life how awful life can be for people. 😦

  2. It’s a terrible thought that she had to sell herself and family into slavery as the only guarantee of the next meal. I’d hate to think of the jobs she’d have to do as a slave. I wonder what happened when she reached an age where she couldn’t work any more. For my own peace of mind I’d have to hope she was cared for by the rest of the family still kept as slaves.
    I know that slavery and trafficking still goes on today bit I’d hope that having to sell yourself into slavery isn’t the case now, though in some Countries/Societies I guess I’d be disappointed.

    • I wonder if the mother was bought or if there was only a market for younger people? There is always the chance that the youngest one and the mother were separated from the other two. I wonder what happened to all of them? 1912 isn’t really that long ago, their offspring may still be alive.
      There are still reports of people selling their children into slavery today, something I can’t understand. Although, I can feed my kids; if it is a choice of slavery, or watching them die it might be a different story.

  3. I’ve been trying to put myself in that mother’s shoes, and the truth is, I think I’d rather see my children fed as slaves, than dead of starvation. We tend to forget that famines in China and India killed millions… not that long ago. From 1958-61 China experienced a famine that :

    “According to government statistics, there were 15 million excess deaths in this period.[1] Unofficial estimates vary, but scholars have estimated the number of famine victims to be between 20 and 43 million.” That was a direct quote from Wiki. And I’m sure I remember horror stories of famine in India when I was a kid. 😦

    • And even now in the Horn of Africa there are people dying of starvation. They would probably love to have an option like that, no matter how terrible, but they just have to watch their children waste away. It is easy for us to judge from our comfy chairs isn’t it.

      • Yup. 😦 Did you watch Catalyst last night? Think of how many people we, in the West, could feed just from the food we threw out? That really shocked me.

        • No, I didn’t see that although I do know we live in a frighteningly wasteful society. 😦

          We watched a show the other day about bugs as the new food and it was really interesting. They showed a large grasshopper farm in Asia and it was just a big shed roof over a few dozen large box cages. I commented to the Man that, along with the chickens, if we got the veg garden going well and had a few grasshopper vats going we would never need to go food shopping again. (Except for the vital chocolate supplies of course.)

  4. I don’t know the basics of slavery in China, but it’s also possible that the definition of slavery at that time and place may have been somewhat different from what we associate with, say, how enslaved blacks were treated. It may have been more akin to being a servant, either for an extended period or for life, rather than being chattel.

    People tend to treat other people who look like them better than people who look different, and this woman may have been essentially selling herself and her children into a lower caste, that of being servants, rather than into our traditional perception of slavery.

    Of course, I also understand that life was especially cheap in parts of the world a century ago, including China, and that the woman in the picture may very well have chosen a lifetime of miserable bondage for herself and her children rather than, one supposes, starvation.

    • I did a long reply to your comment right away but here I am a few days later and I can see that it IS NOT HERE!! Grrrr….
      Oh well, the gist of it was that I kept trying to find out what kind of slavery was practiced in China at that time and couldn’t find anything I considered reliable but found suggestions that young girls were favoured and most expensive. I guess we can work out why.
      They were kept until they ‘became of age’ and were then released. I suppose that owners were not ready to raise illegitimate children under their roof and that the girls were sent off into the world to get married and reproduce were conveniently going to breed up the next generation of slaves.

      I was listening to the radio yesterday and there was a very timely guest talking about slavery. He had a very interesting perspective on our current world situation and was talking about how many slaves each of us has working for us. Of course we don’t have slaves living in our gardens but we still buy products that have been created using slave labour in other countries. I am sure many of us already knew that a five dollar tshirt can’t possibly have been made by a person living a nice life in a comfortable workplace but still, people keep on expecting consumer products to get cheaper and cheaper.

      His website http://slaveryfootprint.org/ has a section, How Many Slaves Work For You, where you can go to find out the slavery footprint your lifestyle has. I wonder how many people out there rant against their slave heritage but don’t spare a second thought about the way they expect to live today affects the people who supply their designer branded clothing and smartphones?

      • That’s an interesting concept, but I would suggest that it’s important to differentiate between those who produce, say, $5 shirts in miserable conditions and those who do so in what could be considered decent conditions.

        If someone in a Third World country migrates to a large city and gets a job making shirts and is treated decently (and I admit I don’t know how often this happens), and that person is able to earn enough money to keep himself and his family out of poverty, then both the worker and the company benefit.

        If, however, the individual is treated as no more than a slave, then there’s little difference between that and the chattel-style slavery of 150 years ago.

        Many individuals immigrate legally and illegally from Mexico and Central America to the US and work for less than minimum wage on jobs because they’re able to make far more money than could back in their home countries. The argument some economists will make is that if the individuals employing these workers all paid them at least the minimum wage, they couldn’t afford to hire as many, meaning some would make no money, and have no money to send back.

        Thanks for the link; I look forward to reading it.

        • I agree, the concept of slavery is dependant on how the individuals see their own situation.
          If a person is being paid what we consider too small an amount for their labours, but is happy with their life because it has been far worse elsewhere, who are we to tell them that it is wrong. On the other hand there are far too many people who take advantage of the desperate and don’t do anything to help them improve their lot in life. Being paid pittance means that you never get the chance to change your life for the better.
          I doubt that too many of those who work in those third world sweatshops consider themselves slaves but I don’t think they have many other life choices. Work under dreadful conditions or starve is not really a choice at all. 😦

          If you look at the definition of slavery you could easily make the argument that the 160,000+ transported convicts that colonial Australia was populated by were slaves. On their arrival they were assigned to a settler to work for the rest of their sentence. Any transgressions were harshly punished by either the settler or the courts (chain gangs, tread wheel, solitary confinement, lashings) but we don’t look at ourselves as the descendants of slaves. (We just universally hate authority! 😀 )

          Unfortunately, I don’t think there is a single society in history that hasn’t indulged in some form of slavery. Long ago, when I first started looking into this subject I was amazed to find that the origin of slavery in the US was when Africans sold their own people across the ocean. I wonder if that trade would have started if they knew conditions would be so harsh (and the problems so long lasting) for their countrymen?

          It is terrible to think that real slavery and human trafficking still exists today isn’t it? I am constantly amazed that people can treat other people so abominably. It is just luck of birth that you and I can have this conversation from our side of the fence rather than being one ourselves. 😦

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