The Eternal Plague

Slavery in our society is viewed as a despicable blight on our past. Every human on this planet with any compassion acknowledges that the practice of slavery is an atrocious thing. Yet, slavery does not seem relevant to us, like the Civil War it has become a piece of history. We learn about it in school, and then we move on with our lives.

We convince ourselves that we human beings have evolved for the better. Yet we haven’t. Slavery still torments this planet; we have just grown more ignorant to its existence. Today in Mauritania, slavery is evident everywhere. Despite the 2007 law banning its practice, little action has been taken. Slaves work day in and day out growing crops that the population depends on for food and economic survival.

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Although some Mauritanian slaves are paid for their work, modern day slavery is still very similar to slavery of the past because the motif is still greed, the treatment is just as cruel, and it is still a practice that revolves around race. In Mauritania agriculture is the main source of income. Without agriculture, without dates, millet, and potato, the country’s economy would plummet to almost nothing. To sustain their agricultural economy, Mauritania needs people to work the fields. After allowing slaves to do it for over eight hundred years, finding the money to actually pay laborers is no easy task. Mauritania is by no means a thriving country.

Money is still hard to come by, and although things are improving, the government realizes that they do not have the means to finance a labor force. Thus, slavery continues to exist because free or cheap labor is the easiest way for a hurting country to stay afloat. In the past, the motives for slavery were very similar. Central America parts of the US offered perfect climates for growing crops, especially sugar, and sugar at the time was is high demand. It didn’t take long for people to realize that free labor would significantly increase the profit earned from plantations, thus slaves were used.

Mauritania still has slavery because of greed, and slavery occurred in the past because of greed. Cleary, as far as motives go, the two have a lot in common. Some people would argue that slavery has actually evolved to a more humane practice. They would say that because some slaves are now getting paid for their work, slavery isn’t nearly as bad as it was before. Yet, because the salaries are so small, and because masters still determine what to pay their slaves, slavery is still a horrific thing.

In Mauritania, “freed” slaves continue to work because they believe they will be beaten if they stop. Their masters punish them cruelly for every mishap, for every sign of discontentment. Through barbaric violence masters exert their authority and keep their slaves loyal. Thus, the slaves live in fear everyday. They strain themselves endlessly, pushing their bodies to the limit.

They know that hard work, no matter how arduous, will always be a better alternative then getting beaten by their master. Masters of the past acted violently as well. Just like today in Mauritania, slaves had to keep working and had to stay loyal to avoid punishment. The wretched treatment of slaves has barely changed at all, for Mauritanian slaves are still callously beaten on a regular basis. In the 15th to 18th century, when a slave was given his or her freedom, things only changed slightly. Slavery was based off of color, and dark skinned Africans were the ones being enslaved.

So, even after being freed an African man or woman still faced constant discrimination. Mauritania’s social hierarchy is also based off of skin color. Haratines, or darker skinned Mauritanians, were most commonly enslaved. After being freed, a Haratine slave is still considered to be almost worthless by lighter skinned Mauritanians. They are viewed as insignificant members of society, and thus celebration seldom accompanies freedom. In the past slavery was racial, and in modern day Mauritania it continues to be.

Slavery is not something that only exists in history books. It fact, its presence plagues this world every day. Slavery in Mauritania is just as bad as slavery in the past; in fact it is almost exactly the same. The motives still revolve around greed, violence is still used daily, and race is still what determines who is free and who is not. We have not evolved as people or as a planet, for modern day slavery is just as brutal as its predecessor.