Saturday, July 4, 2009

Human?

The Sunday Scribblings prompt is "human".




This faded and inexplicably folded photo came to light today as I was sorting through one of those drawers that are full of miscellaneous objects that overflow from other places in this big house. It was obviously one of the many snapshots my father took during his 1916-1918 explorations of the South American continent making measurements of terrestrial magnetism for the Carnegie Institution at Washington but also observing the people and their customs wherever his work took him.

This is what my father wrote on the back of the photo in his distinctive handwriting. I have chosen not to correct or enhance these scans of the originals of either of these images since they are accurate in appearance and accurate also, it seems to me, in another sense: it has been all too easy for the majority of humans to overlook the plight of the poorest among us or even to exploit their vulnerability for our own comfort or profit. And one need not go to a foreign country or a time in the past in order to observe it. It exists here and now: the exploitation by employers of those who are desperate to eke out a living and will accept underpaid jobs. They slave in the fields and orchards, the service industries, or perhaps they sleep in doorways at night because they cannot find housing.

Actual slavery still exists in all parts of the world, and, according to recent reports, even in our own United States.

How can humans do such harm to other humans and still call themselves human? It's not a question that I can answer, but I have a niggling little suspicion that I am a part of the problem.

23 comments:

Lion-ess said...

seems like it's human to try and exploit and make slaves. Well.. maybe not human in the truest sense of the word... maybe we have lots our humanity!

Misti said...

Wow, excellent post and photo. Thought provoking indeed.

floreta said...

wow. very personal photo and message.

Rinkly Rimes said...

I was certainly part of the problem when I lived in Rhodesia as a young girl. But, honestly, the Africans seemed happy! We all laughed together a lot. But there was no doubt I felt superior, with, I now realise, no justification! But at least I never saw anything as heartrending as your old photo! And it's still going on.

if said...

your words are true...slavery occurs today in that way and also hidden in the privacy of houses where some people exerts psychological manipulation or physical force towards vulnerable persons

Granny on the Web said...

Wonderful pictures, it is great they have survived, and still tell a story. Thank you for sharing with us.

Love Granny

Maggie May said...

Yes, slavery still exists under many different guises & we probably do play a part in exploitation of the poorest without even being aware of it.
Slavery definitely exists in UK in many different ways.
Thought provoking post.

~Kathryn~ said...

amazing photo and great that your dad wrote his thoughts to share

an excellent post

i too understand that 'niggling feeling' when i'm not sure who made the clothes i am wearing - was someone exploited to do the work to make me a nice dress ... very thought provoking

Marja said...

Good one I worked for a long time in childrens homes were you get paid less than you would have to pay to park a car. My husband works too so that's not the problem It is the value they put on it

AD said...

Granny you are always twisting and turing the rot in my upper chamber.

very very touching!
love it!

Nostalgic Human"

Nana said...

Wow. Amazing post, it's so great that you have all these family 'historical' pictures and writings. As to answer the question, I have asked myself this many times. How can one own a slave and not see the human in them? I believe human beings have a very dangerous tool to deal with these situations and it's called 'denial' . If you convince yourself that people of a different race, religion, caste are inferior to you and are subhuman, then you will/can do anything to them.

Larraine said...

Unfortunately it seems there will always be slaves. Human beings justify it by "dehumanizing" those who are human. Look at the "3/5's" decision by the American Supreme Court before the Civil War. Even today, people justify mistreatment by calling others "savages." Whether they are talking about non-whites in American cities or Muslims or any other group, it's all about dehumanization in order to justify the horror of slavery.

Understanding Alice said...

How right you are! this is why the purchase of fair trade good is not just a whim, but a stand for human rights! Just look at chocolate...

http://www.stopthetraffik.org/marchonmars/uk/background.aspx

Jennifer Hicks said...

maybe it's human to want to feel power and "greater than". as humans we strive to exert our influence on everything around us. Look what we've done to the environment....doesn't make our control issues acceptable, but it just goes to show it's a common theme!

2cats said...

Granny, I don't know what to say, except you have given me something once again to think about. I like to live with the rose colored glasses but it is probably time for me to remove them.

Fledgling Poet said...

Your father's old photo made an even more powerful impact on the subject matter of your post...the stories of slavery we hear about here and now, in today's world, are hard to wrap the brain around.

ThomG said...

I don't understand it, either. Why humans think they have a right to lord over others, it's mystifying.

Finality

JP/deb said...

Man's inhumanity to man ...

Why? Are we all just trying to get our piece of the pie at any expense?

Thank you for this thoughtful post.

Peace,
JP/deb

b said...

We are not very proud of ourselves right now are we?

My friend had a kidney transplant this last week and still is not out of the woods. A friend donated a kidney so she could live. That did make me take pause.

b

Tammie Lee said...

yes and though I do my best, I sense I am part of the problem as well. thank you for sharing this and for your honesty.

MichaelO said...

Again, you draw from your wonderful experience and share such compelling stories. If only we could do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Simple lesson that so many cannot embrace.

Tanya Gwen Minnick said...

wow, this is a powerful post, and the picture speaks a thousand words..also good topic to bring into the light, slavery must be stopped.
peace and light
t

Jack Webb said...

I sometimes wonder if we are not all slaves in one sense or another. Not only slaves to our desires which Multi nationals use to ties to the wheel. When you actually think about it, how much freedom do we actually have. Just because we elect a government doesn't mean that there was any actual choice... they all serve the same master. If at the bottom of every ballot was a box which said NONE OF THE ABOVE. We would be alot closer to democracy.