Williiam Wilberforce rose to his feet in 1789 to make his speech on 12 May on the abolition of slavery in the House of Commons to try and convince the rest of his parliamentary colleagues that the time had come to end the practice of transporation, in chains, across an ocean and to declare sympathy is the great source of humanity.
Perhaps you saw the movie Amazing Grace, it was the very last movie my father saw before he died. He loved the screen, and throughout my life,we saw a lot of movies together. We didn’t actually see this one together, but we talked about it in one of the last long conversations we had. A story that captured all the great themes – redemption, tenacity, justice, power, fear, joy. The making of a movement and the movement making leaders. Quoting statistics and telling the personal stories of the oppressed and the oppressor, Wilberforce brought together the reality of how we are all enslaved by acts of barbarity, and without the end of trading in tyranny.
Labor Slavery. About 78 percent toil in forced labor slavery in industries where manual labor is needed—such as farming, ranching, logging, mining, fishing, and brick making—and in service industries working as dish washers, janitors, gardeners, and maids.
Sex Slavery. About 22 percent are trapped in forced prostitution sex slavery.
Child Slavery. About 26 percent of today’s slaves are children.
We are also trading in slavery when we join in the economy, get to know where your goods come from and you too can free yourself from the slave logistics chain (see www.freetheslaves.net/ for guidance). In Wilberforce’s time sugar became a symbol of disconnecting from the slave trade and like all great symbols it helped to galvanise a movement and enabled people to participate in the campaign by politely refusing sugar in their tea and brought the conversation to the kitchen table. All great movements have ways of bringing the big issues into the realm of the domestic. I don’t like outsourcing my politics to politicians, the ideas and issues are too big for just the elites in the houses of parliaments, although it is crucial the legislators are there to turn the electorates views into law. It is up to us who have issues of import to bring them to the kitchen tables and to find ways to take our moral, economic and social views to the masses. I have a sticker on my car, of an issue that is important to me (refugees), and I am handing out the stickers to friends, family, associates and others in my wake as one little piece of building this big conversation. There is plenty of money to be made in this trade. Our government (Australia) is spending a fortune in this business. Detaining a single asylum seeker on Manus or Nauru costs $400,000 per year. Detention in Australia costs $239,000 per year. I share Wilberforce’s shudder. We now have 30,000 people in Australia unable to get visas after we promised them protection, and asylum seekers in Manus no longer detained, but unable to leave – effectively marooned. Just who are the pirates this time?
There is no business in abuse and Wilberforce invited us to benevolence – to do good. The opposite of benevolence is spite – intentional, ugly and designed to hurt. Isn’t it time to turn towards the light?
There is no accusation made against the gentlemen of the West India trade; but, by bringing forward the consideration of such a mighty object, we unite with the person of sensibility, that the measure is necessary, as founded in rectitude and universal benevolence.
Just as my Dad, found as his days got shorter there is an amazing grace to be found when you are no longer enslaved by the fear of the dark, so might we too find freedom in unlocking ourselves from what holds us back from saying no to a teaspoon of sugar, clothes made by children, or public policy that keeps those seeking asylum branded as illegal. It is hearts not boats that need to be turned around.