Slavery in the late 1700s was happening all around the world, but most of the trade occurred in the Americas.
There are estimates that up to 70,000 slaves were sold to the Americas annually. These slaves were normally kidnapped from their villages and sold to slave traders. They were packed in tight ships with no sunlight. If they were lucky, they’d be stored in a space three feet high. The not-so-lucky ones were packed sitting in long rows unable to move. Sometimes when the ship tilted from the sea, the slaves on the sides were crushed from all the weight of other slaves. During the hotter months, temperatures could reach above 40 centigrade in the tiny compact spaces.
If you imagine the worst possible living conditions, it will be nothing compared to what the slaves went through. And that was just the trip there.
It’s unfathomable in today’s civilised society that anything like this would happen. But can this only be said with the benefit of hindsight?
If I was living in the mid-18th century, would I ‘go along’ with the consensus that slavery is normal? Or would I instead think it’s an abhorrence and complete contradiction to things I was taught as a child, i.e. everyone is equal.
But a revolution began in the 1830s, swaying public opinion, and ultimately the slave trade was abolished in the 1860s.
It was not long later that another revolution happened, allowing women the world over to vote in elections.
So, two different revolutions. But the outcomes were both tremendous.
- The outcome from Abolitionism meant Africans stopped getting kidnapped, transported across the globe, whipped and made to work for free.
- The outcome from the suffrage movement was that people who didn’t share the same genitalia as men were allowed to have a say on who ran their government.
Now, let’s fast forward to a moment in the future – the year is 2117. A young boy is sitting in history class. They’re learning about the Same-sex marriage movement that spanned from the start of the 21st century, when the Netherlands became the first country to permit same-sex marriages through to the late 2030s when the majority of the western world had followed suit.
“Sir, why did Australia take so long to legalise gay marriage?” the boy asks, genuinely confused, because, in his eyes, Australia was by all means a progressive nation.
The history teacher sighs, takes a moment, then pronounces “It was a different time. There was a fear amongst some of the..less informed”.
“But what were they afraid of?” the boy replies.
“Well, some of the fear was insecurity – a sense of exaggerated machismo and some was due to their ancient religious scriptures. But ultimately love overcome hate after the plebiscite of 2017 and it was enacted the very next year”.
“What’s a plebescite, sir?” he asks.
“It’s like a vote, where the whole country can voice their opinion for a change in the constitution.” the teacher explains.
The boy looked a bit confused. “But don’t we vote them in so they could do exactly that?”
“Yes, we do” replies the teacher, smiling. The bell rings.