30 November 2005

I'm Sorry - Blog Against Racism, part IV

I've been reading about Peak Oil lately and I was considering the incredibly fast growth of technology over the past century completely due to this cheap, seemingly unlimited resource (which is quickly running out). At one time, the Energy Rate on Energy Invested (EROEI) for oil was 30:1. In other words, for the energy cost of 1 barrel, you could get 30 barrels back. That number is now down to 5:1. As production peaks it gets harder to get out of the ground. At some point in the relatively near future, the EROEI will be 1:1, and that is when we no longer have oil for energy. (By the way, this is a scary-ass scenario, and I want to talk about it in more detail sometime later.)

One thing that occured to me (speaking as the American part of my dual citizenship) was how at one point in the semi-distant past (compared to our short short lifespans), slavery was the cheap energy of the day.

My own folks migrated to the USA after slavery ended, and I'd always had the notion that slavery didn't affect me, that I hadn't benefited directly and that, while I supported campaigns for apology and/or restitution, it was always in terms of other people having benefited - not myself.

However, in thirty or fifty years hence, when the current consumer-age has ended, people will walk around the edifices that were built by oil. We will appreciate all the technologies we were able to keep from those days before the crash, and yes, we will have oil to thank for any of those niceties that remain. I now believe this is true for slavery.

I think the roads we drive on, the buildings that remain, some of the infrastructure, and certainly the technology we enjoy now was made possible because of the terrible oppression of our fellow citizens. All of us have benefited, no matter when we arrived.

And for that, I thank them for their terrible task and I am so so sorry for the collective suffering of those ancestors as well as for the trauma that still exists today from slavery's awful legacy.


Blogger eRobin said...

We've all benefited from slavery since humanity began. We in the First World are now benefitting from the slave labor used to sew our sneakers or clean our offices or assemble our various electronic products. Cheap labor is where it's at.

7:14 am  
Blogger elissa feit said...

I completely agree that I'm benefiting in a myriad of ways from the current system in which the poorest of the poor struggle with earning pennies while I sit fairly comfortably in an air conditioned office, earning enough so that an extra $10 at the pump is merely a gripe rather than a life-threatening concern.

That said, I do think we need to differentiate between sweatshops and out-and-out slavery, as in people being stolen from their homelands, families and communities being violently shattered, whippings, beatings, rapes. (I'm not saying there aren't many similiarities in todays oppressive societies, especially if children are involved, since they generally have less power. I just want to be clear that there is a degree of difference.)

11:59 am  
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