Monthly Archives: April 2012

Breaking Slavery’s Mental and Emotional Chains

Sometimes in all of our modern angst about our modern-type 21st century problems and issues, we forget that some of the world is still dealing with problems which most Western countries confronted a couple of centuries ago.

For over a year now, CNN has been running an ongoing series of articles and reports on modern-day slavery including trafficking, labor extortion, and other forms of enslavement. It’s called The CNN Freedom Project: Ending Modern Day Slavery.

They have produced some groundbreaking work, and probably helped many people gain freedom by shining a light into some very dark places.

But I think even the CNN staffers were probably shocked after producing a new set of articles and reports on the apparently thriving, traditional and old form of slavery still an accepted and integral part of daily life in Mauritania.

I know I was shocked at the physical conditions slaves there were subjected to.

But far and away the most unbelievable part of the whole report was the fact that the slaves themselves were mentally and emotionally almost completely bound to the masters. There was almost no need for physical restraint. These people
believed they were destined to be slaves, were not worthy of freedom, and even when set free, some, unable to cope in a world without job skills, would return to their former masters.

As former slave and founder of the Mauritanian abolitionist non-profit, SOS Slaves, Boubacar Messaoud, said in the article, “Chains are for the slave who has just become a slave, who has . . . just been brought across the Atlantic. But the multigeneration slave, the slave descending from many generations, he is a slave even in his own head. And he is totally submissive. He is ready to sacrifice himself, even, for his master. And, unfortunately, it’s this type of slavery that we have today — the slavery American plantation owners dreamed of.”

Part of me is still just simply stunned at that statement. (Part of me also  is noticing that in some ways, this is the starkest example I’ve ever come across of how we all enslave ourselves somehow.)

The articles and reports certainly seem to have had an impact, but whether the sudden focus of the world’s attention on Mauritania will actually help free these people is as yet unclear. I am hopeful, though, after listening and reading about some of those who escaped the physical entrapment and even more importantly, the mental enslavement.

Thanks for stopping by,

Heather McC

Note: SOS Slaves didn’t have a website to refer to but the Anti-Slavery International website seems to be partnering with them — thus my link to their page on SOS Slaves.