This article was written for “QUINTET,” our Parish magazine, requesting submissions on the theme of Culture.
by John Yeo
Saul awoke with a throbbing headache, amid the noise of tortured screams, and agonised terrifying cries for help. Everywhere was pitch dark, as he became aware of the iron chains that cut into his wrists, he frantically pulled and tugged in a vain attempt to get free.
Then his memory began to relay the events of the past few hours, before he was cruelly beaten over the head, and he had lost consciousness. A ship had approached the shore and as his tribal family began to sing and dance in welcome, a cruel merciless attack began. Many of the elderly and infirm were shot as the invaders began to surround everyone, and force march them to the ship. Saul attempted to protect his infirm Father and was viciously beaten around the head, he was never to see his Father alive again.
After days of darkness and squalor, with a little food thrown and scattered through a trapdoor, a light became visible and the many occupants of this overcrowded hell hole were allowed to emerge. Some weakened and dispirited from the experience. There were a few who never made it, and sadly died during the passage. Saul stumbled up a narrow ladder into daylight, leaving the stench and putrid decaying flesh behind.
The survivors were hosed down naked on the dockside, and dressed in cheap cotton clothing.
“You savage cannibals will now be sold in the slave market and quickly become civilised and put to work!” Announced a stranger in a loud cruel voice, sadly nobody could understand a word he was saying. Everyone was given food and water and soon separated and individually transported to their new homes and places of hard relentless work.
Saul was transported with some other men to a cotton plantation, and integrated with around sixty other slaves. The charge hands were also bonded slaves and they carried out the orders of a white foreman, implicitly, he would come down hard on troublemakers.
Saul was a hard worker, intelligent and quick-witted, he could do little else but immerse himself in the work and begin to adjust to this alien culture he had unwillingly become a part of.
After some months, the slaves were learning the language and a basic form of communication between everyone gradually developed. Saul began to learn the language with the help of Father Leon, a priest, who had been a bonded slave but was now a free man. This man spent his time visiting the workers, wherever he was allowed, offering them comfort, spiritual guidance and help in every way he was able. Saul quickly learned to communicate and to absorb the message of faith that Father Leon prescribed.
One day he asked his friend the Father, “There is a question I would like to ask, if you have an answer for me please.”
“Of course,” replied Father Leon, “Ask away if I can help you I will.”
“Father, Who are the savages? What did they mean by, ’You savage cannibals will now be sold in the slave market and quickly become civilised and put to work!’ I memorised those words, without understanding? How does your culture reconcile the wonderful promise of love and eternal life, with the way we were torn from our homes and lifestyles, and cruelly put to work?” asked Saul.
“These basic cultural rituals are collective activities, ways of reaching desired objectives, and considered as socially essential. They are therefore carried out most of the time for their own sake. These men are a part of a greater whole who have never known anything else but their dominance. Greed is an evil motivator and certainly not condoned by our faith, Saul,” replied Father Leon.
Copyright. © Written by John Yeo ~ All rights reserved.