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Monday, April 26, 2004

Slavering for Reparation

I've never understood these types bleating away for reparation. For a start, do we know what sort of fair price a standard slave goes for these days? And, ok, so Wilberforce-type Brits are centrally to blame for that nosey-parker frigate stopping that slave boat going about its lawful business - but how do they really know, those West Africa traders, how much money they'd be making today if whitey hadn't interfered and cut off their supply chain and poisoned the market for darkie home-help?

And who's to say the descendants screaming blue murder today wouldn't have dropped the ball and cocked it up - why should we believe they'd inherit ancestor Kwabe's brisk shipping methods, or ancient cousin Thabo's eye for a puissant thigh or fecund housemaid? Today's dusky traders could have totally squandered the family fortune and been reduced to flipping meat of a different kind, like the rest of us.

It seems that Ross Clark agrees with me, agreeing that "Slaves transported from Africa to the New World in the 18th century had a wretched time, but does the same apply to their distant descendants?" Hear hear, old boy - but wait! Ludicrous tho' it sounds, there are those who think it does apply: one Deadria
Farmer-Paellmann, who with seven other descendants of slaves this week filed a lawsuit demanding $1 billion in damages from Lloyd’s of London, FleetBoston and the tobacco company R.J. Reynolds.

The name alone is a giveaway - where do these people think them up? - but there's more.
These companies, claims Ms Farmer-Paellmann, who has had her DNA traced to the Mende tribe of Sierra Leone, ‘have destroyed our national and ethnic identity’. She accuses them of ‘aiding and abetting the commission of genocide’ by financing and insuring slave ships.

Does Ms Farmer-Paellmann really wish she was plodding around in a grass skirt in West Africa like her distant ancestors, rather than living in the United States? Unlikely. Never mind Lloyd’s of London; it is the descendants of slaves who profited the most from the slave trade. If anything, she should be thanking companies implicated in the slave trade for giving her such a good start in life.

Ms Farmer-Paellmann’s lawsuit is not the first to attempt to claim reparations for the slave trade. Sadly, those bringing such suits can always count on support from Western liberals because it is a lot easier to dwell on some injustice in distant history than to face the reasons why so many of the world’s poor remain poor; for instance, the trade barriers which prevent them from full participation in the global economy. The reward for any Western company which takes advantage of lower labour costs to employ staff in the Third World is to find themselves compared with the slave-traders.

Barring the triumph of protectionism, in 100 years’ time many of the great-grandchildren of telephone operators beavering away in Indian call centres will enjoy living standards equivalent to or better than those in the West today. The only hazard is that they might catch the Western disease and start filing lawsuits against call-centre companies for lifting them out of a state of noble peasanthood.

How's that for a giggle? I was beginning to worry that this lugubrious blog was turning into nothing but a vehicle for ratting on E and prattling on about C. Phew - Ms Farmer-Paellmann to the rescue.


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