Advanced English Language Skills – Essay

06 Jul
Slavery – A fish rots from the head down.

“As long as the mind is enslaved, the body can never be free. Psychological freedom, a firm sense of self-esteem, is the most powerful weapon against the long night of physical slavery.”

What did Martin Luther King, a well known icon figure in the advancement of civil rights, mean by saying these words? He posits that those people with “enslaved minds” are most vulnerable for physical slavery. On top of this he defines “psychological freedom” as the most powerful weapon against slavery. As far as I can see Martin Luther King tries to conceptualise something we already know: the necessity of education or literacy. Is education the answer to everything? How can mankind provide education for everyone? Either way, there will always exist something like slavery to a certain extent, won´t it?

“No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.” You can find this sentence in the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights”. It falls within the scope of Article 4 to be more precise. Considering the fact that this declaration was proclaimed in the year 1948 one might ask: What has changed since then?

Nowadays several nonprofits, for example Amnesty International at the front line, fight for the worldwide implementation of such rights. In their report “The state of the world´s human rights” from 2011 AI notes about Mauritania, a country in West Africa: “Although slavery was abolished in 1981 and has been a criminal offence since 2007, the practice persisted. There have been no judicial proceedings against slave owners.” (Amnesty International Report, 2011)
They also tell about sexual slavery and forced recruitment of child soldiers in Sierra Leone, also West Africa, forced labour in Brazil and similar practices in Cyprus or Malta. Maybe there has been progress in eradicating slavery but it still exists in some areas of this world.

The French Poet Victor Hugo – one of his best known work is the novel “Les Misérables” – was quoted as saying the following words: “We say that slavery has vanished from European civilization, but this is not true. Slavery still exists, but now it applies only to women and its name is prostitution.” This statement reveals the different forms of modern slavery. Today you won´t see people bound in chains having their teeth checked by their future masters. Modern slavery is often unseen – and that´s what makes it a serious threat for exploitable people.

A special form of modern slavery is human trafficking. According to the UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, human trafficking can be defined as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.“ (

How can such a practice be prohibited in a globalised world, where employers ask for cheap manpower without questioning the background of the employee and their own behaviour? What makes a person pay a packet of money to be transported in an unknown country and serve as a personal cash cow for others? Is it his or her own eagerness to succeed somewhere in a foreign country? Why wasn´t he or she given a chance to succeed in the country he or she was born? Was this person prohibited from living a life in – like Martin Luther King puts it – psychological freedom, refused to demand what could free his or her mind – namely education?

A fish rots from the head down.

Edin Sasic

Nonprofit, Social & Health Care Management
Management Center Innsbruck

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Verfasst von - 6. Juli 2011 in Standard



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