Friday, July 17, 2009

Progress vs. Regress - A matter of respect

Yesterday I went to the Nordic Heritage Museum in Seattle, WA. There was an exhibit on the life of a farmhand in 1800's Denmark. They lived in a single-room with a dirt floor, worked extremely long hours, if they were underage their master could remove their genitalia, they carried a conduct book without which they could not be hired, and if they did have children, those children were forced in to the same condition, and when they died, they were buried in a mass-grave without a marker, and were not even given last names. They were chattel, property, not even really human, and they were the majority of the population, born and raised knowing that their children would be no better off.

Today, even an executed criminal gets a gravestone, just as it should be. I might underpay someone, I might insult someone, I might refuse to see someone, I might even under some conditions take vengeance, but I would never blot someones name out like they never existed. They say that many of those Danes came to America just to have a stone on their grave.

This feudal way of life existed for over a thousand years, and some people even romanticized it. Of course, the romanticizing always focused on the noble lord, never the squalor that the great multitude lived in, which was despicable. It is really sad how even the lords lost their humanity.

Today, we respect individuals, we respect rights, we have a constitution that grants certain freedoms unconditionally, and outside forces are less used to keep the opressed down and in the position. We have a democratically elected government and reasonable controls to prevent societal abuses, and people are free to live or die, give or break off by their own hand.

4 comments:

K. Frangeskos said...

Hi Jeremy,
Hi, I loved your new post!
So caring and insightful about the plight of the "others"...
The ones people don't usually associate themeselves with...
the hardworking, unappreciated and lower class...yet great human beings!

It is nice that you paid tribute to this fine group of individuals!
Warm regards

Minal Arora said...

Jeremy, this is an enlightening one. I thought these kind of things happened only in this side of the world but sure its very thoughtful of you to write about the subject.

That gives us one reason to stop cribbing about the system and why we are enduring it :)

Duckta said...

Yes we have come a long way but alas we must keep our faces pointed toward the wind of the future.

Jeremy Janson said...

Absolutely Duckta, and I'm really glad that people like you still have the passion to keep the ship pointed forward against all the fearful ninnies who wish to sail back to Spain!

@MA: Thanks for stopping by. I'm glad I made your day in that way, and sorry that this reply is so late. I've been going through an iffy time