The Forgotten European Slaves of North Africa and the Ottomans
Slavery. Images of Africans chained together and pushed into European vessels come to mind. They are boarding the ships on the west coast of Africa, at the start of a long journey across the Atlantic. Many starve to death, die of disease, or perish due to other reasons. It is a horrific episode in human history. To this day, Europeans and Americans alike bear the guilt of our ancestor’s actions.
Approximately 15 million Africans became slaves due to the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Every child learns about this in school, everyone knows about this suffering of the Africans. Yet, today, I’d like to highlight a less known episode of slavery. The slavery of the Europeans in North-Africa.
The Holocaust being of greater horror and death toll than the Armenian genocide, does not mean the Armenian genocide is not worth talking about. Similarly, even though the European slaves amounted to a ‘mere’ one million, it does not mean that therefore it is not worth discussing. Did you know already that there were approximately 1.000.000 European slaves taken to North-Africa?
Orpheus in Hades. There is silence as nobody is interested in listening.
Can we talk?
Last week, on one of my many visits to the airport I noticed a small book laying in the duty-free shop. The title of this small book, although written in Dutch, translates simply as ‘’Can we talk?’’. It was written by the Dutch author Joris Luyendijk and the topic was modern polarization. Joris previously wrote books on his experiences living in Egypt among the natives for a year, and on the culture of the banks in the City leading up to the crash of 2008.
The primary message of the book was that we live in separated societies regarding our opinions and worldviews. We read websites that share our opinion. The pages we like on Facebook agree with our worldview. The people we follow on Twitter say the same things we say. And those that have other opinions? They read other websites, like other Facebook pages and follow different people on Twitter. Everyone lives in their ‘’opinion-bubble’’, closed off to anyone that disagrees with them.
Still from “The Picture of Dorian Gray” (1945)
The Picture of Dorian Gray
One of the most exquisite books that have ever been written is undoubtedly ‘’The picture of Dorian Gray’’ by Oscar Wilde. The book, the only novel written by Wilde, is not only amusing and relevant for the time it was written; it may be relevant now more than ever.
For those unfamiliar with the novel, I will briefly outline the core of the story. A young aristocrat named Dorian Gray has a portrait made of himself. Upon seeing the portrait he envies the ever-lasting youth the portrait has and wishes that the portrait would grow old, rather than he himself. And so it happened.
Dorian had been granted eternal youth, and the picture, hidden from sight, aged as time passed. Dorian had surpassed mortality, and being an aristocrat he had a guaranteed income from his lands or inheritance. Although the prospect of infinite life and money sounds appealing to many, during the novel we witness Dorian suffer and succumb to his vices.
”Youth is the only thing worth having.” – Dorian Gray