Modern day issues tie back to ancient times

Columnist and Columnist

Recently, I sat in class, not particularly engaged, when something memorable happened.

While we students do not appear to be a creative bunch when it comes to in-class presentations, this particular student sparked my interest in a way she could have never imagined.

To begin, it seems noteworthy to give the historical back story.

Seneca the elder, a Roman author and parent of the more famous man of the same name, wrote a series of works on legal cases which provide valuable tools to understanding the social climate of the period. In one of these works, Seneca writes about a vile man who engages in human trafficking of a particularly horrifying nature – as if it all were not horrifying.

Seneca’s words tell the story better than mine ever could. “Here roam the blind, leaning on sticks, here others carry round stumps of arms. This child has had the joints of his feet torn, his ankles wrenched; this has had his legs crushed. Another’s thighs he has smashed, though leaving feet and legs unharmed. Finding a different savagery for each, this bone-breaker cuts off the arms of one, slices the sinews of another’s; one he twists, another he castrates. In yet another he stunts the shoulder-blades, beating them into an ugly hump, looking for a laugh from his cruelty.”

This vile man, after abducting and mutilating children, would then send them out to beg for money. His business endeavor was contingent upon deliberately maiming children to make them look more pathetic. These children, often missing eyes, tongues, arms, legs or other vitally important body parts, were therefore condemned to a life of beggary with little possibility to escape.

So, the question could be presented, “what does this matter when it happened so distantly in the past? As horrifying as it is, this situation does not play out today.” I sympathize with you. While I would have normally been content to continue to focus on other things, this student’s presentation was on human trafficking and largely dealt with essentially the same situation described by Seneca.

Today, around the world, human trafficking is not a thing of the past. Sex slaves have recently been in the news in a very disturbing fashion but agricultural and domestic slaves can be found just about anywhere. Two thousand years after Seneca, people are still found working in environments which perpetuate a mental and physical dependency for survival.

Worse over, the grotesque nature of these actions has not ceased to exist. We are fortunate to live in a society in which children are not kidnapped and mutilated but this, however, is not an exclusive experience. Many of our contemporaries around much of the world live their daily lives as witnesses to human nature’s boundless depravity.

While I have never seen it, I have been made familiar with a recent film, “Slumdog Millionaire,” which confronts the issue of child abduction and mutilation in modern India. Similarly, in other regions of the planet, women are abducted and sold to the highest bidder while still other areas continue to use child soldiers.

Human nature can be a sick, perverted enchantress which perpetuates the most disgusting qualities associated with free will. With this, the question of how to stop this practice is a very real issue with few viable or practical short-term answers which we can pursue on a personal basis. Not to be discouraged, we must begin significant measures to educate the public as a whole. Our humanity must be judged by how we treat the lowest members of society and we have identified those who are most in need.

This is a real issue and a real challenge; rise to it.

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