Tuesday, November 02, 2010

For a while, I tried to re-integare myself back into the Ukrainian community from whence I sprang.
It just didn't seem to work for an Anglicized Slav who had gone too far working in the vinyards of Journalistic English.

But I did take a course in Slavics, U of T, and after re-discovering the poetry of our Taras Shevchenko (on whose grave Canada's PM,Stephen Harper laid a wreath last week), I was moved to write this:

Of all the problems that beset the busy mind of Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko, none was so familiar or so strange as the problem of slavery. Taras Shevchenko wrote 160 years ago, while still a young slave to Russian masters, and yet his message, scrawled across time in bootleg packets may apply to our own time, and even here in my own time, in York Region.

Slavery is as old as mankind, from the first crafty Sumerian seizing an innocent beach boy or girl among the reeds to the slaves of Rome, so aptly described by the ancients, the sixteen-hour days, the blackened faces of the bakery boys, the scarred backs showing through the hemp, the fire-scarred visages, the stink and exposure of loincloths, everybody working, moving all the time, one eye out for the master's whip. As for African slaves, there is a galaxy of literature on this, right from the first seized Nubian in Egypt.

Recently, I visited a sweatshop in York Region. The sixteen-hour days, the blackened faces of the wage-slaves, the scars on hands and back from being caught in machinery, the grease-blackened visages, the exposed privates where the denim had ripped. Yet apparently the money is clean enough, or they wouldn't do it.

Poor Taras Shevchenko. Enslaved all his life, finally liberated because of his talents, enslaved again for excesses committed over his newfound freedom, like many another person today who just can't handle the mantle.

And yet he speaks to us over the tens of decades. The French have noticed him, and certainly do we.

An yet, how far have we come? Marx has come and gone. Those who had nothing to lose but their chains have found themselves again in chains, but tighter.

And who knows what strange shape hulks now again towards our region to set up hectare-sized sweatshops and call it a campus.

And worse.

Over here, pimps call the new arrivals sex trade workers.



Charles Gramlich said...

the only thing people have is their lives and too many people have even that taken away

the walking man said...

The slavery today is no less brutal than that of days gone by. The only difference is the buying and selling is done in backrooms for a few hundred dollars or boardrooms for a few million. The chains though, the chains are the same just not made of iron. A slave can only be a captive when their mind gives itself over to the captivity.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...


After your comment on Mark's blog re politics, it seems that all kinds of people will be indentured for hard labour--and getting little in return.

ivanl@creativewriting.ca said...


Today I wonder who seems to have brainwashed the Ameridan electorate. This party is on their side?

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