Human Trafficking – WIF Atrocities Spotlight

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Worst Countries

for

Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is one of the most despicable crimes that one person can commit against another, and it is sadly way too common. The FBI says that it is the third biggest criminal activity. Anyone can become a victim of human trafficking, which is modern day slavery, and according to the United Nations, about 20 percent of victims are children. It’s also a global problem and countries in every region of the world are affected by it; this includes first world countries.

 Often, people who are desperate for work or food can either be tricked or even kidnapped into slavery. Then, through force or coercion, they are made slaves who work for little or no pay. This work includes forced labor, domestic servitude, and prostitution, to name just a few.

The most comprehensive study on human trafficking is the annual Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP), which is published every year by the American Department of Justice. The reports go back to 2001 and they have a three tier rating system. The worst countries are Tier 3, which are “Countries whose governments do not fully meet the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.” Currently, every single one of these countries are Tier 3, and have a history of being Tier 3.

10. Algeria

Algeria is the largest country in Africa, and because of its location, it’s a hotbed for human trafficking. It’s a North African country and is the gateway to Europe for migrants from Mali, Niger, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, and Nigeria. It’s common for people to voluntarily enter Algeria so they can take a boat to Europe. However, many times after entering Algeria their journey to Europe is thwarted; usually they run out of money, or their money is stolen. Being in a foreign country with no money means that these people are sometimes left with no choice but to work as sex workers, laborers, domestic servants, or they are forced to beg until they collect enough money to pay traffickers to get them to Europe.

Another possibility is that they are brought into Algeria by traffickers, and then owe a debt that needs to be paid before they can continue on to Europe. The problem is that it’s very hard to get out of debt because they don’t make a legal wage, while interest on the debt always makes the debt larger. Or the employer could give them a place to live and food to eat, and that adds to the debt, essentially making them slaves.

For years, Algeria denied that they had a human trafficking problem, despite being a Tier 2 or 3 country on the Department of Justice’s Trafficking In Persons report (TOP) since 2004. It wasn’t until 2015 that they acknowledged the problem, and in December of that year, the Algerian government rolled out a plan on how to deal with human trafficking. However, in the year that followed, no one was convicted of human trafficking related crimes.

9. Venezuela

Since 2002, Venezuela has drifted between Tier 2 Watch List, and Tier 3 on the TIP report, which is like hovering between a D- versus an F. However, things got really bad in 2015 when the Venezuelan economy had a downturn. When it did, the rates of human trafficking tripled.

Among the people who are trafficked out of the country, 55 percent are adults, 26 percent are young girls, and 19 percent are young boys. Often, they are lured into trafficking by the promise of high paying jobs. Instead, they are sent to countries in the Caribbean, where they are forced into the sex trade or domestic servitude.

The main reason that Venezuela is constantly on the bottom of the list when it comes to worst countries for human trafficking is because they do very little to combat it. They have strict laws surrounding it, but it’s rare if anyone is prosecuted under the laws. Since 2013, only three people have been convicted under the human trafficking laws in Venezuela. Unless the government cracks down on human trafficking, it will continue to be a plague on the country.

8. Sudan and South Sudan

Two civil wars between Muslims, who live in northern Sudan, and Christians and Animists, who live in the south, led to South Sudan gaining its independence in 2011. When South Sudan seceded, they were debt free and it was a middle income country because they exported oil. However, within just five years, thanks to corruption, South Sudan is now impoverished and the 16th poorest country in the world. Sudan is a little better off, but it’s still the 52nd poorest country. Both countries also have a horrible problem with human trafficking.

Both countries are source and destination countries for human trafficking, and Sudan is also a transit country. People are brought into countries by Sudanese and South Sudanese employers, especially those who own restaurants, construction companies, and hotels. They lure people from Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo with the promise of work and then enslave them.

A big market in both countries is child slaves. Children, as young as 10, are used for a whole series of jobs, including construction, market vending, shoe shining, car washing, rock breaking, brick making, delivery cart pulling, and begging. Girls are also subject to sex work in restaurants, hotels, and brothels.

7. Belarus

Belarus is a country in Eastern Europe that is landlocked between Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania, and Latvia. It is different than many of the other countries on this list, because in a lot of countries, human trafficking is usually controlled by organized crime syndicates. However, in Belarus, it is state-sponsored.

There are several ways the Belarus government can enslave people. One is through a 2015 presidential decree that makes unemployed people pay a fee to the state or they are forced to do community service. If you’re unemployed, there is a good chance you can’t pay the fee, so this leads to community service, meaning unemployed people are forced to work for the government without being paid.

Another presidential decree ordered that workers in the wood processing industry would be given bonuses every month. However, if they resigned, then they would have to pay back the bonuses. If they don’t repay the bonuses, the courts can force them to continue to work in the industry while being watched by law enforcement.

A third decree that is troubling to the DOJ and the UN is that alcoholics and drug addicts can be detained for 12 to 18 months in something called “medical labor centers.” At these centers, people are forced to work, and if they don’t, they can be locked into solitary confinement.

Other laws in Belarus that show the systematic use of human trafficking is that high school and university students are forced to work on farms without pay. Parents who had their paternal rights taken away are subject to compulsory labor, and the government keeps 70 percent of their wages. Finally, government workers and private businesses are forced to work occasionally on Saturdays and then donate all their earnings on those days to state projects. If they don’t, they can face fines, or lose their business licenses or government contracts.

Due to the conditions in Belarus, people try to leave the country, making it a source country for human traffickers, while others are lured there with the promise of work and then they are subjected to forced labor.

6. North Korea

North Korea has one of the most unique human trafficking situations in the world. One reason is that it is almost exclusively a source country for people to be trafficked out of. That’s because of how terrible the conditions are in the country, which includes forced labor camps that house 80,000 to 120,000 people – many of whom have not been charged with a crime. This means that North Koreans fleeing the country can be highly susceptible to human traffickers.

Another way that North Korea is unique in the human trafficking industry is that they also deploy 110,000 to 120,000 forced laborers to 20 to 40 other countries. This apparently makes the Kim Jong-Un regime anywhere from $150 million to $2.3 billion a year. However, the workers only receive 10 percent of their pay after they return to North Korea, usually after a three year stint.

One of these countries that rent slaves is Qatar, who are preparing their country for World Cup 2022.

5. Russia

By surface area, Russia is the biggest country in the world, and is home to 140 million people. It is also the only G8 country that is a Tier 3 country when it comes to human trafficking.

It’s believed that anywhere from 5 to 12 million migrants are working in Russia in conditions that are close to slavery, if not outright slavery. This includes working in underground garment factories, being public transport drivers, and working in construction and agriculture. Also, women and children are forced into prostitution.

How it usually works in Russia is that wages are withheld, or come extremely late. This makes the migrants incur a debt that is impossible to get out of. Employers will also take away migrant workers’ passports, so they can’t leave.

One reason that human trafficking in Russia is such a problem is because of corruption within the Russian government. There are allegations that Russian officials facilitate the entry of migrants into the country for exploitation, and other officials receive bribes to not investigate human trafficking crimes.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the Russian government is also directly involved in human trafficking. In the last entry, we talked about how North Korea deploys workers to other countries for slave labor. One of those countries that “lease” North Korean slaves is Russia. In a state-to-state agreement, 20,000 North Korean workers every year are sent to Russia to work in different industries, especially logging.

Since the Russian government is benefiting from human trafficking, don’t expect Russia to move up any tiers on the TIP report any time soon.

4. Syria

Something that helps human trafficking flourish is instability in a country, which makes Syria one of the worst places for human trafficking. Of course, the source of their instability is the most devastating war of the 21st century, so far.

The civil war got its start in March 2011, after 15 boys between the ages of 10 and 15 were brutally tortured, one to the point of death, for writing graffiti supporting the Arab Spring. This led to protests, and to quash the protests, President Bashar al-Assad’s government ordered hundreds of protesters to be killed and imprisoned. This led to defections in the army, and the defectors organized rebellion forces to bring down the Assad government. The war, which is still ongoing, displaced half of Syria’s population, which is 12 million people. Four million were able to flee the country, but 7.6 million are still displaced inside Syria.

People fleeing from dangers, like a civil war, create ideal conditions for human trafficking because traffickers are parasites that thrive on desperation. It makes victims easy to lure into slavery. Imagine if your home was destroyed by a missile, and the only thing you had were the clothes on your back? Not even the government can help you, because they could have been the ones that fired the missile at your home. What choice do you have when someone comes up to you and says that they can help?

Unfortunately, this is a reality for many Syrians who were forced to flee their homes. Once in the custody of the traffickers, the people, especially women and girls, are shipped out to neighboring countries like Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey, where they are forced into prostitution, labor, and domestic servitude.

What makes the human trafficking situation so much worse in Syria is that it is also a destination country. During the civil war, the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), was able to seize two areas of the war torn country. Women and children are trafficked into these two areas. The woman and girls are forced into marriages with ISIL fighters, where they become domestic slaves and face abuse and sexual violence. Boys as young as 6-years-old are used in warfare. Sometimes they are sent to school and taught how to use weapons or they are trained to be suicide bombers. Others are used as human shields and executioners; ISIL has been known to get Syrian children to behead Syrian soldiers.

Besides ISIL, other armed groups, like Ahrar Al-Sham, Jabhat Al-Nusra, and Kurdish forces control different areas of the country, and they also traffick in women and children. Needless to say, the situation in Syria is horrifying. Until there is peace, human trafficking in the country will be impossible to stop.

3. Yemen

As we mentioned in the opening, based on the DOJ’s TIP report, the worst offenders of human trafficking are considered Tier 3. However, there is another category called “special cases.” They’re “special” because the countries are so unstable that it’s hard to get any real figures to understand the true scope of the human trafficking problem.

The first of those countries is Yemen, which is an Arab country found at the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. For the past five decades, there have been several civil wars in Yemen. In 2011, the country became more tumultuous after President Ali Abdallah Saleh stepped down after being injured in a rocket attack. The hope was that his resignation would end the civil unrest, but it didn’t work and in March 2015, civil war broke out between forces that are loyal to the government of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, which is internationally recognized, and forces that are loyal to the Houthi rebel movement. Added to the mix is that ISIL and Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), an Al-Qaeda franchise, both control areas of the country.

Before the civil war, Libya had a terrible track record for human trafficking as a destination and transit country for migrants from the Horn of Africa. It was also known as a sex tourist area for people from the Gulf. Child labor was also fairly common, as there were 1.7 million children under the age of 14 who were subject to forced labor.

Experts believe a lot of those activities are still going on, but they have no official data because of how unstable the country is. What they do know is that, due to the conflict, over 3 million people have been displaced, and much like in the case of Syria, human traffickers prey upon those displaced people.

Children are particularly hard hit in Yemen. Boys are forced to be laborers, work in shops, or beg, while both boys and girls are shipped to Saudi Arabia, where they are forced to work as prostitutes. Boys, sometimes as young as 10, are also used as soldiers by government forces (yes, the same one that is internationally backed), the Houthi rebel forces, and the AQAP.

2. Libya

The second special case is Libya, which is found in northern Africa between Algeria and Egypt. Libya is an oil rich country that was controlled by dictator Muammar Gaddafi before a civil war led to Gaddafi being ousted and killed in 2011. However, even before his downfall, Libya was a magnet for human traffickers because of its position between Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa, and because Gaddafi’s regime profited from trafficking.

However, after Gaddafi’s ousting, no real government has taken its place and different areas of the country are controlled by different armed groups. This includes ISIL and Al-Qaeda, and has led to an explosion of human trafficking. It’s the second biggest industry in Libya, just behind oil.

Many people are detained on their way from Africa to Europe and held for ransom. During detainment, people are held in overcrowded centers where they’re tortured, arbitrarily murdered, and sexually assaulted. The conditions are so horrendous that before women head to Libya, they take contraceptives to avoid getting pregnant by rapists. Sometimes these detention centers are state-sponsored, while others are controlled by militias.

Besides the horrid detention centers, like many other countries on this list, men are forced to become laborers, women and girls are forced into the sex trade, and boys are recruited by militia groups. Unfortunately, until Libya starts to get some stability, their nightmarish human trafficking problem will only get worse.

1. Somalia

If you were hoping that “special cases” were just temporary designations for a country because something horrible and unforeseeable happened that would dramatically increase the amount of human trafficking, like a natural disaster, war, or genocide, and the label would go away once that issue was dealt with… well, the African country of Somalia should demystify any notions of that. In 2016, Somalia was labeled a special case for a 14thconsecutive year.

Somalia is at the tip of the Horn of Africa and is one of the poorest countries in the world. A lot of problems in the country stem back to 1991, when President Mohamed Siad Barre, who assumed power in 1969 after a military coup, was ousted. After that, the country fell into anarchy. Different areas of the country were controlled by warlords who ruled over clans. Since then, there have been attempts at peace, but the war is still ongoing 26 years later. A new government was finally elected in 2012, after 21 years without a central government, and they have been slowly moving towards stability. However, the government doesn’t have much control over the six states that make up the country. Also, Al-Shabaab (a terrorist organization) controls some rural areas of the country.

Of course, since Somalia had the same amount of laws as the world of The Walking Dead for over two decades, human trafficking has been pretty rampant there. It’s hard to verify any of the trafficking problems, but it’s believed that men, women, and children are used for forced labor, domestic servitude, and the sex trade. Things are so bleak in the country that sometimes parents are forced to give their children up to traffickers.

Child soldiers are also quite common, as the Somali government uses them, as do two states. To be fair, the Somali government doesn’t issue birth certificates, so it’s hard to verify ages. However, Al-Shabaab has been known to recruit neglected children and use them as soldiers, assassins, suicide bombers, to plant roadside bombs and other explosives, and finally, as human shields during incursions.


Human Trafficking

WIF Spotlight

George Washington Digest – WIF Into History

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Lesser Known

Facts About

George Washington

Even as American values change and history is continually revised by new discoveries, George Washington remains one of the most venerated figures in human history. A highly esteemed soldier and general who became a pioneer politician, he appeals both to the intellectual types and those who liked to prove their worth through combat. Unfortunately, for all his acclaim, the casual reader only gets a vague impression of what he was like as a human. It’s unfortunate, because it leaves out a number of very interesting aspects of the life of a fascinating (if deeply flawed) man. Unfortunate for the average person, that is, not for George Washington. His legacy has literally been set in stone. So, let’s get to learning more about America’s most prominent Founding Father.

 10. Started the First Worldwide War

Although he’s a central figure in the American Revolutionary War, Washington had an even more significant role in a larger scale conflict that is often overlooked in American history. In 1754, Washington was a Lieutenant Colonel in command of forty troops that had been dispatched to intercept a column of French troops in Southwestern Pennsylvania. While this was technically still peace time, tensions were high, as the year before Washington had led a retinue to the French Fort Duquesne to demand they leave the territory, and it had been only through a mighty show of force that the French had surrendered the fort without a fight. So it was that on May 28, Washington’s small command found the French column, and despite having been ordered not to engage the enemy, Washington ordered a sneak attack. He was, after all, only about 22 years old and eager to prove himself, even if it meant defying orders. They killed a small number of French soldiers, wounded a few others, and took 21 prisoners.

 According to History.com, his small engagement was the flashpoint that led to the rival nations of France and Great Britain enlarging their armed forces in the colonies, and in time the war spilled over into Europe. It became known as the Seven Years’ War, and it was the deadliest conflict of the Eighteenth Century. Necrometrics. computes the number of dead from that conflict at 853,000, far exceeding the total combined forces engaged in the American Revolution, let alone the number of casualties. Makes the “Shot Heard Round the World” seem almost quaint.

9. Signed a Murder Confession

Well before it escalated to the Seven Years War, in the immediate aftermath of Washington’s unauthorized sneak attack it became clear it was a British/Colonial boondoggle. It turned out the French column was actually on a diplomatic mission, and Smithsonian Magazine states they had the documentation to prove it. The diplomat in question was an Ensign Joseph Jumonville, and according to Washington, he was killed in the immediate aftermath of the attack when a Native American, who went by the nickname Half King, put a tomahawk in his brain. A larger French force was dispatched to deal with the treacherous British and Washington responded by falling back to an improvised log defense dubbed Fort Necessity. Even after being reinforced by more than a hundred extra soldiers, Washington decided to surrender without another shot being fired. During the process Washington was made to sign a document, wherein he confessed to having murdered Jumonville.

In Washington’s defense, he signed the document under extreme duress and it was written in French, a language he was not familiar with. Rather than being court-martialed for disobeying orders and ignominiously surrendering, not to mention literally signing a confession, the British propaganda machine took Washington’s side. The British were determined to have North America for themselves and they needed to rally support for their cause instead of admitting defeat, and heaping scorn on the impulsive lieutenant colonel would do nothing to help achieve that goal. It took seven years of fighting, but eventually the British won and greatly expanded their American colonies, which as we now know would ultimately prove their undoing on that continent.

8. Did Not Have Wooden Teeth: Had Something Almost Worse

These days the historical trivia note that Washington had wooden teeth is so widely debunked that it’s probably harder to find someone who does believe it. This is not to say he had good teeth: he was having them taken out as young as 24. By 1789, the year he was elected president, he was down to one tooth still in his gums. The rest were his own refitted into dentures, nine were possibly form black people, and others were from whalebone. Even by the standards of the time they were unsightly, and the misconception they were wooden was likely due to their discolored appearance.

Although the dental problems so embarrassed Washington that he tried to keep them secret, they ultimately proved hugely advantageous in their own way. In 1781, a correspondence with a French dentist named Dr. Jean-Pierre Le Mayeur included notes that indicated Washington planned to stay in New York City. One of his letters was intercepted by the British, and they believed the letter indicated that it would be safe for a large contingent of British troops to move to a community called Yorktown. As it happened, Washington had changed his mind and moved to trap the British in the most decisive American victory of the war.

7. Signed the Most Slavery-Friendly Law

As with many of the Founding Fathers, slavery was an un-erasable stain on Washington’s legacy and a fixture of his life. The New York Times said he was an owner of ten slaves when he was only 11 years old, after his father’s death. By the time of his marriage in 1759, the number had grown to 80, and by 1776 it was 150. By the time of his death, between he and his wife Martha Custis Washington, he had 317.

Certain historical notes may seem to slightly redeem or at least complicate his feelings. In 1778 he wrote about wanting to get out of the business of owning slaves. When he died in 1799, his will stipulated that he wanted all the slaves owned by his family freed (this amounted to about half of them). But all this is overshadowed by a particularly nasty piece of legislation he urged to be pushed through congress in 1793. Known as the Fugitive Slave Act, it stipulated that slaveowners could cross any state boundaries in pursuit of escapees. It put a fine of $500 on anyone who sheltered a runaway slave or even aided them, an amount History.org tells us is more than eight years’ salary for a teacher in Virginia at the time.

6. Spent Final Years Pursuing a Single Escaped Slave

The most remembered person ever forced into servitude under Washington was Ona “Oney” Judge, one of the slaves Washington and his wife had with him in Philadelphia, whose main duty was attending to Martha’s personal needs. In May 1796, she slipped out of the Washington home. She had no shortage of help, as Philadelphia was so anti-slavery at the time that any slave that lived there for six months was automatically freed (Washington had gotten around this by merely regularly rotating his staff).

An article about Ona Judge on ushistory.org reports that Martha, for her part, seemed personally offended that a slave she felt she’d treated well would want to leave, refusing to believe Judge would ever want to leave of her own free will. Meanwhile, George initially tried to keep the incident under wraps while in abolitionist territory. Eventually he relented, had notices posted offering a $10 reward for aid in recapturing her, and asked the Secretary of the Treasury for help in bringing her back.

After being smuggled to New York City, for a time the president was able to get back in touch with her. Naturally, George was unable to persuade her to return to bondage without threat of physical force, and was worried using physical force would have caused “a riot on the docks.” Eventually she made her way to the community of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. She married a local freeborn black sailor and spent the final 50 years of her life a fugitive and favorite of abolitionist papers. Even when George Washington died three years later, he still had agents on the hunt for her.

5. A Moonshine Distiller

A popular misconception is that, since George Washington and other Founding Fathers grew hemp on their plantations, they must have been smoking it. That’s extremely unlikely, as they grew a species of hemp with little THC in it, which would have been nearly worthless for getting a buzz. Besides, Washington had a much more viable source of inebriation at Mount Vernon in the form of a huge whiskey distillery.

How huge was it? Big enough that it yielded more than 11,000 gallons a year, according to CBS, making it one of the nation’s largest. Of course, Washington couldn’t go through all that even if he threw lavish house parties, so he sold most of it off at a tidy profit. It’s enough to make you wonder if Sam Adams should really be the Founding Father whose name we most associate with alcohol.

4. HATED Becoming the President

An ambitious go-getter on the battlefield and a math enthusiast, you would think the highest office in the country of his birth would be a plum position for Washington. It should have seemed all the sweeter when the results came in from Congress on February 4 and said that of the sixty-nine votes, he’d won all of them. He was the only American president to be elected by unanimous vote. As History.org tells us, Washington was aware that in 1789 he had the support of the public as well as the landed gentry.

Nevertheless, Washington hated assuming the position. He’d spent months trying to get around being appointed to the position, or flat out refusing it prior to his unanimous election. In private, he removed any sense of ambiguity about his feelings, such as when he wrote to his friend Edward Rutledge that accepting the office meant “giving up all expectations of private happiness.”

3. Presidency Massively Criticized by Other Founding Fathers

Despite initial overwhelming support for Washington in Congress, the press, and the public, by the start of Washington’s second term it was a very different story. One of the milder critics was John Adams, who said the president was “too illiterate, unread, and unlearned for his station.”

Thomas Jefferson took a much harsher attitude in 1795 after Washington signed the controversial Jay Treaty, which gave favorable trading deals to Great Britain in exchange for moving British troops out of forts in territory outside the United States. He accused Washington of treason over that. Just before Washington left the office, Thomas Paine went to the press to accuse him of monopolizing for his own profit and his favorites, and depriving veterans. Amidst all this, many other newspapers criticized Washington too, of their own volition, and it was a large contributor to his decision to retire.

2. Invented Farming Equipment and Designs

After leaving the presidency, Washington devoted his twilight years to what had been his true passion all along: Farming. But being the sort of man he was, he of course needed to be in some way exceptional at it. He created an object called a “drill plow,” which was a huge time saver in that it planted seeds at the same time it tilled the soil.

But more significant was his 1797 innovation, the Threshing Barn. Essentially, it was a 15-sided brick building that was two stories tall, and the top floor was used to beat the wheat against the floor until the chaff was sorted out and the seeds fell to the bottom floor. Of course, it should be mentioned that working in it was something Washington delegated to the slaves.

1. Experimental Blood Transfusion Proposal

On December 14, 1799, at age 67, Washington passed away from an obstructive epiglottis, having only noticed the symptoms of it the day before. It must be said, though, that his condition was very likely not helped at all by the team of doctors dispatched to help him, and who concluded that bleeding was Washington’s best hope. Over 12 hours, they drained a staggering 40 percent of his blood. After he expired, in part because so much blood had been removed, a very odd proposal came up: Putting blood from another creature in. Yes, you read that right. Not another person’s blood. Another creature’s.

One of those present at Washington’s death was a William Thornton, a student from Edinburgh in Scotland. Since blood transfusions were relatively new to the field of medicine, some had claimed they could work medical miracles, including reviving the dead. Despite those outlandish claims, when he offered to give the corpse a transfusion of lamb’s blood, the family understandably declined.


George Washington Digest

WIF Into History

Not Your Boston Celts – WIF Geography

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Fascinating Facts

About the

Celtic People

Celtic history is steeped in mystery. You’ve no doubt heard of the Celts, but because they left behind no written records, what we know about them can often be chalked up to myth and legend. Contemporaries and frequent enemies of the Roman Empire, these warriors were quick to fight, and vicious in attack.

 But like we said at the beginning, despite what we think we might know about the Celts, much of it has been skewed and twisted throughout history, many of the tales having been told by people, such as Herodotus, who were on the outside looking in. Still, Celtic culture was, and remains, fascinating to delve into. Here are 10 things you should probably know about the Celts.

10. They Probably Didn’t Originate in Ireland

Your mind has just been blown, right? Over the years we’ve come to associate the term “Celtic” with Ireland (thanks in large part, in recent history, to the NBA team the Boston Celtics, whose logo is a leprechaun covered in shamrocks). But historians have concluded that the Celts almost certainly didn’t originate in Ireland – or Scotland, or Wales, or even England, for that matter.

Instead, their roots have been traced back to central Europe, with Austria being the likeliest point of origin. Emerging from the late Bronze Age along the Danube River, Celtic tribes are believed to have initially lived throughout continental Europe. Eventually, these tribes expanded north and did settle in the United Kingdom. But when you think of ancient tribal warriors from Ireland, the odds are pretty strong you’re not thinking of the Celts; you’re thinking of the Gaels. Of course, even  that is a little more complicated than it sounds, so we’ll come back to that later.

9. The Romans Had Nothing On Their Roads

While Romans often get credited for being the road-builders of Europe, there’s substantial evidence to suggest that the Celts beat them to the punch. Not that the history books would ever tell you that, because as we all know, history is written by the winners. And for the bulk of early recorded history, the winners resided in the Roman Empire. When you’re the biggest, baddest dude on the block, you can take what you want, including credit for things others have done.

And according to some, that includes the building of roads. Archaeological evidence now suggests that it was the Celts, and not the Romans, who were the first to build roads. Remnants of these roads would seem to indicate that they were constructed before the Roman conquest reached the British Isles. These roads were constructed largely out of wood, which was carbon dated to the Iron Age – an indication that they predated the Roman Empire expanding that far north. And speaking of the Iron Age…

8. They Were Among the First to Utilize Iron Weaponry

One aspect of Celtic culture you’re no doubt aware of is their reputation as fierce warriors. They were also technologically ahead of their time, which gave them a pretty giant leg up on their enemies. After all, this is the group that invented the exact chainmail that was later adopted by the famous Roman Legions. That obviously flies in the face of old rumors that the Celts fought naked, since we can’t imagine chainmail would feel particularly great clanging against your junk.

But it wasn’t just superior armor that gave the Celts an advantage in battle; it was superior arms, as well. The Celts are believed to be among the very first to forge iron into swords, replacing the flimsier bronze swords most had been using up until sometime around 800 BC. They also began to utilize smaller, lighter swords and daggers, also made of iron, around 600 BC. These were far less cumbersome than broadswords, enabling the Celts to be more agile and quicker to strike on the battlefield.

7. The Celts Were Hugely Wealthy

While history often paints the Celts in broad strokes as being somewhat barbaric, savage warriors, that’s not exactly the case. Sure, they did participate in some acts of barbarism, and many practiced ritual human sacrifice. And yes, we’re going to get to that in just a bit. But that aside, they were also massively wealthy, thanks in large part to being highly active in trade of the time. Being among the first to utilize iron certainly helped fill their coffers as well.

Gold was so abundant among the Celtic regions that they used it in their armor, weaponry, and art. Silver and bronze were also widely used, and they became renowned for their finely crafted and ornate jewelry. Their artistry was among the best in the world at the time, and their scientific and technological prowess was a big part of that. Through their art, their wine, their vast quantities of gold, and their advancements in technology, the Celts were able to line their pockets very nicely indeed.

6. They Had Slavery… Kind Of

Now, to be sure, the Celts did indeed practice a form of slavery. But – and not that this is justification or makes it even remotely better, in principle – it was much closer to the serfdom of Medieval times than the actual slavery we’re most familiar with from history books. And as usual when you’re talking about tribes prone to war, many of these slaves were prisoners of war who were held within the tribe’s region and forbidden traditional rights and privileges of anyone actually from that tribe.

 When a prisoner was taken, or a criminal offered to the victim’s family as restitution for his crime, he was bound to that person or family for life. He had no right of inheritance, was forbidden from taking up arms, and was more or less simply the lowest rung of the sociological ladder. Most of what we know of slavery in Celtic society comes from remnants of law texts from places like Ireland and Wales, so obviously there are pretty massive gaps in the information we’ve got. That said, while you were afforded virtually no rights as a slave held by one of the Celts, the consensus seems to be that treatment was still more humane than slaves of many other cultures throughout history.

5. They Had Progressive Views on Gender and Sexuality

While we can’t exactly call the Celts progressive in terms of their views on slavery, we absolutely can when it comes to women and sexuality. Now, don’t get us wrong: even in a somewhat progressive tribal society, it was still patriarchal. But that doesn’t mean women didn’t have a say, or couldn’t rise to power, or even become warriors or dignitaries. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Particularly before the Roman conquest, Celtic women could lead tribes, as was the case with Boudica.

Obviously, Boudica represents far from the norm, but was one of a few Celtic women to rise to power and lead her people before her death circa 60 AD. She was the queen of her tribe, and led her warriors into battle against the Roman Empire.

And speaking of gender and sexuality, one element of Celtic culture that’s become widely believed is that not only could women hold positions of power, but that Celtic men often preferred the, ahem, “company” of other men. It was commonplace for men to seek out sexual companionship with their fellow male warriors, and likewise, women practiced free love in Celtic culture, according to historical records from their contemporaries.

4. They Weren’t Savages But They Did Hunt Heads

As we’ve mentioned a few times at this point, the Celts were far from the barbarians history has often painted them to be. They were an advanced society, took great care and pride in their appearance, and were wise enough to know it was an affront to wine connoisseurs everywhere to water the stuff down like those simpletons in the Greek and Roman Empires. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t participate in at least a few practices that might qualify as barbaric and savage.

Chief among those practices – other than ritualistic human sacrifice, which we’ll get back to shortly – was headhunting. As with ritualistic sacrifices, Celtic headhunting was driven by religion, for the most part. You see, the Celts believed that the head contained a warrior’s soul, so by taking his head you are, in fact, capturing that soul. At least, that’s one popular theory as to why they hunted heads, though the exact reason is not known, and likely varied from tribe to tribe, and warrior to warrior, particularly since the practice continued even after most Celtic tribes had converted to Christianity.

3. The Number Three Had a Huge Significance

We’ll be delving into the religion of the Celts in just a moment, but a substantial part of their belief system was the concept of “triplicity.” While that may sound like a knockoff travel website, in reality it has to do with the number three. Specifically, things coming in the form of ‘triplets’, so to speak. That means three realms (Sky, Land, and Sea), and three types of gods (personal, tribal, and spirits).

Now, the Celts didn’t just have three gods, mind you. They had many. When we talk about the Celts worshipping three types of gods, we’re talking about the kinds that guide you when you’re alone, the kinds that are with you when you’re in groups, and those that protect your home. To put it simply, triplicity refers to three things that come together to form a whole. It’s an important part of cosmology and astrology, which were integral parts Druid paganism. Which leads us to…

2. For Most of Their Existence They Were Polytheistic

Eventually, some Celtic tribes adopted Christianity as their preferred spiritual path. But for the bulk of Celtic existence, they practiced polytheism; the worship of many gods. It’s not unusual that they’d have worshipped numerous gods, considering the same was true of their contemporaries, like the Greeks and Romans. And the chief purveyors of Celtic polytheism, or Celtic paganism, were the Druids.

Believe it or not, much of what we know of the Druids and Druidism comes from, of all people, Julius Caesar. Obviously, that’s part of what renders our knowledge of the Druids information that should probably be taken with at least a small grain of salt, considering Caesar and his Empire were frequently at war with the Celts. Still, Caesar relayed that the Druids were teachers and priests, and also rendered judgement and penalties resulting from crimes and squabbles within their tribes.

As alluded to in the previous entry, the stars played a significant role in the Celtic religion and Druidism. They also practiced ritual sacrifice to appease their gods (with the burning of Wicker Men – sacrificial victim or victims inside – which will send a shiver down Nic Cage’s spine should he read this), and believed in reincarnation.

1. The Celts Weren’t Really, Well, “Celts”

Confused? Don’t be. It’s a lot simpler than the header probably makes it sound. You see, the group you think of as the “Celts” isn’t really the Celts, at least not in the sense that the Romans were the Romans, or the Greeks were the Greeks. That’s because the Celts weren’t just one group; they consisted of many, including the aforementioned Gaels, the Britons, the Gauls, and the Galatians, among others. See, “Celtic” really referred to language, and the somewhat similar dialects these various tribes used.

That said, grouping all of those tribes together under one umbrella – which, again, was done by contemporaries like the Greeks and Romans, since the Celts themselves didn’t keep written records – is probably misleading. Some historians suggest that the languages were different enough, and the groups so spread out (as far east as Turkey, all the way west to the Atlantic Ocean) that it’s highly unlikely most of the tribes were remotely united. In fact, it’s believed part of the reason they were ultimately defeated by the Romans was because of their lack of unification. In essence, calling a Gaul “Celtic” would be akin to calling a German “European.” Technically correct, but highly generalized.


 Not Your Boston Celts

– WIF Geography

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #48

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #48

… At Hillside Estate, Martha has a payroll of three, for duties in her house, grounds thereabout and a flower garden that puts other botanical creations to shame…

The elimination of slavery has proven to be a difficult task, one that mere laws of emancipation could not do and whose foothold is so strong that only the flood of generations will launder it from the stained fabric of the few.

The holder of the final and most rewarding segment of Escape from Fort Sumter South is prepared to do her part.

Martha Ferrell does little laundry these days. In pre-Civil War days, house slaves would clean the clothes of their masters, toiling in an unappreciated reward less cycle of work, work and more of the same. There are no labor laws protecting the length of work days or the minimum age of the person doing the work.

At Hillside Estate, Martha has a payroll of three, for duties in her house, grounds thereabout and a flower garden that puts other botanical creations to shame. John Ferrell needs four men to tend the stable, barns and fields. Their spread of 500 acres is one/tenth the size of Fort Sumter South, requiring less staff, but producing barely enough revenue to make Hillside a viable estate. However, unlike Sumter’s two hundred, the seven Negroes under the Ferrell watch are paid; a monthly sum that allows for autonomy, to live in houses of their own doing, in the enclave of the free.

A horse of a different color is an entire newly freed family like there will be soon. And though the Campbell sojourn is to be temporary, no act of kindness can ever be more sincere. The former slaves will be properly clothed and rested in preparation for a future in the considerable empire that is Herbert Love. On San Luis Lake they holiday, in Quincy they will thrive.


Alpha Omega M.D.

San Luis Lake-001

Episode #48


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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #40

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #40

…Willy looks at the hands of the school teacher and concludes, “Get yo hands dirty for the morrow, least you’ll look like you worked a day in yo life…

Who is waiting for Willy at the gates of Fort Sumter South? It is the head overseer himself. Affectionately nicknamed, Pigface by his workers, this man is as ugly on the inside as he is on the outside. If his resemblance to a swine weren’t bad enough, he is a nitpicking all the day long.

His beef this day is tardiness. “Campbell Nigger! You were supposed to be back before sundown! I have a mind to throw you into the Hole!” The Hole is just that. Not a good thing.

“The horses needed water, Pig–uh, Master.” A name earned but never used near his presence.

“What about the pigs…? They ain’t got nothin’ to do with you bein’ a half hour late!” he grouses. “And I don’t see that barrel of molasses I asked you to get from the mill!”

Oops, there is an untimely oversight.

“I swear you ain’t worth the dirt you sleep on these days, heckfire, most of a month now.”

“I can go back for it, probably still on the dock, Master,” Campbell cowers. “I was thinkin’ you said meal, conemeal… got 2 sacks.” More correctly one sack meal and one sack of trembling bones.

“Put those poor horses away, before I kick your dumb ass from here to Quincy! Their day has been long enuff. Molasses, meal, how ignorant can one nigger be!” The pompous people pusher himself embodies ignorance, however unaware he is of his own condition.

It’s best if he gets to the stable and don’t spare the horses. All is nearly lost before it can get started. He has a special guest to care for.

“You best stay in the hay loft ‘til the mornin’. I’ll sneak you some supper later, when things settle down—you like grits and gravy?”

Jacob Haley, freedman, is no position to turn away Campbell hospitality, even though gravy and his bowels are not close friends, but then again, how can they be any looser than they already are.

“You gonna need yo strenth to pick you a bale of cotton.” Willy looks at the hands of the school teacher and concludes, “Get yo hands dirty for the morrow, least you’ll look like you worked a day in yo life.”

No insult intended, none taken.


Alpha Omega M.D.

The Overseer

Episode #40


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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #38

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #38

Chapter Three

CHANGES

…Jacob Haley must take a dismaying trip into his ancestor’s past; regressing from educated free man to undercover freedman…

Undercover-001

  In subtropical climes, there are seasons of change, though these exchanges fade in and out, making it hard to distinguish one from the other. The autumnal equinox supplants the warm slothfulness of summer; the latter reluctant in coming, the former resistant in leaving.  DawnToDusk

The harvesting of crops decides the issue of transition. It is a call to action, plant maturation and ripening that warns the grower, ‘Use me or lose me’. Land activity increases three-fold, with so many different related things going on. Only the infirm of body are spared from the dawn to dusk work load.

At Fort Sumter South, infirmity is no excuse, much as it was for the Hebrews building the monuments to the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt. Some die as reward for their efforts, then and now.

The rigor of reaping takes its toll on the overseer as well. In time and energy spent, supervisors sleep as deep as the workers. That is exactly what Jacob Haley and his unlikely group of liberators are counting on.

Rescue-001Anti-slavery-001The Gadsden County Anti-slavery Society has used the forty-some days since Willy Campbell decided to take the leap of faith, to consent to be liberated, to its best advantage. Freedom is scary for a cigar maker who has no idea of what to expect from his liberty. The freedom fighters fear anything but success.

seasons

seasons of change

All the pieces are in place, all except Jacob Haley, who must take a dismaying trip into his ancestor’s past; regressing from educated free man to undercover freedman, without the support of Congressional amendment. His clothing, duties and speech will not, in any way match the life he has lived up to now, save the blended color of his skin. He is about to penetrate a world (undercover) that would paralyze most people of any race, creed, or disfranchised lot.

Courage is a term that comes to mind, the very same that caused him to stay in the South, rather than migrate northward. Segregation exists in both worlds, but he will effect greater change here at its cruel source.


Alpha Omega M.D.

Episode #38


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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #27

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #27

…Ol pigface can smell trouble a mile ‘way–and we can smell him too…

“To be honest, that is precisely why I am here. I want to give you the opportunity to get off Sumter–get away from that Smythwick for good!” Herbert Love means business.

Campbell instinctively looks around, to see who might be listening in. He hears stories of the Underground Railroad, but that was long ago and there were dozens of stories circulating about horrible endings to miserable ordeals. At least he can now claim food, clothing and a waterproof roof for his family; the three keys to happiness in his mind.

“I hope you are seriously considering what I am saying.” He senses the all too familiar, deep-rooted fear of a downtrodden human being. There is a group of men in Gadsden County who are determined to take the legs out from under what’s left of slavery. The loss of you and your family should expose Jefferson Smythwick’s underbelly and show him for the enemy of decency that he is.”

“I’za know what ya sayin’, but terrible harm may come on us.” Willy rubs his temples that are throbbing with doubt. “And there’s ‘Manda’s mamma. Shoot, ol’ woman’s better days be behind ‘er… she’s been sickly, ya know, coughin’ and weezin’.”

“I think we have come up with a plan that will ensure the safety for all of your family. The men are all meeting tonight to put the finishing touches on the plan. But I have to tell you that we have an alternate scheme, involving another family, should you decide to stay put.

“So please talk this over with your wife and mother-in-law, think it all through. I will be here at the station this same time, every day for seven days. If you do not come back, that will be our answer.”

Just then, the boy and the bird enter. “Daddy, look at what I did fo’ the sparrow,” Alfery interrupts proudly. “I bandaged both wings together so he can’t hurt hisself any mo’.”

“Looks like doctor material to me, Willy, how about you?”

“When is yo’ plan fo’, Master Love?”

“We are looking at early October… the start of fall harvest.”

“I’ll bea seein’ you in a couple a days, maybe three. I don’t wants to makes them ‘spicious ‘bout anythin’.Ol pigface can smell trouble a mile ‘way–and we can smell him too!”


Alpha Omega M.D.

Episode #27


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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #26

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #26

…Po’ Alfrey will be lucky if makes it to 20. Runts don’t last long in the field …

It is here at the train station, that Herbert Love,  the Quincy businessman and newly elected mayor, meets and gets to know Willy and Alfrey, on their only common ground. SlaveryHe has told his wife, who has bore him no children, as well as many of his friends, that he would like to deliver Willy and his house to true freedom.

Today is step one to that end.

“Say Willy,” he signals in the direction of a flatbed car being unloaded of its tobacco leaves, “would you please come her a second?”

Willy Campbell obliges, thankful for a break from the oppressive August heat. He has a gregarious way about him, reminiscent of someone whose ignorance is bliss; not realizing how green the grass is on the other side of the fence.

Henslow’s Sparrow

Young Alfrey has found a Henslow’s Sparrow clinging to the next husks of sugar cane to be loaded on an adjacent car, one wing hanging limp, with the other flapping in futility. He stays behind to tend to the wounded sparrow.

“Your son sure is good with animals, Willy,” Love notes.

“Yessir, he sure does. Takes in ev’ry critter that don’t run away.” Then comes a caveat. “He ain’t worth a tinkers’ damn in the fields, fo’ sure. He’sa runt with his mamma’s heart.”

“There is nothing wrong with that, Willy. The world is expanding, population doubling every 10 years and people are doing things you would never have guessed.” This educated, late middle aged man of some worldliness, tries to transfer his optimism to a black man, aged well beyond his 30 years, who is learned at the school of hard knocks and significant if only to God.

“Po’ Alfrey will be lucky if makes it to 20. Runts don’t last long in the field.” That hopeless resignation is the norm for most blacks anywhere, even some poor unskilled whites here in the South. The native Indians in the panhandle do not even show up on this grim map, shunted into socially isolating reservations; the lucky of those with less than full blood, sprinkled with a little white, a little black, a little Spanish, a little indefinable and more easily absorbed into the general population.

“Well, to be honest, that is precisely why I am here. I want to give you the opportunity to get off Sumter–get away from that Smythwick for good!”


Alpha Omega M.D.

Episode #26


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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #25

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #25

…The Campbell family are victims of a cruel anomaly; for all intents and purposes, they are still slaves…

The opposite is true for Northern blacks, as well as some in the South, where their freedom is more of a paper reality. True equality with the white majority may be more than a century away.

One interested outside observer of this world that seems heartlessly frozen in time, is Herbert Love, a dairy owner among other things, who has never kept slaves, even when it was legal. Anyone will tell you that he is the antithesis of Jefferson Smythwick. He is as sympathetic and benevolent, as the old slaver is callous and maniacal.

But because of his non-confrontational nature, Love has left his philosophical rival alone…

…Until now.

   Unbeknownst to Smythwick, the lord of Fort Sumter South, the overseer in chargeLove Dairies2-001 of the Campbell’s has been allowing Willy to pick up some rare wrapping leaves from Cuba at nearby Midway’s rail docks. On some of those days, young Alfrey comes with his father. Seven year olds have limited functional use on a plantation, so he is not missed. These missions do not go unnoticed by others… specifically Herbert Love.

His milk and milk byproducts are emerging as a marketable commodity, with the aid of the ice produced in his ice plant. Milk must be kept at 38 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure freshness, a feat heretofore not seriously attempted in this arid climate. It is his habit to make sure his 20 gallon cans of white nectar are properly transferred to his very own, specially designed railroad cars. When it is a humid 90 degrees outside, his methods of refrigeration are critical.

It is here at the train station, that the Quincy businessman and newly elected mayor, meets and gets to know Willy and Alfrey (Campbell), on their only common ground. He has told his wife, who has bore him no children, as well as many of his friends, that he would like to deliver Willy and his house to true freedom.


Alpha Omega M.D.

Opposites (the worm should not be smiling)

Episode #25


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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #24

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #24

…The Emancipation Proclamation is loosely applied, conveniently ignored, even mocked by owners of plantations…

Fort Sumter-001

Leon County lays claim to Tallahassee. Gadsen County has its Midway and Quincy. This is like comparing a metropolis to a berg or an employer to a slaver: John Ferrell to, let’s say, Jefferson Smythwick.

 Where Good meets Evil & Right meets Wrong

Blacks take a back seat; their rightful place in the previous equation, according to some and likely to be kept in this place by shrinking number of die-hard racists. Jefferson Smythwick is such a man; Confederate to the bone, longtime slave owner, who refuses to let go of the past. ‘I’m too old to change.’ ‘Every one of my niggers is treated better than they deserve.’

Regarding the first quote, that may be true. As for the second, it is true only if you include third rate food and tar paper shacks as forms of reasonable compensation. The use of the “N” word indicates his level of respect for his “Employees”.

1896 Florida

The Emancipation Proclamation is loosely applied, conveniently ignored, even mocked by owners of plantations the size of Smythwicks’ Fort Sumter South. Five thousand acres of cotton, rice, tobacco and sugar cane require many to tend its fields. Because of the sprawling acreage involved, land is divided into numerous farms, each with its own unique management position: the overseer.

There are very few plantations systems operating in 1896, definitely not sanctioned by any form of government, local or national. But, and a big but it is, the South is still healing itself, a mere 33 years after the Civil War. A tiger cannot change its stripes, so a rebel will always be a rebel.  There is no doubt an 80 year old rebel in the town of Midway.

It is here in Midway, on one of the farms of Fort Sumter South, that we find the Campbell family, living and working as a unit. Willy Campbell is one of the best workers in these parts, a cigar maker by trade, as was his father before him. His combination of strength and aromatic skill make him a valuable human commodity. Wife Amanda, compliments him well, caring for the family in their private shack; a tainted privilege, considering that most families are split up. Some others have headed to the relative freedom north. The Campbells fall somewhere in between.

Amanda also provides the collective with five healthy children, but that counts young Emily, the fourth oldest having been run over by a runaway cargo wagon at the age of 2. Females have less worth than do males, of which Hosea and Alfrey make an oldest and youngest sandwich around Agnes and Francis; four children to grow up in a world of hard work and suppression.

This fine Negro family is viewed from the outside, as the victim of a cruel anomaly. They are, for all intents and purposes, still slaves. Yet they are being treated just well enough that they think they have it pretty good. Slaves are not paid, do not own anything of real value and, most importantly, are not free to “quit”.


Alpha Omega M.D.

Episode #24


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