The Legacy of the Age of Capital

Sunday 23rd July

The Eighteenth Century was the Age of Capital, when our present-day Capitalism finally overtook Feudalism as the economic basis of the West. Although banking had already been established in Italy 200 years earlier, and markets in such diverse items as tulips had long soared and collapsed, money generally had to be earned and saved before being used as Capital.  It was the emergence of Credit which stimulated the rise of Capitalism.  And speculators soon learned to channel their greed into Ventures.  The most notorious of which was the Slave Trade. Ships sailed from London and Bristol to the west coast of Africa, where slaves were crammed into the holds bound for the American Colonies and the Caribbean.  The ships returned with Sugar, Tobacco and Rum – all harvested by the slaves.

Many famous British family’s wealth was started by this vile trade, even though they sought and achieved ‘respectability’ by marrying into the Aristocracy.  With the growth of the British Empire into Africa and India, Capitalism had both cheap raw materials and labour and a ready market for new finished goods.  And it hasn’t looked back since.  The cancer of greed has grown and grown.  And the Legacy is still with us.  Slaves were considered as a commodity, not as people – and certainly not as in any way equal people to their white owners.  Because ownership was the entire basis of Slavery. Slaves, just like any other commodity could be bought and sold and whipped and punished and even killed with impunity.  And our deep-rooted attitudes to black and brown people were forged out of Slavery; somehow they were less than human – their physiognomy closer to animals than the refined white bodies we were used to.  The World we live in, with our fears of Terrorism, of Radical Islam, of Refugees and Immigration – all stem from this legacy of Slavery, where whole tranches of people were considered as not even human.  And wherever we went we killed them, by cruelty or disease or simply by bullets.  Whole civilisations were wiped out or reduced to reservations – and all in the name of greed, of Capitalism, of the concept that having and using Money to make more money was an end in itself.  And even now, our own poor people are considered white trash, chavs, benefit scroungers – somehow incapable of making their way in this splendid Capitalist World.  But the bitter truth is that the Rich need the Poor far more than the Poor need the Rich – and will always try to create a society where there are many poor and only a few rich, for otherwise, if we were all wealthy, what would be the point of being rich, for being rich is only of value when you can look down upon those who are not rich.  And consider them as somehow less valid human beings – just like the Slaves.