Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Good Hope Great House (1/12/14)

     In history class, you always learn the facts and figures of plantations and life as a slave. You realize that slavery is terrible and think about how absurd it is that the plantation owner could be okay with using people like that. This was a different experience. Today, I walked around the Good Hope Plantation. I heard the stories about the twelve hour shifts slaves worked. I heard how they would sit in the hot rooms of the bowls of heated sugar cane juice and slowly ladle the juice from one pot to another all day long. I heard about how they were so tired that they would fall asleep while working machinery and their hands would get caught in the machinery. I saw the view of the overseer, watching down on the slaves, making sure everyone was "in line". In the midst of all the insanity that surrounds sugar production was the great house. The great house was the house of the plantation owner. While his slaves worked twelve hour shifts in the hot Jamaican sun, the plantation owner relaxed in his mansion. His house was architecturally elaborate, designed to show his wealth. Not to the level that the typical plantation owner would take it to. This great house was over the top. As our guide explained how ridiculously expensive and elaborate the architecture was for the time, I realized more and more how absurd the whole system was. The thing that really struck a cord was the bathroom. It's a weird thing to strike a cord, but that was the moment it hit me. When his house was built, extensive plumbing didn't exist. This man was one of the rare that had a heating bath tub. To us, that seems normal. Back then, that was not easy to come by. The bath tub didn't heat up like ours do. A slave would sit in the cold and feed the fire in order to maintain the hot water. While people were being taken from their land, forced to work all day, and live in terrible conditions, this man thought it appropriate to go as far as get something that no one else really had just for his own comfort. He was so surrounded by his needs that it makes me feel ashamed for him. Not only am I going to take away the historical facts from this visit, but I will take away the realization that human beings can be selfish, and we need to be aware of our actions and pay attention not to take advantage of other people.

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