[The site I worked at most frequently had more than 100 enslaved workers associated with it— 27 people serving the household alone, outnumbering the home’s three white residents by a factor of nine. Yet many guests who visited the house and took the tour reacted with hostility to hearing a presentation that focused more on the slaves than on the owners.
He said, “Listen, I just wanted to say that dragging all this slavery stuff up again is bringing down America”
The first time it happened, I had just finished a tour of the home. People were filing out of their seats, and one man stayed behind to talk to me. He said, “Listen, I just wanted to say that dragging all this slavery stuff up again is bringing down America.”
I started to protest, but he interrupted me. “You didn’t know. You’re young. But America is the greatest country in the world, and these people out there, they’d do anything to make America less great.” He was loud and confusing, and I was 22 years old and he seemed like a million feet tall…]
[They are in there, often unnoticed. The words that have become part of everyday English. Loot, nirvana, pyjamas, shampoo and shawl; bungalow, jungle, pundit and thug.
Hindi, Urdu, Tamil, Malayalam, Portuguese and English words pinballed around the globe in the 16th and 17th Centuries, revealing how languages evolve over time as culture is made and remade, and people adapt to conditions around them. This is neatly illustrated by three words – shawl, cashmere and patchouli – that travel hand-in-hand from India into 18th-Century English.
Long before the British Raj – before the East India Company acquired its first territory in the Indian subcontinent in 1615 – South Asian words from languages such as Hindi, Urdu, Malayalam and Tamil had crept onto foreign tongues. One landmark book records the etymology of colloquial Anglo-Indian words and phrases. Compiled by two India enthusiasts, Henry Yule and Arthur C Burnell, Hobson-Jobson: The Definitive Glossary of British India was published in 1886. The poet Daljit Nagradescribed it as “not so much an orderly dictionary as a passionate memoir of colonial India. Rather like an eccentric Englishman in glossary form.”]
On January 13, 2015, the European Union Commission (EUC) released a statement that said in 2014 “more than 276,000 migrants illegally entered the EU, which represents an increase of 155 percent compared to 2013.”
[According to a recent report by Amnesty International, at least 23,000 migrants have lost their lives trying to reach Europe since 2000. And the numbers are rising fast, thanks to the conflicts that rage in Syria, Iraq, Libya and elsewhere. This is shaping up to be the worst year in decades for the number of illegal arrivals at Europe’s outposts (see article). From January to July alone around 100,000 undocumented migrants crossed the Mediterranean into Italy, already much more than the record 60,000 who made the crossing in all of 2011. In the same period, the number of illegal migrants arrested by the Greek authorities at the border with Turkey rose by 143%.
Whether they seek shelter from persecution or economic opportunity, illegal migrants are keenest to reach Europe’s richer, northern countries. Many migrants head directly to these countries, often by air, arriving on a legal visa and staying on when it expires. But geography and the economics of migration mean that the most desperate travel by sea and land from Africa and the Middle East. And their first contact with western Europe is on the continent’s periphery—Mediterranean islands like Lampedusa and Malta for the dangerously overcrowded boats from Africa, Greece’s eastern frontier with Turkey for those trekking from Syria and beyond.]
[In Camus’ book, “The Plague,” the doctor at the center of the novel, Bernard Rieux, battles pestilence day after day. It is a Sisyphean task. At one point he says, “I have to tell you this: This whole thing is not about heroism. It’s about decency. It may seem a ridiculous idea, but the only way to fight the plague is with decency.]
[I’ve grown suspicious of the inspirational. It’s overrated. I suspect duty — that half-forgotten word — may be more related to happiness than we think. Want to be happy? Mow the lawn. Collect the dead leaves. Paint the room. Do the dishes. Get a job. Labor until fatigue is in your very bones. Persist day after day. Be stoical. Never whine. Think less about the why of what you do than getting it done. Get the column written. Start pondering the next.]