Sunday, March 11, 2007

48,000 slaves

While reading an old copy of The Week magazine from 2006 (United Kingdom) at home this weekend I noticed a small article regarding the "Bevin Boys" of World War II.

The Bevin Boys were 48,000 military conscripts (draftees) chosen by the UK's Minister of Labor, Ernest Bevin, to work in the coal mines to supply the raw materials needed to fight World War II ( These young men were forced to work in British coal mines instead of serving in the regular armed forces thus there were not only subject to the dangerous work inherent in coal mines they were also ridiculed by local communities are cowards who were trying to avoid military service.

Perhaps even worse than this involuntary servitude is the fact that many of these young men were kept working in the coal mines (from 1943 to 1948) even AFTER World War II had ended. Shouldn't we all pause to reflect on the fact that people like Mr. Bevins robbed his fellow citizens of their freedom in an effort to defend democracy from the spread of Hitler's Nazis?

Finally after nearly 60 years the U.K. has decided to recognize these 48,000 slaves by issuing them a "commemorative badge" after a campaign led by Gordon Banks, Member of Parliament.

A "badge" for 5 years of forced labor? I can't speak for the Bevin Boys but a "badge" sounds like a slap in the face to me. I would prefer that the British Parliament (yes a private foundation funding this effort would be a better option but sometimes tax money can be spent for good projects) commission a book (or perhaps a DVD) to be published and distributed to libraries and primary schools across the country which details the story of the Bevin Boys so that future generations have a better understanding of how heavy the hand of government can be -- even when those in power feel their actions are justified for the "public good".

Slavery takes many forms,


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