Social devaluation spanning the centuries

We know that societal devaluation of a particular group of people can span the centuries. A recent book review in the NY Times Book Review (14 Feb 2010) looked at a book entitled The Devil and Mr. Casement by Jordan Goodman. The book describes the rubber trade and the native peoples in the Congo in the 20th century, which involved a mix of slavery, imperialism, racial prejudice and capitalism.

The reviewer Greg Grandin writes:

Roger Casement…a career diplomat…traveled to the Amazon, collecting evidence of whipping, torture, mass rape, mutilation, executions and the hunting of the region’s Indians, whose population Casement calculated had fallen to 8,000 in 1911 from 50,000 in 1906.

Grandin concludes:

a kind of slavery still remains in force in the Amazon. Thousands of workers, for instance, trapped in conditions nearly as dismal as those documented a century ago in the Putumayo, make the charcoal used to forge pig iron, which is then purchase by international corporations to produce the steel used in everyday products, including popular makes of cars.

This review (and the book apparently) give us an example of long-term social devaluation, and the inevitable wounding which accompanies it, as well as the economic and societal values which can drive devaluation. A potent reminder to interrogate the values of our own cultures today: what are the dominant values of our culture? what are the opposites of those values? what groups of people represent the opposites of the dominant values? Those groups are likely to be socially devalued. (NB: these questions are typically explored in multiple day Social Role Valorization workshops as developed by Dr. Wolf Wolfensberger)

Posted on March 15, 2010 at 2:43 pm by MTumeinski · Permalink
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