Friday is the 200th anniversary of the day that the efforts of England's abolitionists paid off and the British Parliament cast the vote that brought an end to the slave trade. This was one of the greatest moments in Western history and had absolutely no parallels in Africa, the Middle East or Asia. Is this because - as the owners of slaves and the defenders of slavery would have us believe - that the pale-skinned people of Europe were superior to those with darker hues or eyes that appeared to be slanted? Hardly.
The fact of the matter is that two things essentially cooked slavery's goose. One was Christianity, because of its conception that there were no chosen people and that all had equal access to God. The other was the idea of universal humanism, the grandest conception to arrive in the 18th century. Universal humanism meant that there is a universal connection between human beings that trandscends [sic] time, religion or place. To think that is a natural and very simple deduction is to be pathetically ignorant of the tribalistic thinking that has dominated the vision of our species and underlies all wars that are not fought over land masses.
The man who led the movement to end the slave trade, of course, was William Wilberforce. The movie, of course, is Amazing Grace, opening Friday.