OpEd, Politics

Knowledge makes a man unfit to be a slave (Part II)

By Ustaz Mark Bang


The white man’s happiness cannot be purchased by the black man’s misery. We have been trying to fight off illiteracy, disunity, tribalism, silence, and threats from those whose visions are short. Those who don’t see what is destroying and affecting us.

Never should this be, and we continue to keep silent; our vast majority are handicapped and chained by illiteracy, poverty, insecurity, and economic meltdown. With the little knowledge I have, you won’t give me any ground to be a slave, no matter what it means. If thousands surrender to accept being enslaved for one reason or another, I will still say no to being a slave in my own country. Wherever I work or live, I will still say there is no ground for such. As we look toward resurrecting South Sudan’s economy, system of education, security, and unity today, we would do well to take up the cause of education as many other learned individuals advocated it. “True knowledge unfits a man to be a slave” is a maxim that applies to free us all to be effective citizens of our republic. Knowledge makes a man unfit to be a slave. Slavery, regardless of whom is enslaved, is evil in one of its purest forms. In the United States, thousands are most familiar with the enslavement of African Americans, as they rightly should be, although the sin has been committed against men and women of all races across the world and throughout history. To me, that thing in America is right from the perspective of being in a foreign land, but here in our country, it never should be.

It is estimated that one in ten North Koreans is currently enslaved by their dictatorship. India leads the world, so to speak, with over 18 million slaves, the vast majority of whom belong to the Dalit caste.

When you see your fellow man clad in chains, forced to work, and quite literally owned, it is easy to call them a slave. But whether or not the unfettered can also be deemed slaves depends on your worldview. A slave is a legal property who is forced into obedience. By that definition, could the entire population of our country have to be considered enslaved? Quite arguably, yes, and given that, one must wonder at what point a government becomes its citizens’ master. If it extorts money from them in the name of taxation, drafts them to fight in senseless wars for profit, and imprisons them for viciously long amounts of time for minor, nonviolent infractions, at what point do the government’s actions become indistinguishable from the crack of a planter’s whip?

None of this is to assert that South Sudan or most people in their localities are slaves. To do so would be to make too little of the plight of slaves past and present. What I wish to point out is this: The writings of intellectuals, one of our country’s most brilliant abolitionists, are not to be looked at solely through the lens of South Sudan history. Nearly any of the social reformer’s insights may be applied on a far grander scale as you ask yourself what it actually means to be free and how the actions of your government can subject you to slavery with your total complacency. Without a struggle, there can be no progress; the soul that is within me no man can degrade; freedom is a road seldom travelled by the multitude; slaves are generally expected to sing as well as to work; it is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men. The thing worse than rebellion is the thing that causes rebellion. At a time like this, scorching irony, not a convincing argument, is needed. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did, and it never will. A gentleman will not insult me, and no man, not a gentleman can insult me. I didn’t know I was a slave until I found out I couldn’t do the things I wanted and, as such, stepped in to be an activist so that I may be separated from those who say, though they don’t mean it. The life of a nation is secure only while the nation is honest, truthful, and virtuous, and the limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress, as many writers claimed. You have seen how a man was made a slave; you shall see how a slave was made a man. People might not get all they work for in this world, but they must certainly work for all they get. To suppress free speech is a double wrong, and this violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker.

A man is worked upon by what he works on. He may carve out his circumstances, but his circumstances will carve him out as well. I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false and to incur my own abhorrence. Find out just what people will quietly submit to, and you have the exact measure of the injustice and wrong that will be imposed on them. Those who profess to favour freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without ploughing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. A battle lost or won is easily described, understood, and appreciated, but the moral growth of a great nation requires reflection as well as observation to appreciate it.

Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob, and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe. Everybody has asked the question, and they learned to ask it early of the abolitionists, ‘What shall we do with the Negro?’ I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us. Let justice ring across all corners of Juba, Wau, Malakal, Yambio, Jonglei, Warrap, and Torit. We need to understand who we are, where we have reached, what to do, what to accept, and what to reject.

However, the education we all possess and claim is a mere lie in reality. We have many self-proclaimed individuals who say they are professors, lecturers, teachers, doctors, lawyers, and politicians, and they’re not at all what they say. They behave in the same ways civilians do; they are high-tempered and arrogant to both their friends and colleagues at workplaces and even at the level of their families. There are many people who are educated who divorced their wives or husbands and claimed to be educated and have knowledge. I say to be before solving others’ problems, please check yourselves properly before condemning others. You can’t make peace if there is no peace in yourselves, in your families, and beyond.

Remember that Frederick Douglas’s quotes don’t only apply to the African American condition prior to the Thirteenth Amendment. They apply to anyone, so long as a greater force exists, which would put them in bondage or force them to work for rewards they will never receive. “Public Staunchest Allies”


The writer of this article is a human rights activist, writer, and professional teacher.

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