In this place, it seems that the incidence of couples deciding that marriage is not a natural destination for serious, committed relationships is particularly high. I have heard repeated, several times, the explanation that the preceding generation was blighted by an epidemic of divorce which has rendered their offspring marriage-averse. The same tale springs as easily from the lips of 20-somethings as from 40-somethings. Thirty plus years of broken marriages used as an explanation for the anaphylactic response induced by the very word, “wedding”. It’s all quite extraordinary. Add to that the current craze for tattooing and piercing oneself – particularly the task of creating large holes in one’s earlobes – and it becomes obvious that a history lesson is long overdue.
Ignorance is never attractive. Participating in specific behaviour is entirely a matter for oneself only IF one is fully informed of the symbolism, the underlying message and the potential consequences. (Consider the origin and meaning of the trousers on the hips, underwear on display epidemic which still appears to be sweeping the nation, and you cannot fail to understand the point!) So, here begins the lesson.
Merely scratch the surface of colonial history and one discovers that slaves were forbidden to marry. Marriage was a ritual and rite of passage reserved for slave owners, the aristocracy, the wealthy and the free. Slaves were objects with fewer entitlements than many animals and were used, amongst other things, as breeding stock. They were not encouraged to form or maintain emotional or familial attachments. Neither were they deemed capable of the morality or intelligence of the ruling classes. It was entirely common for a slave to be marked by his or her owner – for the purpose of identification, should the slave be stolen or have the temerity to attempt to escape. It was also normal for slaves to have large holes in their earlobes, by which they could be tethered at slave auctions and for punishment. Indeed, there is plenty of evidence of slaves also being forced to wear leather or metal collars with a lead, identical to a hound. Don’t just take my word for it – take the time to do some basic research of your own. For many people, the right not to be physically marked, the right not to have huge holes driven through one’s ears and the right to marry – like the right to vote – was a hard fought, hard won battle.
The symbols of bondage and freedom are diametrically opposed, still both are yours. Today, look at yourself and choose.