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Even the five largest gems in the world were worth no more than one of the dark tribunals in the height of their power; now, they are worth any three gems in the eyes of the law. With whip and terror they forced the vast darkness into the sun and candles into the darkness. Both great crimes, they sate greed first and lust second. Most of the hated kind are gone, though some still remain. In large numbers, they held the power to steer our futures. In small numbers, they skulk and laugh at their own invisibility. The children try shamefully to weave shadow over their graves, and now the candle burns in both darkness and light. Though they are now more corpses than bodies, those who were defeated live on in the tears that nobody cares to wipe away.

Who/what/when/where is a dark tribunal and what crime is ignored because of their legacy?

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  • $\begingroup$ Maybe add another verse. I've tried to shoehorn at least a half dozen concepts into the language given and nothing fits. My best guess is that this is an allusion to colonial slavery and modern racism, but even that doesn't fit with a third of the symbolism. $\endgroup$ – COTO Nov 19 '14 at 2:41
  • $\begingroup$ You're right. Colonial slavery is correct, but modern racism doesn't fit. Racism is shunned (perhaps not as much as most would wish, but still) rather than being ignored. In what form does slavery exist today (This isn't a metaphor)? $\endgroup$ – Travis Kindred Nov 19 '14 at 13:22
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The passage alludes to slavery in its various forms.

The first two sentences recall colonial slavery, where inequity between men was cemented in law ("even the five largest gems in the world were worth no more than one of the dark tribunals") and darker-skinned peoples were forced into agricultural toil ("with whip and terror they forced the vast darkness into the sun").

Slavery still exists in many forms today (and in numbers vastly greater than at the time of European colonialism). Nearly 40 million people are classified as slaves, which doesn't include de facto types of slavery such as sweatshops and towns under military occupation. The type of slavery most referenced in the mass media is sex slavery and its many variants, and is also suggested by the use of the word "lust" following the "greed" of the colonial slavers.

The final three sentences in the first paragraph suggest a willful silence or neglect ("they skulk and laugh at their own invisibility") concerning the modern practices of slavery. In some cases this arises due to a general lack of awareness of the problem, in some cases due to apathy, and in some cases due to the disconcerting similarities between modern slavery and colonial slavery ("those who were defeated live on in the tears that nobody cares to wipe away").

A "dark tribunal" is therefore a reference to a slave owner or slave trader, and the crime being ignored is the modern practice of slavery.

"Tribunal" is a curious choice of word. It literally refers to a seat or court of justice, and when applied to men refers to a plurality of judges or court officers presiding over a matter of law. "Dark" in "dark tribunal" presumably refers to the darkness in the practice of slavery. There may be some deeper symbolism here, but I've rambled on long enough already. ;)

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  • $\begingroup$ I think "worth any three gems" refers to the three-fifths compromise enacted in the US in 1787 (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three-Fifths_Compromise). 5 slaves, each counted as 3/5 of a person, would be considered three people total. $\endgroup$ – Ben Apr 1 '15 at 16:40

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