This world is going up in flames, and nobody wanna take the blame.
– Charles Bradley
This years Oscars have come and gone, and each year becomes more forgettable in nearly the time it takes to broadcast, at least for me. But this year, one notable moment held my attention. Steve McQueen accepted the best picture award for his bio-pic 12 Years a Slave – a story that is all too familiar if you’ve lived outside a box for the last century – which he accepted on behalf of the 21 million people enslaved worldwide. In case you didn’t pick that up, let’s look at that number again, 21 MILLION! And if you haven’t seen the film, watch it! If it were up to me, it would be required viewing (and reading) for every first world high school student. But since its not currently up to me, lets talk about modern slavery.
The days of people shackled and sold at legal auction are gone, but human beings are currently being sold the world over. Human trafficking has become big business, close to exceeding revenues from the illegal drug trade. Now I’m sure the average person is not participating in this horrendous business – you are not selling or buying human beings for your own use. But do you buy produce, electronics, clothing, footwear, jewellery or anything else from Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, or the Philippines? How about China? Well these are just a few of the countries that currently use Child and Forced Labor. Whether you want to call it modern or contemporary, the fact remains that this is slavery.
Wealth has been made on the backs of the impoverished for centuries. The pyramids were built by the hands of slaves. Kings taxed their subjects into starvation and depravity. And ‘Old Money’ was often made through dehumanizing values. But we neglect to see that we have continued this tradition of greed through the exploitation of the helpless. We are detached from the enslaved in distant lands, and ignorant to those in our own nation.
I am part of the 99%. My personal income is just above the Canadian poverty line. The cost of living rises and the income levels dip. I cant afford most Canadian Made products, though there are few left to purchase. It has become a vicious cycle. Poverty breeds more poverty and too few have all the money. The more I buy MADE-IN-EVERY-OTHER-COUNTRY-BUT-MY-OWN, the fewer high paying jobs are available, the less money I make, the greater the economy suffers and the need for cheaper labor rises. But who do we hold accountable? The government? The outsourcing corporations? Or we, the consuming public? Answer: all of the above.
Now I’m not implying that everything you buy is made by way of forced or child labour, but how would you know? There’s no label to indicate that the items we buy were made by age of majority free persons. But I can guarantee that something in your home, your car, your purse, or the purse itself, was made by someone who is starving, overworked and abused. It is our neglect to question our purchases, our failure to demand fair trade goods, and our apathetic response to governments that protect big money makers. We are responsible for every person, child or adult, forced to work against their will in deplorable and inhumane conditions. Why? Because it is our indifference that makes us guilty.
For more information on the products made by illegal labor practices, and offending countries, check out this PDF from the U.S. Department of Labour: http://www.dol.gov/ilab/programs/ocft/pdf/2010TVPRA.pdf