Posts tagged Slavery Footprint

Slavery Footprint and Ugly Factoids (Part III)

Facts are dangerous. Especially true once you become better informed about slavery around the world. Unfortunately, slaves may also be working in a restaurant or a health club or spa near you. (read David Batstone’s book “Not For Sale” to see where his passion to end human trafficking started) Once you are finished reading this blog post or after taking the Slavery Footprint survey, you will realize that the very clothes you wear, the food you eat and the computer that you are reading this from were probably prepared by slave hands in far off countries. Here are the ugly factoids I picked off the website “Slavery Footprint” and the survey you too can take to find out how many slaves work for you.

Fact #1 – Twenty-seven million (27,000,000) slaves worldwide – roughly combines the population of New Zealand and Australia.

Fact #2 – Pakistan uses boys in bonded labor starting at age 13, their contracts end at age 30.

Fact #3 – In 2007, “Save the Children” reported that 250,000 children live and work at Pakistan brick kilns. They are in complete social isolation.  That’s more than the population of Irving, CA, Baton Rouge, LA or Orlando, FL.

Fact #4 – More than 200 children are forced to work in India’s carpet belt of Ultar Pradesh. That makes it a pretty large operation combining Honda, Sony, Proctor and Gamble, Boeing each hire fewer employees.

Fact #5 – Bonded labor is used for much of the Southeast Asian’s shrimping industry, which supplies more shrimp to the U.S. than any other country.  Laborers work up to 20 hours a day to peel 40 pounds of shrimp.  Those who attempt to escape are under constraint and threat of violence or sexual assault.

Fact #6 – Every day tens of thousands of American women buy make-up.  Every day tens of thousands of Indian children mine mica which is the little sparkles in the make-up.

Fact #7 – Rubies are believed to be Burma’s second largest export after teak wood and are commonly mined using forced labor.  Mines are controlled by either the government or army who oversee workers in terrible conditions for little or no pay.

Fact #8 – Coltan is an effective superconductor found in electronics.  A U.S. State Dept. official was interviewed about coltan mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He pointed to the reporter’s smartphone and said “The likelihood that one of these was not touched by a slave is pretty low.”  [That’s more diplomatic than saying, “That smartphone you are using was made by a slave from Congo.”]

Fact #9 – In China, soccer ball manufacturers will work up to 20 hours in a day for a month straight.  Even the toughest American coaches wouldn’t ask that from their squads.

Fact #10 – 1.4 million children have been forced to work in Uzbek cotton fields.  There are fewer children in the entire New York City public school system.

Ten questions get to the heart of what we should all be very much aware of, the facts placed on the side of the “Slavery Footprint” survey are just to stir our imaginations as to the deprivation and sadness that must be in so many families around the globe.  The likes of which most Americans haven’t a clue about. I would say that if there are any anti-American feelings, it is because many Americans would prefer to think about their own problems and not reach out to those who are at the very bottom of the food chain.  Ugly facts are hard to ignore once you DO know the truth.

You can do something about it, read my past posts to see what websites my grab your attention.  Go to YouTube and watch Stellasvoice or listen to 19 year old Natalie’s interview.  Don’t just sit there, DO something!!!

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Slavery Footprint and Uninformed Persons (Part II)

I will continue on the theme of the Slavery Footprint survey which will help explain how this all started for me in Kazakhstan.  That country is so unfamiliar among Americans, they typically mix it up with either Russia or Afghanistan if they DO have a sense of where it is on the globe.  Simultaneous to this and as little known is the topic of slavery and human trafficking among most Americans.  So when you combine the two topics I have a passion about, you come up with a lot of blank faces or confusion.  The following are two fictionalized composite conversations I have had with some uninformed persons:

Uninformed person UP: “Where did you say you lived and taught again?”

Kazakhnomad – KN: “Kazakhstan, for three and a half years. Kaz–Akh-Stan. Difficult to spell, even more arduous to pronounce.”

U.P. “Is that close to Afghanistan?” [for some reason everyone knows how to pronounce that country]

KN: “Not really, the closest neighbors to Kazakhstan are Russia to the north and China to the east.”

U.P. “So, what did you think of teaching in Russia?” [the most irksome question because it means they either didn’t listen to me or they don’t know that Kazakhstan has been an independent country from the former Soviet Union for 20 years.]

KN: “Yes, it is perhaps easy to confuse Russia with Kazakhstan.  However, the Kazakhs look Asian in appearance while they speak a Turkish kind of language which is their native language. It’s true, they DO speak Russian simply because they were under Soviet rule for 70 years.  In order to survive, they learned to speak and read Russian.”

Here’s another made up conversation that I encounter concerning human trafficking:

U.P. “You mean we still have slavery? I thought that was abolished two hundred years ago with Wilberforce and other abolitionists!!!”

KN: “No, today there are about 27-30 million slaves in the world as we speak.  Slavery is worse than ever.”

U.P. “Yes, we hear about far off, obscure countries that have slavery, maybe stone age tribes that are not connected to the 21st century.”

KN: “I first encountered the slavery/master mentality when I lived in Central Asia. But I also saw glimpses of it in my past travels to Hong Kong, living in the Philippines as a Peace Corps volunteer, and teaching two years in China.  Mostly though, the master/slave attitude is prevalent in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan because of age old traditions that marginalize women. They also are using many men from Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan to help build skyscrapers with their oil money they have in Kazakhstan. Sixty percent of the slaves in Kazakhstan are men, they need shelters and rehabilitation for them.”

U.P. “These unfortunate people who are supposedly slaves by your definition and who live in poverty should be thankful to foreign organizations who provide employment opportunities. These people can move up in life to be employed by some tobacco or cotton plantation or on some construction site.”

KN: “With our western sensibilities and code of ethics, yes, employment means honoring a contract where the employee would be treated fairly and would get the wages they had been promised.  Sadly, there is trickery involved where the desperate person is told one thing and then the next thing they know their documents and freedom have been stripped from them, they become slaves…”

U.P. “Hopefully those victims of trafficking will be freed and helped to get a job. Very sad indeed.”

KN: “Saddest of all are all the children in India, China and Africa who are used to help make products for us.  They are missing out on their education to better themselves and have hope for their future.”

So, you see as an embattled educator my mission is to inform people about a region of the world I care about deeply and make people aware of the ugly concept of slavery which is lived out daily in desperate places all over the world.  Even in my own home state of Minnesota or in the neighboring state of North Dakota, slavery is going on.  I found out that in western North Dakota many young girls from the Indian reservation are being brought to the “men camps” near Williston and Dickinson and they are forced or tricked into being “prostituted women.” These girls are forced into this smarmy “occupation” because there is wealth from oil money in western North Dakota and too few women around.  Oil money has perverted many morals in Kazakhstan as well.

What is to be done about the demand? Where are the morals or ethics in protecting those who are powerless?  What can those who become informed about slavery in the world DO about it?

(to be continued)

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Unexamined Lives and Pursuit of Truth about Slavery

“The unexamined life is not worth living” is something Socrates was known to have said. I believe we all need to examine our assumptions about slavery and sex trafficking. I just did a Slavery Footprint survey that figures out how many slaves work for you in the products you use or eat and the clothes and shoes you wear. According to this survey, I got 22. I think the norm for North Americans is 44. Eventually I would hope that I would have NO slaves working for me in this globalized economy.  I need to re-examine what products I use.  Would that mean I have to give up using my computer all together? Maybe…

Plato also is known to talk a lot about education in “The Republic,” especially about those who are worthy to rule a nation (Book VII). His main point was that those students who learn to rule should know how to “think critically, understand definitions, compare concepts, seek reasons and critique and defend different views in conversation.”  I would hope that Central Asian students studying under western practices would catch this and run with it.

In this blog I’ve “started the conversation” about human trafficking and human rights issue ever since I read the book “Two Kyrgyz Women.”  The author Marinka Franolovic wrote me the other day and gave me several links about a woman journalist in Mexico.  She said she had met Lydia Cacho about five years ago who has been leading her crusade against sex trafficking of children in Cancun.  Brave woman.

Yes, people don’t want to be challenged in their thinking.  John Churchill in an article he wrote in “Phi Beta Kappa, The Key Reporter” (Vol.76, No. 3, Fall 2011) wrote the following:

“Plato thought overcoming this problem was a matter of age and training.  But some old dogs never overgrow young stunts.  The real question is this: “What differentiates mere pulling and tearing from the dialogical pursuit of truth?

The answer is: the aim of the interlocutors….[in the case of the global sex trade]…this isn’t the pursuit of truth.  It’s a contest of will and power.  Plato thought that you could overcome the competitive emphasis on winning the argument by bringing people to love the truth.”

I’m troubled that there are many uninformed people who don’t want to enter the conversation and know the truth about slavery in the 21st century. They would prefer to think that slavery was abolished after the Civil War in the 1800s.  They would like to think that Wilberforce was forceful enough in his dogged determination to end slavery in U.K. and the rest of the British empire.  Not so. Read the following:

Dr. Jack Mezirow, professor emeritus at Columbia Teachers College, believes that an essential element in adult learning is to challenge our own ingrained perceptions and examine our insights critically. Dr. Mezirow says that adults learn best when faced with what he calls a “disorienting dilemma”—something that “helps you critically reflect on the assumptions you’ve acquired” (Barbara Strauch, The New York Times). This is the opposite of saying, “My mind is made up—don’t confuse me with the facts.”

I would hope that the young university students in Kazakhstan would be open to learn what they can about the tragedy of slavery which is happening in their own country and the rest of Central Asia.  They are the future leaders of Kazakhstan, I know they keep hearing that over and over again at the new university in Astana.  However, I believe there are old dogs in high places that are using the same stunts that they learned under the Soviet system to keep the truth down.  They would prefer that the populace NOT know about slavery that is taking place right in Central Asia.  May the pursuit of truth be captivating and held captive instead of people!

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