Monday, December 22, 2008

21st Century Slavery

This quick piece in Foreign Policy about contemporary slavery is really worth a read.
Human rights activists may call $1-an-hour sweatshop laborers slaves, regardless of the fact that they are paid and can often walk away from the job. But the reality of slavery is far different. Slavery exists today on an unprecedented scale. In Africa, tens of thousands are chattel slaves, seized in war or tucked away for generations. Across Europe, Asia, and the Americas, traffickers have forced as many as 2 million into prostitution or labor. In South Asia, which has the highest concentration of slaves on the planet, nearly 10 million languish in bondage, unable to leave their captors until they pay off “debts,” legal fictions that in many cases are generations old.


MT said...

"Human rights activists may call $1-an-hour sweatshop laborers slaves....But the reality of slavery is far different."

I found it worthwhile too, in an eye-opening way. I'd have liked to have been brought to think about why slavery is categorically worse than the things we're tempted but somehow know not to call slavery, except for rhetorical purposes; or what constitutes slavery. I'm not sure it isn't just as challenging to talk about as torture, if not more. The author allows that some slaves are dupes, for example, and not actually physically confined or liable to be hurt physically if they choose to "escape." But some scales of "con" seem to verge on "culture," and some organizations of captors verge on being a "community," so it would be nice to know where and why we draw the line.

helmut said...

Smart comment. I don't have a good answer.