Until we geonomize, some battles need re-winning
|September 4, 2009||Posted by Jeffery J. Smith under Progress Report, The Progress Report|
Until we geonomize, some battles need re-winning
There Are More Slaves Today Than at Any Time in Human History
Not to lessen the evil, but there are more people now, too. That said, the interviewee researched modern-day slavery for four years, has written for Newsweek, the Los Angeles Times, and Foreign Policy, and was named one of National Geographics Adventurers of the Year 2008. His first book is A Crime So Monstrous: Face to Face with Modern-Day Slavery. A quarter of his publishing royalties go to Free the Slaves. The interviewer hosts Free Forum on KPFK 90.7 FM in Los Angeles. This 2009 interview was posted on AlterNet Aug 24.
by Terrence McNally
Terrence McNally: Whose figure is that?
Benjamin Skinner: Kevin Bales’s. [His Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy was nominated for the 1999 Pulitzer Prize, and he is the president of Free the Slaves.] He originally came up with the number 27 million. Governments will acknowledge estimates of some 12.3 million slaves in the world, but NGOs in those same countries say the numbers are more than twice as high.
TM: The biggest concentrations of the slave trade, are in Southeast Asia and portions of Latin America?
BS: If you were to plot slaves on the map, you’d stick the biggest number of pins in India, followed by Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan. There are arguably more slaves In India than the rest of the world combined.
Indian federal officials claim, “We have no slaves. These are just poor people. And these exploitive labor practices,” — if you’re lucky enough to get that term out of them — “are a byproduct of poverty.”
The end of slavery cannot wait for the end of poverty. Slavery in India is primarily generational debt bondage, people whose grandparents took a debt. These are people that cannot walk away.
One fellow in a quarry in Northern India had been enslaved his entire life. He had assumed that slavery at birth. His grandfather had taken a debt of 62 cents, and three generations and three slave masters later, the principal had not been paid off one bit.
Since he was a child, he and his family and his children, along with the rest of the enslaved villagers, took huge rocks out of the earth. They pummeled those rocks into gravel for the subgrade of India’s infrastructure, which is the gleaming pride of the Indian elites.
They further pulverized that gravel into silica sand for glass. There’s only one way that you turn a profit off handmade sand, and that’s through slavery.
TM: Another method you describe: Someone shows up in a poverty-stricken village saying they need workers for the mines hundreds of miles away. When they arrive, they have a debt for that transportation, which is greater than anything they will ever be able to repay.
BS: It’s a massive problem in the north of Brazil. What’s tricky about this, in many cases these workers want to work. But they don’t want to be forced to work under threat of violence, beaten regularly, having the women in their lives raped as a means of humiliating them, and then not being paid anything. If they try to leave, there are men with guns. That’s slavery.
TM: As an investigative reporter rather than an academic, you take us where the trades are made, the suffering takes place and the survivors eke out their existences.
BS: In Port au Prince, Haiti, an hour from the airport — I was able to negotiate for a 10-year-old girl for cleaning and cooking, permanent possession and sexual favors. They asked for $100, and I talked them down to $50. In 1850, you could buy a healthy grown male for the equivalent of about $40,000.
TM: So with all the poverty in Haiti, there are still people who can afford 300,000 slaves?
BS: Well if they’re paying $50 …
TM: If you were to buy the 300,000 slaves in Haiti in one fell swoop, you would be telling traders, “Hey, business is good,” and so they’d grab more slaves.
BS: You’re talking about introducing hard currency into a transaction that in many cases hasn’t involved hard currency in the past. You’re massively incentivizing a trade in human lives.
TM: Briefly, what is the situation in America?
BS: On average, in the past half-hour, one more person will have been trafficked to the United States into slavery. About 14,000-17,000 are trafficked into the U.S. each year and forced to work within U.S. borders under threat of violence for no pay beyond subsistence.
TM: These are those who practice what they call redemptions, buying slaves their freedom. They were collecting money in the States to free slaves, and then funding a rebel movement in a war, and …
In the context of the Sudanese civil war, I thought the money was being used to buy back slaves. The rebel officials said, “Well you know, there’s clothes, uniforms …” They didn’t actually say arms, but they said all sorts of things that they needed hard currency for.
What redeemers risked doing was to become angels of destruction at a time when a negotiated peace was just beginning to take hold. Thankfully, at this point they’ve scaled back the redemptions.
TM: How does the distinction between sexual slavery and other sorts of labor show up, and how does it matter?
JJS: The complete interview is triple our excerpt. For the rest visit: click here
And to create a world less prone to slavery, a professor from India teaching in the US invites everyone to a Webinar (with video and audio access), with representatives of global institutions at both ends of the spectrum (the ‘less- stressed’ 1200 million, and the ‘worst-stressed’ 2600 million, people of the G-192), to create a global relationship in consciousness amongst them, to explore, express, and devise ways and means to arrive at a design (of a global political economy), that would furnish justice through human law providing economic legs to Meet the Minimum Needs of All . Contact the proponent, Radh Achuthan, at mmna30 at gmail.com.
Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.
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