Before I moved to Canada, I didn’t realize how prominent the problem of slavery still is in North America. No, this use of present tense is not a grammatical error on my part. Yes of course some of the principles and laws that governed the old style slavery have been changed, but slavery (or lack thereof) is hardly in the physical chains; it truly exists in the minds and attitudes.
For one thing, prejudice lurks just beneath the easily visible surface. The US presidential elections are not only good showbiz, for the keen eyes they also highlight the behaviours and thoughts that otherwise might not be noticeable in the daily humdrum of life. And we’re not even going to go into the whole debate of inter-racial love-hate relationships.
And for another, slavery takes many forms and continues to be amoeboid. The movie “Amazing Grace“, which chronicles the life and times of William Wilberforce, at its end and in the dvd special features, describes the many forms of slavery, and its so-undeniable presence today. Anyone doubting that has only to try and adopt a child from the less prosperous South American or Asian countries; the red tape, making loving would-be parents jump through hoops of torture, is trying to humbly prevent some human trafficking. Sex slaves being brought to other countries from Russia is pointed out in “Eastern Promises“. Child labour in various developing and third world countries has been talked about. And many more examples exist.
But it doesn’t really touch the lives of us everyday folks busy abiding the law, being kind to our neighbours, recycling our garbage, does it? Well, depends on what “it” is. Even if we ignore Gandhi’s cautionary note that life is one indivisible whole and therefore these seemingly remote phenomena do have a butterfly effect on our lives, one such practice is so prevelant in today’s society that it’s a fait accompli that no other way of life is even worth contemplating. This practice is the complete and wholehearted participation in the entirely monopolistic debt-based economy. That attitude of accepting (and on many occasions defending) the status quo persists, because:
- one, it makes (short term) economic sense (to some),
- two, because our economy would collapse otherwise and we wouldn’t know how else to function, and
- three, if we didn’t do it, someone else will and they’ll reap the “benefits”.
Yet funnily enough, when Wilberforce argued in the parliament to abolish slavery, the very same arguments were offered to him. It wasn’t convenient to change. And people weren’t complaining, so what’s the problem?
Interesting how with all our creativity, we as humans keep echoing the same excuses.
And even in the times of today, where large financial institutions are collapsing and the only people really suffering the effects are us, the law abiding public, we continue to defend a debt-based economy and practices that enslave with the promises of riches and threats of “being left behind”.
“But even if this was undesirable, what can one do?”, we ask ourselves. “This is too big to beat, right?”
“When there is a war raging, it is very difficult to stay out of it. One day the war will get to you.”
The New Yorker says about a book on the British abolishionist movement: “Hochschild’s history of British abolitionism notes that ending slavery would have seemed as unlikely in eighteenth-century England as banning automobiles does today.” But that it happened, means it can happen. And for the still-doubtful (about debt being slavery and its impacts), here are some interesting statistics (courtesy the movie “Summer 2007” following 5 med students through landlord-infested rural India – a movie which, while not the best executed, still makes several points):
- Since 1997, over 150,000 farmers have committed suicide (due to unpayable debts and resulting creditor cruelty) in 7 states of India, according to government figures
- While governments came and changed, in one of the states the suicide rate kept increasing at 105%
- Eventually the federal government announced a loan waiver of Rs. 600,000,000,000 in 2008, for institutional credit only
- Millions of farmers continue to suffer at the hands of money lenders
But it’s SO inconvenient to not use credit, to actually save up to buy things at a time when I can perhaps afford them. Isn’t it? At least I’m not buying sugar made by slaves. Oh wait, that’s because slavery has been abolished. Now I can have all the sugar I want. Yippee!