Modern slavery

Criticizing is easy. It’s harder to offer a solution. I realize that I am benefitting from the things I argued against in Norwegian greed, and that you need to be quite comfortable to be able to criticize the system that feeds you. That could be why most people keep quiet, because although Norway doesn’t have poverty on the level you see in other parts of the world, such as Asia, the Americas and parts of Eastern Europe, there are many people here that are struggling to make ends meet. It’s the money from oil and the stock market, as I mentioned in Norwegian greed, that makes the welfare state limp on.

I mentioned the British Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 in my previous post. The problem is that you can’t assume that you only need to fight and win that battle once. That’s why Britain introduced The Modern Slavery Act 2015 to tackle slavery in the UK: The law has been criticised for not being focused on victims at all.

There is a higher risk for slavery in our times of globalisation. People move more than ever in their search for a better life. There are many newspaper headlines about the refugee crisis that illustrate the problem. According to nltimes.nl children make up 40 percent of Syrian migrants in the Netherlands. An article from Mail Online in September 2015 says that some 44 000 of the 213 000 refugees that had arrived in Europe were from Syria, which means that most of them are not refugees, but maybe willing to do put themselves in danger for the chance of a better lives. The German broadcaster Deutsche Welle asked what happened to the 6 000 young refugees that had gone missing in Germany.  The problem could even worse and BBC is just one of many that have reported on the  10 000 children that may have gone missing, and that’s a conservative estimate. They could be perfectly fine of course, but that would be a luck many probbaly don’t have, because we seem to live under the law that if people can be exploited they should be.

I watched a documentary last summer about the refugee camp in Calais, France.The journalist talked to a young African man, and let him use his cell phone to call his family. That made him sad because they had been expecting him to send them money a long time ago. I believe there is a risk of many being enslaved before they leave their own country, or after they arrive. Many have no idea what they can expect. They have heard that Britain or the USA is heaven compared to what they are used to, but even here there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

Migrants crossing the border illegally between Serbia and Hungary. We don't know much about them and what happens to them, but there will always be criminals willing to take advantage of desperate people.
Migrants crossing the border illegally between Serbia and Hungary. We don’t know much about them and what happens to them, but there will always be criminals willing to take advantage of desperate people.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Everyone assumed that trade only made our lives better, including the poorest and most desperate people on this planet. It hasn’t worked out for everyone. It’s pretty clear that the products Americans and Europeans buy. are made somewhere else, but do we care about the workers? I recently bought a pair of Asics. The brand is Japanese, but my pair was made in Indonesia. There were a lot of allegations a few years ago against some of the most famous brands in sports wear and clothing. Most of the big retail clothing companies in Norway appeared to deal with the problem of child labour and really bad working conditions in Asia. It may be better today, but I’m not sure the problem is gone. It’s just better concealed because if a large US or European customer gives a contract to a manufacturer in for example Taiwan or Indonesia, this manufacturer could get subcontractors from different countries. That would make it hard for the customer to know how working conditions really were in the factories. They care about quality and low cost. Nothing else.

There is a lot of focus on fair trade and rain forest today. We are not supposed to buy anything that isn’t ethical, but the truth is that we can never know. This article from The Huffington Post deals with some of the problems with fair trade coffee. The short version is that it’s not very effective. There are other more effective ways to help poor people.

The solution is simple and no one wants to hear it. If the whole world lived like people in industrialized countries do this planet would die, or it wouldn’t be able to support all of us. The right thing to do would be to share some of the wealth. The socalled international community was desperately searching for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but each of the five biggest nuclear powers (USA, Russia, United Kingdom, France and China) could probably kill the entire planet multiple times.

I believe the deterrence theory has gone far enough, and it doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence knowing that India, Pakistan and Israel have nukes, or that the USA/NATO has provided weapons for Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey. It’s enough to kill the planet once, and who are we going to deter after the first time? Imagine if we put the world leaders into a room where they were standing knee-deep in gasoline. Some had a match box with a single match, while others had a thousand. Who do you think would win?

I don’t think we would risk much if we spent less money on threatening each other.

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