An Essay on Human Trafficking

How Capitalism Perpetuates Modern Slavery

Note: This is my most recent Lang essay and I wanted to post it because it’s a subject that I’m extremely passionate about and want to inform others as much as possible.

It is ironic that the exploitation and enslavement of humans in the modern era has prospered due to the expansion of capitalism. Human trafficking, hidden in the backrooms of nail salons located in the suburbs of Boston and on Bangladeshi shrimp boats, is a more delicate way of saying modern slavery. It’s easy to ignore and even easier to unintentionally fund. Every day thousands of dollars move through the intricately connected global economy into the hands of human traffickers and slave owners. It is fast and easy and so very discreet because regulations of business are effortlessly stepped over. The entitlement that developed, capitalist nations take for granted comes at the very free price of a human life. We must recognize the liberties granted to business and then examine the effects they have on humans across the globe.

The privacy and intimacy of business has compromised the privacy and intimacy of the bedroom. Worldwide, the total profit for the illegal sex industry was $35.7 billion in 2007 (Kara 19), and that was amidst a global recession. It’s an illegal business, but a business nonetheless. A common misconception is that sex trafficking happens solely in the red light districts of impoverished countries, but the 2016 U.S. National Trafficking Hotline reports that there were 5,819 reported sex trafficking incidents this past year (“More Assistance, More Action.”). This number fails to account for the thousands of undocumented and past cases. There is a huge demand for commercialized sex and as a result there are people willing to find a supply. We naively call it prostitution; it’s not. A thirteen year old cannot legally be a prostitute. Those who are impoverished and neglected often fall into the hands of pimps, men who offer love and a life of disguised imprisonment. They are then advertised to the world through secret websites where the buying of humans for sex is rationalized because “the industry is inevitable” (Lloyd 219). The ideal of free enterprise has people continuously justifying and funding slavery. This universal understanding that business is business and that because there is a free market it’s okay, is completely misinformed. We’ve come to the point where freedom is our mantra and free business is a right, but oftentimes we are ignorant to the fact that our freedom comes at the cost of other humans.

Labor trafficking is the most abundant of the types of slavery and as a result, the most normalized. We’ve established that slavery is a business, but we have not quite examined the scope of it. These trafficked victims are everywhere numbering at about 28 million, although the total number is impossible to determine and is estimated to be much larger. America’s Fortune 500 companies are often under fire for having factories overseas that violate human rights in some way. Apple has been scrutinized for using Foxconn, a Chinese factory in which workers are submitted to harsh and dangerous working conditions just so manufacturing costs are lower. Companies participating in free market economies usually abide by local laws that prohibit child labor or uncompensated work, but the lack of labor laws in third world countries make it so incredibly easy for large foreign companies to invest. Capitalism thrives on competition, but many are unable to compete with lucrative businesses who can afford to subjugate others. The shrimping industry in Bangladesh is beating out shrimp farmers in Louisiana because laborers are slaves. The cost of production is significantly reduced when wages are nonexistent and labor is replaceable. In the U.S. 85% of seafood is imported and of this 50% is shrimp (76 Bales). In Bangladesh, the capitalists are profiting on the backs of their slaves. Ghana is plagued by a similar problem; gold pours out of illegal mines like blood seeping out of a wound. The most common form of enslavement in the gold mines of Ghana is debt. Miners are in perpetual debt to their bosses, which essentially makes them slaves. Phone companies obtain the gold through an intentionally long chain of salesmen; the more distance placed between the consumer and the producer the more feasibly the company can claim ignorance. But the government is unable to claim the same ignorance as foreign businessmen. Slavery isn’t invisible in Ghana like it is in America. How could it be? Ghana’s economy is dependent on gold, government officials are entangled in the industry, and villages are built around mines. Sometimes foreign companies deal directly with the Ghanaian government (Bales 160). It’s acceptable for American companies to buy and sell with whomever they please under the Dodd-Frank bill with the condition that companies are transparent with what products contain slavery tainted materials. The products we so thoughtlessly buy have a careless impact on people far away from us.

Slavery happens in our suburban town and on the streets of Cambodian cities. The products we buy and the services we use tie us all to the dangerous industry of slavery; when we import chocolate we are also importing slaves across borders. Capitalism itself isn’t capable of supporting human trafficking, but it’s adaptable rules allow us to slip the buying and selling of people into the picture. Johns fly into the Miami airport at 5pm, stay for an hour of sex with an underage virgin they bought on a website, and then leave at 6pm to fly back to their families. How could the airline know? Did the hotel know that the room they rented out is the murder site of a young girl’s innocence? All of this unregulated industry are accessories in a huge crime network. Wealthy families have a Cambodian house slave and churches have a choir of Zambian slaves (Batstone 212 & 225). These labor practices and industries play a big part in our economy and lives. We are unable to imagine the damage done and unwilling to admit that we have played a role in this destruction. The shrimp is in our stomachs, the gold is in our phones, and the blood is on our hands.

Sources

Bales, Kevin. Blood and Earth: Modern Slavery, Ecocide, and the Secret to Saving the World. New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2016. Print.

Batstone, David B. Not for Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade – and How We Can Fight It. New York: HarperCollins, 2010. Print.

Kara, Siddharth. Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery. New York: Columbia UP, 2010. Print.

Lloyd, Rachel. Girls like Us: Fighting for a World Where Girls Are Not for Sale: A Memoir. New York: HarperPerennial, 2012. Print.

“More Assistance, More Action.” Polaris. 31 Jan. 2017. Web. 05 Mar. 2017.

Comparing Transgender Bathroom Bill and the Day Care Hysteria of the 1980’s

It’s Not the Burnt Toast

Transgender rights are finally coming into the political discussion and public opinion is slowly shifting to be more liberal. The main topic of conversation in most states is the bathroom bill. The bathroom bill determines if transgender people can enter the bathroom they feel most comfortable in and what the criteria for them to enter is. At the moment the primary argument that conservatives use is that some creepy man will pretend to be trans in order to enter a women’s bathroom. Now of course, this situation isn’t outside of the range of possibilities, but how many more times does a trans woman walk into the bathroom without any complications than a man pretending to be transgender walks into the bathroom?

In the 1980’s and 1990’s there was a huge fear of sending children to day-care because there were many court cases of day-care workers sexually abusing the children and performing satanic rituals. There was a huge controversy over this sexual abuse scandal. Across the country, and even other countries such as New Zealand and Canada, stories began popping up that exposed day care workers. Most workers were indicted and found guilty. Recently their sentences are being overturned because the courts are discovering the evidence to be weak and insufficient and the children’s testimonies are falsified.

The nationwide panic turns out to be a response to the influx of women entering the workforce. Day-care services were in high demand because most middle class mothers were working to help bring in an income. The first case came from Judy Johnson, a single mother of her son who was attending the McMartin preschool in California. After her son had some bowel complications, Johnson accused the workers at the preschool of molesting her child. This sparked the country into a deep panic.

Many theorists studying this phenomenon were all coming to similar conclusions, the fear was stemming from women entering the workplace. In the 1980’s women were still beginning to build careers and not focus on housemaking. When rare stories, such as Johnson’s, were becoming international news, parents started to withdraw their kids from day-cares. The mothers would have to return home from work to care for their kids.

The paranoia fabricated more abuse stories. A few decades later, accounts of forced testimonies from children and inaccurate physical claims are being reviewed and retrials are occurring. Kids were asked confusing questions in order to elicit a desirable response, there is no real evidence, and the tests run by doctors have no validity to back them up. In other words, most of these cases were a result of fear and anxiety.

Now, transphobia is the new day-care sex abuse hysteria. Although transphobia isn’t a result of women entering the workplace, the following response is eerily similar.

The group of people who don’t want transgender men and women to chose their bathroom often turn to the argument that creepy men will take advantage of this and enter the girl’s bathroom. Yet as with a couple arguing over burnt toast, it isn’t really about the burnt toast. To these men and women, being transgender is an abnormal process that makes them uncomfortable. The creepy men argument is justification for their ignorance. As a result, the whole nation is falling under the spell that if we open up bathrooms to transgender men and women, boys and girls, then pedophiles will have a new way of exploiting children. These fears are not a reality yet, there are no accounts of a man posing as a woman entering a women’s bathroom; but our society is still convinced that it is going to happen.

But to the same people that are worried about this, are you not worried about your children being sexually assaulted by priests and parish men? Those cases may be rare, but are they not a reality? What about the thousands of underprivileged girls that are coerced into prostitution in the United States? Where are the laws and legislations designed to protect them? These bathroom bills aren’t about men entering women’s bathrooms, but about the irrational fear society has of transgender men and women.

Much like the child sex abuse scandals of the 1980’s that removed women from the workforce, bathroom bills are erasing the transgender community from our society.

 

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Standardized Testing

Less Stress = Less Tests

Standardized tests are something I have felt strongly about since the beginning of my testing career. No kid likes tests, okay well maybe some do, but as a general rule kids hate tests. I’m no exception. They’re asinine and inaccurate.

My state’s test is the MCAS, Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System, taken grades 3-10 with the exception of grade 9. There is a reading and writing section as well as a math, and select grades have a science. The questions themselves I never found to be too hard, the typical “If Daniel eats 3 apples and Frank eats 4, how many apples were eaten in total?” never really bothered me. It was the principle behind the whole thing. The energy and the time spent learning how to answer the questions is ridiculous.

In 5th grade we had a practice math MCAS open response due pretty much every week in preparation for our upcoming math MCAS. During math the following week we would go over the good responses, all student examples, and my teacher would tell us where and why people lost points. I always got a 3 out of a 4 because I never quite explained enough and therefore my work was never used as an example (that really busted my ego). You see, the question says “show OR explain”, but my teacher always insisted we  “show AND explain”. But how do I show and explain that I added 2 and 3 together and got 5.

It was frustrating even as a young child to spend more time learning how to answer the MCAS than actually learning the skills. In past grades we would spend weeks practicing just how to properly format the answer, valuable time we could’ve spent actually working on math or english.

tests

John Oliver, the most knowledgeable American who’s really a Brit, is brilliant. He mixes dry humor, facts, news, sarcasm, popular culture perfectly, yet also delivers a very informing spiel. Basically, he is my kind of guy. He sums up my frustration in an eighteen minute video on testing.

These tests are doing nothing for us besides taking time out of learning and giving more unnecessary stress to students. I take 28 benchmark tests, 14 exams, hundreds of tests and quizzes, and other tests such as MCAS, SATs, PSATs, ACTs, etc. a year. That is insane. The funny things is, teachers hate it too! They lose teaching time and then they have to spend more time grading the exams. Also, at least this is true in my town, if students do well, the teacher receives a bonus. But in other towns and states, a teacher’s job may rest on how well a student does. How has our education system become more focused on doing well on standardized tests than actually having kids learn. Education and school are not synonymous and it’s time for the United States government to recognize this.

Standardized testing is not the solution to ranking better in the world. Funding should be increased for lower income schools and the standard for education should be increased across the country rather than decreased. Yet increased funding is not the solution either.

Finland is beating nearly every country in PISA test scores and humiliating the U.S. who spends more time and money on education. #1 in math, reading comprehension, and science, Finland is doing something right. Most Finnish students have less than an hour a night of homework, shorter school days, nearly triple the amount of recess time, learn real world skills, and only have one standardized test throughout their secondary school education. And Finnish teachers are highly respected, paid nearly as much as Finnish lawyers and doctors, and not required to follow a certain curriculum. The U.S. education system could learn something from Finland.

Testing should be reduced in the United States and more effort should be focused on rewriting the system rather than editing it. I hope that by the time my children begin their education that there will no longer be the stress and pressure that surrounds standardized testing.

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Interesting Article about Standardized Testing

Standardized Testing and the Education Dilemma

 

With Liberty and Justice Not For All

The Pledge of Allegiance

I don’t consider myself unpatriotic. I respect America and enjoy the comforts of living in a secure and prosperous nation. The kids in my AP U.S. History class have other ideas.

Recently I have refrained from saying the Pledge of Allegiance, something I have wanted to do for awhile, but I’ve been too afraid that I would be ostracized. It wasn’t until I noticed that one of my closest friends had stopped saying it, that I built up the courage to stop as well.

The first time I actively didn’t participate in pledging my allegiance a huge surge of adrenaline swept through my body, and I couldn’t stop the nervous, but excited, tremors from convulsing my body. I was extremely conscious of those around me; my eyes searched the room for those who dared to fight me. During the national anthem, I was preparing my arguments for the anticipated backlash, but it never came.

When the kids start blindly chanting the national anthem today while I remain standing but silent, I’m no longer afraid of being called out. Those who have noticed don’t seem to care, besides the group of 4 in the back of my history class. Ironically, it’s my American history class that has brought the most trouble. Actually, I guess that isn’t irony, it’s more like the exact opposite of irony. Trouble is used loosely; I haven’t been openly confronted by anyone.

“If she doesn’t say that again I’ll be so mad.” Is it possible that they are talking about me? No, I must be over sensitive. “She’s american and she can’t even say the pledge.” Oh my gosh, they are talking about me. I would be lying if I didn’t say I smirked and took a little pleasure in the acknowledgment of my silent rebellion. Their “threats” don’t intimidate me because I wholeheartedly believe in my cause.

There is a time and a place for everything, including the Pledge of Allegiance. But that time and place is not 7:25 am in my first period class. If you see me at an official event or military memorial service, I’ll be one of the first people to stand up and place my hand over my heart. I respect my country and the women and men fighting for my nation every day. Even when I’m not saying the pledge, I still stand respectfully and remain quiet. My aim is not to become a traitor to my country, but rather to be honest.

It has become a force of habit to stand and recite the pledge with no questions asked. Is that really being faithful to your country? Those kids who were talking, literally, behind my back don’t say the pledge with meaning. Every morning they half-ass their words and diction and if the entire class is quietly ghosting the pledge, they are probably mouthing along with the words. What is the difference between me not saying the pledge every morning because I don’t truly mean it and the kid saying the pledge without any enthusiasm? The only one I can think of is one of us is lying and the other is not.

Each morning these kids are pledging their allegiance to a government they know little about without hesitation. As young as 5, children are being tricked into believing that they have to say the pledge every morning. Few school children are reciting it out of respect. I admit, there are some children who pledge with conviction for whatever reason, but the majority of them are not. Is this really what we want as a country? No real dedicated followers?

There are some other qualms I have with the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance. I disagree with pledging under God. It goes against a fundamental principle our nation is built on. We pride ourselves in being a religiously free and diverse nation. Religious freedom is in the first constitutional amendment. Yet those who have faith in a being or beings other than God are obligated to take an oath in his name. Ever since 1954, when God was inserted into the Pledge of Allegiance, there has been a huge controversy on whether or not God should remain. Personally I believe that as our Constitution insists, religion should remain separate from the government, although this has never happened in the history of the United States.

I don’t want to delve too far into my personal issues with the pledge out of concern that it will invalidate my argument. However, after World War II, the salute to the flag was taken out of the pledge because it resembled the Nazi salute too much. It’s slightly concerning that my fellow students are unconsciously reciting a pledge, which they don’t truly mean, because they feel pressured into it. The pledge reminds me of a Terms & Conditions Agreement that is so lengthy that no one ever reads, but still signs. We are signing our life away without hesitation because we don’t want to be considered a traitor.

Now whenever I say the Pledge of Allegiance, I know I am only saying it because I truly believe in the cause. My dedication to my nation is more honest and passionate than that of a kid who says the pledge faithfully everyday with no truth behind the words.

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