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Today’s Hidden Slave Trade: Everyone’s Complicit

In June 2011, Hillary Clinton pointed out that there are as many as 27 million men, women, and children who are enslaved today. Modern day slavery is not just in the sense of sex slavery. In fact evidence suggests that sex slavery is just a smaller portion of the larger global slavery market. The larger culprit in the slave trade is labor slavery. In June of 2011 Sarah Stillman tried to make the issue of slavery apparent by writing about “trafficking victims who were lured to Iraq under false pretenses to work for American military contractors.” Unfortunately, Stillman’s story didn’t receive the attention it deserved. Louis CdeBaca concluded with the notion that many of the people involved in the labor slave trade are not like the “scum” of society that are involved in the sex slave trade but rather are “perceived as respectable members of society.” According to CdeBaca regardless of whether or not people agree with it most people support the slave market by buying products such as new technology and produce.

Student Researchers: Joshua Hackett, Indian River State College

Belim Humira, Indian River State College

Sources:

“Todays Hidden Slave Trade” Michelle Goldberg, The Daily Beast, June 2011

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/06/28/world-s-hidden-slave-trade-includes-forced-labor-in-u-s-military-contracting.html

 

“Rich new York woman accused of keeping slave in mansion closet,” Stephen C. Webster, Raw Story Media, March 2, 2012

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/03/02/rich-new-york-woman-accused-of-keeping-immigrant-slave-in-mansion-closet/

 

Faculty Instructor: Elliot Cohen, Ph.D., Indian River State College

Discussion

            Slavery exists today; that is a fact that we all must face. The problem is that when people think of modern day slavery they typically think of sex slavery, but in reality people should also think of labor slavery as the even more prevalent culprit. This issue of slavery arises as a result of utilitarian logic. On this way of thinking, we as a society should try to produce the greatest balance of happiness over unhappiness that is possible. But because of this desire to produce overall happiness, we end up treating some people as a mere means to the happiness of the masses, instead of treating everyone as ends in themselves, that is, as centers of intrinsic worth and dignity. This sort of thinking promotes slavery because the idea of people being treated as a mere means degrades them and turns them into objects instead of persons with inherent rights and dignity.

According to “Today’s Hidden Slave Trade” men, women, and children are victimized by slavery. This surprising fact shows that there are no moral bounds to the types of people enslaved. Anyone, even children, are treated as though they were objects to be used and manipulated, thus stripping them of their rights as humans and turning them into chattel, forcing them to work in fields farming and in factories producing products that are used worldwide.

The corporate exploiters turn people into slaves in order to make more profit. While making profit isn’t a bad thing (in fact that’s what businesses are in business for), these corporations are exploiting some people to generate their profit, which is unjust because the laborer becomes a mere appendage of the business for purposes of maximizing profit. One example given in the article, “Today’s Hidden Slave Trade,” was of “a Middle Eastern woman named Amita who was kept by a London family and required to work in their house from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, then hired her out to clean office buildings all night.” In another case reported by Raw Story,  a rich New York woman allegedly kept an immigrant slave in a mansion closet for five years.

Unfortunately, today’s consumers, which includes all or most of us, unwittingly also support the slave labor trade. For example, as discussed in “Today’s Hidden Slave Trade,” “the likelihood that a smartphone was not touched by a slave is pretty low.” By utilizing a resource like a smartphone well meaning people support the slave trade because they buy the products that help to exploit these persons. As a result, this sort of slavery is encouraged because it becomes profitable.

However, people are more than objects. They are more than chattel. They have a right not to be enslaved. This grotesquely unethical practice that plagues humankind must be put to an end for we are all persons and should all, therefore, be treated accordingly.

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