The New Realities of Slavery and Consumerism
Guy Kirby Letts
“Wipe the sleep of slavery from your eyes.”—Tecumseh
A barrage of new studies have recently come out showing that slave, indentured, and child labour have not been so widespread since the turn of the 20th century. It is estimated that some 27 million people today are currently enslaved, and even though slavery is illegal in every country, it is a rapidly growing practice throughout the world. Whether we are speaking of child prostitutes in Canada, enslaved brick-makers in Pakistan, or domestic slaves in France, they are all the result of an expanding global economy. Those who live their lives in violence and servitude, despair and bondage are the very same people who make it possible for us to fulfil our insatiable appetite to consume and ‘shop till we drop’. A can of Coke, a sporty pair of Nikes, a new Honda, the latest fashions at the GAP, or this weeks number one hit on CD, virtually all of our petty desires, wants and ‘needs’ are made abundant and affordable through the misery of others.
The chain of events goes something like this: 1) greedy transnational corporations and shareholders want larger profits, while national governments in ‘overdeveloped’ countries want increased economic growth; 2) all three groups (usually the same people) require increases in the consumption of goods in order to fulfil their ceaseless objectives; 3) to maximize increases in consumption, goods must be desirable, readily available and inexpensive; 4) the mass production of inexpensive goods and services requires the use of cheap labour—the cheaper the labour, the cheaper the good; 5) cheap labour is acquired by exploiting the poor, the desperate, and the vulnerable; 6) the increased demand for profits demands an increase in cheap labour which facilitates the global practice of slave labour. Nevertheless, while preaching the virtues of freedom from the comfort of our excessive decadence, we...