Christian Long

Kevin Bales: How to Combat Modern Slavery

In TED Talks on April 21, 2010 at 8:33 pm

Reflection by CARL K.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Kevin Bales: How to Combat Modern Slavery

Such a sad truth.

I’ve known that there are still slaves, being forced to do hard and degrading labors, everywhere around the world. But never did I figure that the number is high.

From what Kevin Bales has researched, there are approximately 27 million slaves on this planet. That’s a scary number. But what’s even more frightening, to me, is that number has doubled since 1865. There are even more slaves now, in the world, than what was being traded during the Atlantic triangular trade. It’s ridiculous.

Kevin has traveled to 4 different continents, and has researched about the business of modern slavery. He has looked at slaves, met slaveholders, and looked very closely into the slave-based business (e.g. fishing, agriculture, etc.). “This is an economical crime,” says Kevin, “People don’t enslave other people to be mean to them. They do it to make a profit.” Now, all I can say is that we’ve known this. This is just pure fact, we can trace this all throughout human history. But what’s made it even more compelling, is that now it’s much more worse as each generation passes. So why is it worse now than before?

Well, Kevin explains it in three, key supporting factors:

1) A population explosion. The world population has dramatically increased over the past 100 years. Here’s a graph showing how the world has grown exponentially. Because there are some many people in the world now, it’s easier to find more workers these days, which is why there are so many slaves today

2) Extreme poverty and vulnerability, meaning that due to either civil wars, kleptocratic governments, natural disasters, or whatever, people have put into positions where they have basically no control of the situation, and have just been thrown into the palms of slaveholders

3) Lastly, corruption. If corruption has creeped into a community, or society of people, then the rule of law has no meaning basically. You can use violence to “harvest” people into slavery.

It’s because of these three factors that has led to many people into slavery, in our world, today.

However, not all of the people come this way. It often starts off with a very simple question: “Want a job?” Majority of the people, who go into slavery, experience outsiders coming into their village offering a job. Like what Kevin said, naturally we would assume that these outsiders were pretty sketchy, but we’re starving and don’t have any medicine, and that we would do anything.

However, we can trace these kinds of factors all throughout human history, but the minor difference is that those factors has exponentially increased over decades. But there is one compelling difference in modern slavery today, than in the past 100 years, and that is “the complete collapse in the price of human beings.” Humans in the past were once expensive to buy. These days, you can buy a slave-child dirt cheap (literally dirt cheap). In Kevin’s graph, the average slave price over 4000 years was about $40,000, in today’s dollars. Now, the average price of a slave is about $90. In some places, its not even that much. In Nepal and India, one can acquire a slave for just only about $5-10.

I blame this, and I bet I can find research and statistics to support me, on our global population. If we were to have remained at some constant number of people, the world wouldn’t experience as much slavery as we do now. But sadly, that’s not the case. It’s as like Kevin explained it, because we’re at such a high population, people have now become disposable, like Styrofoam cups: they’re easy to buy, and can be bought in a high quantity, and after being used we can just be thrown away.

So what can we do, as community, to help end slavery?

We can’t just buy them out, like Kevin says, but we can help liberate them from their slaveholders. Now, its not just a snap-of-the-fingers kind of deal, it’s a process. We don’t just help buying out the family, but we also spend money to help build back lives of dignity, stability, economically, and citizenship. What I think we can do is help donate money to organizations that specifically help slaves become free citizens. Kevin estimated that to free the entire world of slavery, the approximate cost would be around $10.8 billion, just as much as we spend on potato chips in America.

So, if we spend that much on potato chips, why can’t we focus that money on freeing slaves.

If everyone, just in America, dontated just a portion of their money to help liberate slaves, I think that’ by the year 2025, we’ll can live in a world truly free of slavery, once and for all.

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