Yesterday, via this piece on slavery today, I began thinking about the invisible nature of slavery for so many people in the western world. The piece opens:
The average price of a slave has decreased during the past 200 years, according to Kevin Bales, a leading abolitionist who has written several books about modern-day slavery.The pieces leads to http://slaveryfootprint.org/, which includes an app allowing you to go through your life and figure out about how much slave labor is involved in your life. For my family of four, the answer was 60.
In 1809, the average price of a slave was $40,000 when adjusted to today’s money. In 2009, the average price of a slave was $90, Bales says.
I don't how their app works, how accurate they are, but as they say:
So, how many slaves work for you? “If you took 100 smartphones and lined them up, we could tell you with near 100 percent probability that on average, each one of those phones had at least 3.2 people exploited in the making of the phone,” said Dillon. “Mine might have had zero, yours might have had ten, but that’s not the point.”So yeah, it might not really be 60, it might be 30, or 90. But it's not zero. And I don't know their definition of "slave," but as a historian, I also know that doesn't matter. Degrees of unfree can vary, and do, over time.
We are all complicit in modern slave labor and there's no real way to live in the globalized world and not benefit from it. The only solution, as far as I can tell, is to push companies to be aware of their supply chains and to demand more equitable labor practices.
Do the survey. Think about what you might change.