While most people think that slavery ended with the Civil War, it is still alive and well-even in the United States.
The two main areas of slavery are sex and labor. That is, people are enslaved to provide sexual services (typically working as prostitutes) or to provide work (such as picking fruit or working in a factory).
While slavery is illegal it is able to persist by various means. One thing that enables it to persist is that it gains concealment from other practices. For example, while prostitution is generally illegal, it is tolerated (just ask former governor Spitzer) and thrives in the United States. This tolerance for prostitution allows sex slavery to continue to exist, concealed under the aegis of this practice.
In the case of enslaved labor, cover is gained by the tolerance we have for illegal labor practices. For example, the fact that a blind eye is often turned towards the employment of illegal aliens also provides a blind area in which slavery can flourish. After all, if people do not look too closely at illegal aliens working illegally, then they will not notice that some of these people are enslaved.
Thus, our tolerance of the exploitative practices of prostitution and labor provides deep shadows in which slavery can thrive. As such, it is no wonder that it still persists in the land of the free.
While slavery is not generally regarded as an important problem, it is. After all, slavery is one of the great evils and to allow it to persist does significant moral damage to our society-especially since this is supposed to be a land of liberty and freedom. Also, there is the terrible crime being committed against those who are enslaved.
Naturally enough, I agree with John Locke’s view of how slavers should be dealt with. That is, of course, by killing them.
While prostitution and the work of illegal immigrants could certainly be termed exploitative, I’d hardly call it slavery. Granted, if a pimp steals the money of his prostitute and chains her to the bed, he’s a slaver of sorts.
The work of illegal immigrants is willingly performed, as they can make more money here than in Mexico and can then ship it home–tax free–where the dollar goes much further than it does in the States.
The prostitute in most cases can walk away from the work in order to get a real job. But many find that it’s too easy to have sex for money. Thus they enslave themselves.
Michael LaBossiere says
I’m not claiming that prostitution and exploitation of workers is prostitution. Rather, I’m claiming that the exploitation provides a shadowy haven in which slavery can hide. After all, where one crime thrives others can as well.
T. J. Babson says
Mike, don’t you know that slavery is OK in some cultures, and who are we to judge? We don’t want to impose our values on others, right?
From the Homaidan Al-Turki page at wikipedia:
A strategy utilized by the defense contended that Turki’s Arabian cultural norms are alien to most Westerners, and hence, vulnerable to prejudice and cultural bias. For example, court documents filed by Al-Turki’s lawyers illustrated that “there are Saudi Arabian customs regarding a host family’s retention of funds for their domestic servant until she leaves their service.”
In his testimony, Al-Turki denied any wrongdoing and said authorities had targeted him because of his religion. He insisted that the woman was treated the same way any observant Muslim family would treat their daughter and defended his actions to District Judge Justin Mark Hannen, saying that:
“The restrictions placed on her contact with non-relative males were also the same as those applicable to my daughters and other Muslim women in our community. You cannot ask somebody from a different religion to be American to the fullest. You cannot ask them to go dancing, go to the bars. We are Muslim. We are different. The state has criminalized these basic Muslim behaviors. Attacking traditional Muslim behaviors is a focal point of the prosecution.”
—Homaidan Al-Turki, District Court Testimony
However, Prosecution lawyer Natalie Decker adamantly contested the accuracy of this statement, stressing that the trial proceedings had nothing to do with the defendants beliefs or ethnicity and instead “has to do with what he did to her (the maid) for five years” and that Mr. Al-Turki’s actions represented “a clear-cut example of human trafficking.” The prosecution also pointed out that the alleged victim, the Indonesian maid, is also a Muslim. Responding to rising accusations of cultural bias, prosecution attorney Ann Tomsic requested that Judge Hannen should strive to treat Al-Turki as he would any American citizen who committed similar crimes. Tomsic further emphasized that “the world is listening, and the court needs to make a statement that in the United States, or at least in…(Colorado), this kind of slavery will not be tolerated.”
Ah yes–the Hells of moral relativism.
Fortunately, true moral relativists don’t last long in nature:
“Who am I to stop this man from raping and murdering me, in his country of Iran, it’s a normal way of life, and I have to respect all views as having equal value.”
Oblivion soon follows and Darwin has his way with things.
T. J. Babson says
Someone has to fill in for biomass 🙂
T.J.Babson I’m not so sure I want them to impose their values on me either. A good approach might be if they try to impose their values on me I have a right to prevent that in any way possible. In return, I won’t try to impose my values on them. If I do, they have a right to prevent that in any way possible. Doesn’t mean that in the end one of us won’t end up dead since might makes right until you’re not the mightiest anymore, then the other guy’s right I guess.
While some of my rhetoric may lead some to think I’m for the might makes right mentality; I’m not
What I really think is: Right makes might. Not aways in a moral sense but in many cases, yes.
They mightiest empires throughout history did things better than the ones who were never strong.
The proof is in the pudding as to what right is. I need no moral formulae; the results will tell me if I’m doing things in the right way.
Nazi Germany was strong–for a period of fiveyears. Then they pissed off the entire world and got crushed.
Randian anti-altruism won’t get a culture every far either.
Like pornography, you know morality when you see it. 🙂
Michael LaBossiere says
While slavery is accepted in some cultures, ethical relativism is a fatally flawed moral view. The condensed argument (from Louis Pojman) is that relativism collapses into subjectivism (because cultures cannot be defined in a way that precludes a culture of one person) and that subjectivism collapses into nihilism (just as allowing everyone to set their own law entails that there would be no law). Hence, relativism is not a position that can be held.
Objectively, slavery is wrong. A person cannot consent to sell himself and to enslave another must thus be (at the very least) theft.
I have seen attempts to justify slavery on religious grounds (mostly Islamic but some Christian). Locke deals with this quite well: if God exists, then He owns us all. Hence, no man can claim to own another.
You cannot seriously be comparing this exchanging of goods and services(albeit a poor exchange) to what the black community went through.
What about slavery as punishment? For instance: “20 years hard labor.” Guy making licence plates for the state as punishment. Seems like a good thing to me. Teaches him how to work.
Some have taken Paul’s command: “Slaves–obey your masters,” as a biblical endorsement of slavery. Horsepuckey and the haters know it. Paul was a Jew and knew full well the horrors of slavery. Moses’ story was that of the first recorded underground railroad. Paul repeatedly speaks of Christians formerly being “slaves to sin” or “slaves to the old nature”, the connotation being that: not being in control of yourself is bad. He tells Christians that they’ve been freed from the slavery of sin. Because they’re thinking has changed, they don’t have to do what is wrong.
Free is good.
Michael LaBossiere says
Locke does allow slavery for punishment, but only as an alternative to death. As he sees it, the person who elects slavery rather than death can chose death at anytime, thus ending his slavery.
Unpaid labor in prison is distinct from slavery-the state (at least in the US) does not claim ownership of the prisoner, just control over his life. While prison sentences might be compared to slavery, that is a distinction.