There are more slaves on the planet today, than there have ever been at any point in history. Ever.
This does not even take into account those who operate under debt slavery – i.e. those who are not enslaved but have no means to get out of their situation – for example sweatshop workers. In the UK the majority of us, thankfully, no longer believe the Victorian idiom that the poor choose to be poor; but yet for a large proportion of the worlds population their choices are limited and there is no way out of the situations they are born into.
Globalisation has succeeded in opening up the world, the benefits of which are very visible in the West; cheap travel, cheap food, cheap clothes – but it has failed a large portion of the planet’s inhabitants. It is invisible, however, to most of us living in prosperous countries – but it is still there, and it is darker than ever.
The problem is created by political regimes and exacerbated by financial institutions whose private loans entrench states into long-term servitude, diverting any stream of income they receive to their creditors – wealthy nations and wealthier private institutions. It is quite literally taking from the poor and giving it to the rich – Robin Hood in reverse. What makes it worse is that these loans are often given to corrupt regimes, and their legitimate successors are left to clear up the mess.
What can I do? You may ask. You may think that as an individual you are powerless. On a day-to-day basis buying fairtrade helps. On a larger scale, if people stop investing in debt, or buying products where workers are not treated fairly or actually enslaved then corporations will stop using this means to make their money. A boycott only actually works though when everyone subscribes to it. And even then it has to be a legal boycott for everyone to subscribe to it – or in other words an embargo. As a population it is important that we become global citizens, take notice of what is going on in the world around us, speak out when we notice bad practice and rally for change.
To end debt slavery, it is essential that investment banks invest ethically as to not prolong the subsistence of one country upon another. Taking advantage of less economically developed countries for the procurement of great profits is not noble and ought to be criminal. When, as a country, we are responsible for many of the most unjust regimes in the world – instigated for our profit – why is okay to then ‘lend’ vast sums of money to knowingly corrupt governments where we can be sure most of the money will not reach the people of that country? The reason is that once a country is indebted to another they are expected to do that countries bidding – for example buying arms or military equipment that they do not need – in return for favourable terms. This is hardly progressive or modern. It is imperialist under the guise of globalisation.
For indebted countries to develop naturally, as we have had the privilege of doing, they must develop their own policies. While a want for help and advice would be expected, and should be willingly given without strings attached, the policy of nurturing vassal states must be stopped as it causes conflict in the long term – for example, The Arab Spring. The same argument that is used for gender equality applies here. A country will never be the best it can be if half of its workforce is not given a fair chance, and neither will the world reach its full potential if this system continues. This is bad for the economies of both developed and developing countries. Countries are de facto stronger if they are surrounded by strong neighbours. If every state is strong, we all benefit.
Yes, it IS a vicious cycle – but that does not mean that it cannot be stopped. Much of Britain’s wealth has come from these counties in one form or another. It is time to return the favour and give some of it back. Let’s not settle for the status quo. Let’s stop the global malpractice of debt slavery and economic impoverishment (that we started – see British policy in the 19th century towards China).