I’d like to start off this blog post by saying happy new year, before going off about a more morbid subject of modern slavery. It’s something that’s seemed to come up in my life fairly frequently lately, and it’s something I’d just like to take a moment and discuss my ideas upon, take a moment to really shine some light upon the subject. Perhaps take a moment to watch this video, and maybe it’ll help give a little more insight to the whole thing, it personally gave me much to think about.
Now as little boys and girls in school we all learn that slavery in the United States was a really big deal and we had a war to stop slavery and all the slaves were emancipated by Abraham Lincoln, and that was the end of it. However, that is not the case. There are still thousands, millions in the world today still living in enslavement, having their lives not belong to themselves as a result of modern slavery. Though different in many ways to the slavery we are taught in school, slavery is still slavery. It’s a system of oppression, where people are sold off and forced to work for little or no pay. Once cannot even imagine the hardship those living in slavery have to suffer.
But we can get a glimpse, through reading and learning. By reading we can see things through others eyes and understand our past mistakes and try to fix things.
Though there are so many different types of slavery to address, my focus will be the human trafficking of people in the Thai fishing industry. As a kid, my dad would always take me out of his boat to go fishing with him, and I always got so excited whenever I’d catch the smallest little thing. It was always an adventure, and it’s very difficult for me to think that people are being taken out against their will out into open sea to work in such ways.
Unlike the transatlantic middle passage that brought over thousands of slaves from Africa to the Americas way back when, many people are forced into slavery in the Thai fishing industry because they are looking for work. A story from CNN describes how a 21 year old man was “smuggled across the border by labor brokers with the promise of a safe and stable job” however “instead… he and 12 others… were sold for around $430 each into jobs that made them virtual slaves.” It’s terrifying to think that just by looking for work one can be dragged into this sort of business.
Similar to the slavery seen in our country’s past, people in the Thai fishing industry are forced to work “20 hour work days with little or no pay and beatings at the hands of Thai crew members.” This little tidbit brings back to the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, where Douglass mentions how little time slaves had to sleep, how “they find less difficulty from the want of beds, than from the want of time to sleep… many of their sleeping hours are consumed in preparing for the field the coming day.”
There is also punishment to think of, how cruel and awful those on top of the chain can be to those lower down working. How in Frederick Douglass, Douglass describes his overseer whose “savage barbarity was equalled only by the consummate coolness with which he committed the grossest and most savage deeds upon the slaves under his charge.” The line that really shook me was the passage about Demby. How he “had given Demby but a few stripes, when, to get rid of the scourging, he ran and plunged himself into a creek, and stood there at the depth of his shoulders refusing to come out. Mr. Gore told him that he would give him three calls, and that, if he did not come out at the third call, he would shoot him. The first call was given. Demby made no response, but stood his ground. The second and third calls were given with the same result. Mr. Gore then, without consultation or deliberation with anyone, not even giving Demby an additional call, raised his musket to his face, taking deadly aim at his standing victim, and in an instant poor Demby was no more.” That passage really gave me an uneasiness, how someone could just throw away a life like that without a second thought, how cruel someone must be to be able to do such a thing… but even so such values are still evident today, as with modern slavery as in the CNN article, “some even witnessed murder, with bodies being thrown overboard as casually as unwanted catch.”
I lack the understanding how someone can do such a thing as to throw a human life away. How one can take over someone else’s life and decide their destiny for them. Why are these even things still around in the modern work. According to an article from the Guardian, “Thailand’s seafood industry is worth an estimated $7.3bn a year” and that fishermen are “increasingly turning to another line of business: people trafficking.”
Just thinking about how such an industry can still thrive nowadays, how the Thai fishing industry is another rendition of the “king cotton” and the tobacco industry that caused the stress on slavery before in America. I hate to think that such a business can still continue and I hope by reading more into it and working together eventually people can get rid of this barbaric institution. That one day every person will be able to live freely and on their own terms. That slavery will no longer be an issue. That the world will be a better place for everyone.