“Disposable People”

February 26, 2009 at 11:00 pm | Posted in Nonfiction | 3 Comments

It wasn’t until a few months ago, when I read Nobodies, that I realized slavery was still an issue.  This is strange, because I’ve always taken an interest in social justice, I knew about sweatshop labor, and I even wrote a college paper comparing prison labor to slavery.  Where is this subject in the news?  Disposable People got under my skin in a bad way, because Kevin Bales does not offer any kind of checklist of places or products to boycott.  First you’re going to tell me about slavery, and then you’re going to tell me there are no easy ways to get rid of it?

Americans learn in grade school that we fought the Civil War to end slavery, just like we fought World War II to end fascism.  I think most of us were satisfied with that.  Gee, slavery really sucked – thank goodness that’s all over.  Hand me another Coke.

The disturbing picture that appears in Disposable People is that slavery has existed continuously for at least a few thousand years.  Those of us who are free have been blithely going along, minding our own business.  If it’s not right under our noses, we don’t see it.  Abraham Lincoln said, “If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong.”  I’m sure someone else at some point also said what I think, which is that we are all in big trouble if anyone is a slave anywhere.  I think free people are required to know about this.

So, here is a link to the website of Free the Slaves, an organization that works to fight global slavery.  I will offer to buy a copy of Disposable People for any reader who sends me proof of membership in Free the Slaves or another anti-slavery organization.



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  1. Hi, thanks for a great posting and a generous offer of books. I appreciate how my book Disposable People can get under your skin – it REALLY got under mine. I was a university professor when I started the research for the book, and by the end of writing I could no longer go back to the classroom, I had to work directly to end slavery and I have been doing that ever since.

    As you point when I finished Disposable People I had no answers and no solutions. I had set out to discover and document the size and shape of modern slavery, I achieved that, but I didn’t know then what to do about it. (Yes, there’s a 2 page “what to do” section, but I put it there because my editor insisted).

    So, I spent the next seven years doing the research to find out how we end slavery, to dig deep into all the possible solutions – I published those answers in late 2007 in the book Ending Slavery: How We Free Today’s Slaves. Let me match your generosity and say that if you will send a mailing address to me at infor@freetheslaves.net I’ll send you a copy of Ending Slavery (and if you wanted to blog about sometime that would be great).

    All best
    Kevin Bales

  2. I think human trafficking and the global slave trade does get a fair bit of coverage, including several television series that have worked to illuminate the public about it and also even a Lifetime movie!

    In addition, there are several books about it. This one looks kind of sad, though.

    International Justice Mission is another fantastic organization that works to end slavery. It is a faith based group, but they do a lot of good work. They were highlighted on MSNBC awhile back when they busted into a child brothel in Cambodia and freed several girls. (MSNBC went with them undercover)

  3. Wow! I’m going to go e-mail Kevin Bales right now so I can get more informed. Watch this space!

    @Amy – I guess that’s the difference between reading the news and watching the news… I don’t have a TV and somehow I seem to have missed the boat.

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