Modern Day Slavery

Kevin Bales, the author of Blood and Earth: Modern Slavery, Ecocide, and the Secret to Saving the World, said that thirty million people in the world today are enslaved; fifty thousand people in the United States are enslaved alone. These ‘employees’ are faced with in human working conditions and abuse supervisors, trapped into one occupation through the course of their lives. Most consumers are unaware of the trials laborers face to manufacture products the consumer uses everyday (Gneco).

In the twentieth century most people used touch screen electronics regardless of the brand, the minerals used in these electronics come from mines in the Eastern Congo. These mines are located in a country devastated by war and poverty. The war and the mines also devastate the environment. Kevin Bales talks about horrific conditions the laborers live in, in an interview with NPR (Not Public Radio). He says that many of the locals live underground in leftover tunnels the miners made, wearing very little clothing and usually walking around barefoot. The gangs that supervise the mines do not provide adequate protection to their employees to safeguard them from the natural consequences of mining. The tunnels often collapse, in jurying many laborers whom have no access to proper healthcare, exposed to cholera and numerous sexually transmitted infections (Gneco).

Slavery is legal in every country, however many impoverishment groups are tricked into slavery (whole generations are born into slavery). The gangs round up most people at gunpoint. However in the Congo they try to legalize enslavement through gift giving. Bales explains the legal system of slavery. Poor citizens are falsely accused of a misdemeanor and a judge will issue a fine higher than the accused possible means. A businessman would offer to pay the fine in exchange for labor. The citizen is forever indebted to the businessman and locked into the occupation. Men are taken as slaves for their exterior, meaning the work they can offer to the business. Women are exploited for their exterior as well as their interior. Not only are women used for their labor, but what they can offer sexually present day and their future offspring (Gneco).

Ghana has mines for gold, however the mining techniques are more analogous to ancient Rome than modern day technology. Bales says the only tools given to the miners are a picks and flashlight rubber banded to their heads to harvest the quartzite from the mines. After harvesting the quartzite, laborers need to grind the chips into a fine powder. In Ghana, the grinders suffer from acute and chronic Silicosis due to lack of protection. Those diagnosed with this condition are usually dead in less than eighteen months. The laborers are not provided healthcare. Some laborers do not even know they are being exploited because they were born into slavery. Villages in northern India are hereditary slaves, all working in the same quarries. The people have not experienced proper healthcare are and education system. Organizations, like Free the Slave, work to educate enslaved populations about freedom and encourage them to demand to be released (Gneco). 

Conflict Minerals MM8226
Miners eating lunch from a communal bowl, Marcus Bleasdale

It’s OK Not To Be OK.

Monday, February 22, I presented on the opinions of Shell Shock after World War I in regards to Mrs. Dalloway. Mental illness was stigmatized as a women’s issue, labeled hysteria. A majority of people saw the soldiers that fell victim of Shell Shock weak; they were not acting like ‘true men’ because they were not in fully in control of their body and emotions. German psychiatrist during the war said the soldiers claiming to be suffering from Shell Shock had poor morale and did not acknowledge Shell Shock as a mental illness.

Septimus in Mrs. Dalloway was a revolutionary character in literature because he showed the trauma and ugliness of war. Virginia Woolf shows characters being dismissive of Septimus’ condition, even the doctors that were supposed to take care of him. Septimus is suffering from Shell Shock; this was a result of repressing is emotions during the war because that is what men were expected to do. He prides himself on the fact that he was able to ‘react reasonably’ (Woolf 86) to the death of his friend, Evans. His first doctor, Dr. Holmes, regarded Septimus’ disease as nerve symptoms as a result of combat, (Woolf 91). The second doctor, Sir William Bradshaw, recommended that Septimus be sent to the countryside and placed in solitary confinement because that would be best for his wife’s sanity, (Woolf 96). Bradshaw was not even concerned about Septimus, or focused on a cure for his condition. Woolf herself suffered from mental illness and was probably one few writing about it in 1925. Few understand the implications of mental illness and that time; even today mental illness is not fully understood.

Today mental illness is still not really talked about; in many ways to have a mental illness is to be weak. For example, my junior year in high school the community was shocked to discover that Madison Holleran had committed suicide. She had been suffering from depression and jumped off a parking garage at the University of Pennsylvania. On the surface her life seemed perfect; she was a star athlete, smart, beautiful, and super nice, everyone loved her. She told her parents that she wasn’t happy, but no one would expect her to take her own life. Though on the surface she seemed to have everything, she was not happy and she thought she had to be. Her family has risen above this tragic event to spread awareness for mental illness. Her father has created a foundation in her name, The Madison Holleran Foundation. The homepage of the website quotes Virginia Woolf: “I thought how unpleasant it is to be locked out; and I thought how it is worse, perhaps, to be locked in.”