Monday, November 8, 2010

Build a blog: Solitary Confinement

I wrote a whole long post about consciousness and slavery to desire, but was not particularly fond of it so I have opted for this short and sweet post in which YOU are the meat of the blog. The interpretation of this one is up to you.

Solitary confinement is one of the oldest and most enduring prison practices. Bar the death penalty, it is also the most extreme penalty which can legally be imposed on prisoners. He is almost completely dependent on prison staff – even more than is usual in the prison setting – for the provision of all his basic needs, and his few movements are tightly controlled and closely observed. Social well-being is seen by the World Health Organisation as integral to its definition of ‘health’. Solitary confinement removes the individual from the company of others and deprives him or her of most forms of meaningful and sympathetic social interaction, as well as physical contact. Even when isolated prisoners do not show any obvious symptoms, upon release from isolation they can become uncomfortable in social situations and avoid them, with negative consequences for subsequent social functioning in both the prison community and the outside community, again undermining the likelihood of successful resettlement.

Reflect on that a bit, and take your reflection beyond the confines of state prison. What happens when somebody wants social contact and can't get it, whether it be rejection, physical or psychological restraints? What happens when someone becomes completely dependent on the enslaver, I mean staff for the most basic of needs?

The above passage was pieced together directly from

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Semantics of Human Trafficking

If A equals B, and B equals C, then A equals C. Transitive relations. When I hold a glass of water and let go of it, it falls to the ground and shatters. Law of gravity and some physics theory that says brittle things break on forceful impact. We have seasons on this Earth because the world rotates around the Sun on a tilt, which is also why we have currents in the ocean. And that's that. Variations exist as do exceptions from certain rules, but I bet if I had persevered past Calculus and Physics and Bio101 those exceptions and variations would have rules and definitions for themselves as well. Science, math, physics, any sort of structured study is beautiful in that it is generally ruled by falsifiable theories and principles which begin to form facts and clear definitions.

On the contrary, the huge challenge that comes with any subject that seeks to study and define the movements of human beings is that you are immediately thrown into the deepest ocean of definitions for one term given by individuals who will slay you with their theories and proofs of why their definition is the true definition unlike all those other idiot experts. The "idiot experts" will say the same thing. I challenge you to ask just a handful of people around you what the definition of race and ethnicity is. I promise, your definitions will begin to cross. This is beautiful because it is breathing evidence of the diversity and ingenuity of humans. This is crippling because it deters our ability to understand and respond to the deep needs of individuals, groups and nations alike (almost as crippling as the fact that we need to define things to know that something is wrong and to respond to it). Catch my drift?

Human trafficking is one of the top 3 most profitable criminal trade in the world, but what is it? The US Department of Health and Human Services defines it as such:

"Human trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery.  Victims of human trafficking are subjected to force, fraud, or coercion, for the purpose of sexual exploitation or forced labor. Victims are young children, teenagers, men and women."

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 further defines these acts:

"Sex Trafficking:  the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act2, in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person forced to perform such an act is under the age of 18 years; or

Labor Trafficking:  the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage or slavery. "

The UN broadens it further on their Fact Sheet No.14, Contemporary Forms of Slavery by defining it as:

"The word 'slavery' today covers a variety of human rights violations. In addition to traditional slavery and the slave trade, these abuses include the sale of children, child prostitution, child pornography, the exploitation of child labour, the sexual mutilation of female children, the use of children in armed conflicts, debt bondage, the traffic in persons and in the sale of human organs, the exploitation of prostitution, and certain practices underapartheid and colonial régimes."

This is followed by definitions of each of the above stated human rights violations. About three weeks ago I attended a presentation on human trafficking by the Commission of Human Rights in Tijuana with another organization I work with. This only complicated things further because not only was I struggling to understand the logistics of human trafficking, but I was trying to understand them in a foreign language. Spanish has two terms for human trafficking: "trata de personas" and "trafico de personas" which are apparently two very different things, but I still don't know what trata de personas means in this context. Basically, the main elements of human trafficking were defined as fraud, force and the issue of consent.

Now, how I define human trafficking, as opposed to those other idiot experts...hah. Credible as I am, I will not burden you with another interpretation of what human trafficking is. There are plenty of definitions out there already, and though they do provide valuable insight, I am no more closer to coming up with a concise definition. The one thing I do want to reinforce is that the numbers, the statistics and the lists of abuses are real peoples' lives and real atrocities that have been committed numerous times against someone. Like I have said before, the argument of numbers is a cold one because numbers have no existential purpose, but Alepho and Angel do. They were just numbers a second ago, now they are beginning to take a form. Does she know them? Is this just some sort of rhetorical device? What kind of a name is Alepho? Is Angel a stage name or is it actually his or her legal name? Is she trying to be deep and symbolic or something? If you are actually interested in whom they are, I can tell you but you have to ask. Regardless of what you are thinking, even if you think what I am doing is dumb, your thoughts are becoming more personal and are starting to connect to a somebody. Maybe instead of just saying there are 12.3 or 27 or blue or yellow million people in bondage and move on with our lives we should rattle off all their names and then after that instead of listing the various actions that constitute human rights abuses we should go through what abuses Alepho and Angel went through. That would take a long time.

On a personal note, I received some constructive criticism on my last blog and I do enjoy that. I will be responding to it in the future. I am a student, this is how I learn and grow, this is what I am used to and this is what I encourage you to do as well. Please do keep in mind that I am a person too and that I might cry and find you rather arrogant if you just say something mean with no greater purpose than to blow off steam.

Monday, October 25, 2010

End Slave Labor: Buy Used, Buy Local

It is not foolproof, nor is it 100% pure but it is a step in the right direction and it is also environmentally friendly. Let's rationalize it:

1. Second Hand Stores
Used clothing stores' production line is you. If it is Salvation Army or Goodwill, you donate the items. If it is Buffalo Exchange or some other designer used clothing store they will buy your best items from you and sell them for their own profit. They do their business right there next to or across from the cash register in plain sight, no secrets. If you decide you don't want to part with your items, you don't have to. There is no force, no coercion, no debt bondage and no sweat shops. The best part about it, from a consumer's perspective, is that it is all cute, trendy clothes that are already shrunk and worn in so there are no surprises after that first wash. Buying at second hand stores does not directly support human trafficking. Indirectly it is more than likely true that your purchased goods were tainted by some shading business dealings in their first life, but once they are placed in a second hand store, your business supports the store and potential charities and nothing else.

Here is the link for Buffalo Exchange: Find locations near you and read their "How it Works" link for more information.

2. Local Farmers Markets
I admit, I should have researched this a bit before I wrote this, so I will only make empty assumptions for now. From an environmental perspective, it is better because it cuts down on emissions in domestic or international transport. You will have to sacrifice the seasonal savories, sorry strawberry lovers, but in the face of the great sacrifice that the natural world is being compelled into, it is rather trivial that our desires must wait. From a human trafficking perspective, you can never really be sure what goes on behind closed doors. I would encourage you to ask where the produce is coming from and who plants and picks it, but their word is all you can rely on. In my opinion, it is much more difficult for an independent farmer to lie straight to his or her customer's facefor than it is for a large corporation to lie to a faceless consumer base. I will not rule out the possibility though, I know that humans are capable of really horrific things, but this is a positive blog so I will leave that out for now. Bottom line: an independent, local farmer cannot evade the law and truth as easily as a large corporation and my guess is he or she will be less willing to jeapordize their business with shady business. But don't just assume that. Ask, build relationships with the people, humanize them and I promise the worst thing that could happen would be an awkward conversation.

Here is a great website to help you locate famers' markets near you in the US:

That's all for now. Remember to act in love always, and not just the warm fuzzy love, but also the love that hurts and calls you to be compassionate in the face of great pain and rejection. Wait...what was it again that Jesus did?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Personal Note No. 1

Much of what I write is a direct reflection of what is going on in my head (shocking, I know) and I realized that a lot of what has been going on in my head has been quite bleak. Slavery is not an incredibly uplifting topic + that is what I have been researching heavily recently = bleak. Causation or correlation I don’t care, call it math if you would like it is just what has been going on. This means there has been a direct influence of this attitude in the writing I have been doing recently. It is selfish of me to impose that mood on you Reader, so in an effort to prevent myself from being consumed with grief and to offer you more rainbows and butterflies, I will write a positive blog. My intent is not to heap sorrow and desperation on you and revel in your psychological demise, quite the opposite. I want to inspire conscious thought and action. I want you to realize your responsibility as a consumer of materials, services, music, information and culture and use it to benefit others, not harm them.

This is not an easy task, it takes thinking, feeling, sacrifice and research, but that is why I am here. I will do my best to research how to be a responsible consumer, offer perspective and provide a database of research items but in turn I ask you to cross check me. I am not perfect, sometimes I get A’s on midterms, and sometimes I get D’s. Generally I’m smart, but I have my times too. In short, I encourage you ask questions not because you doubt but because you want to know. Here’s an example: Why? It’s easy. How’s that for positivity? 

Also, here is a worthy cause that goes along with the whole theme of this post:
It is on November 6th in Irvine, CA.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Just to Clarify: Slavery Exists

Yes, yes it does and even in this United States of America. Our beautiful country that believes in and sends our men to die for the principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of Capitalism, I mean happiness, is a popular destination of slaves, and clearly not of their own free will.

Let's have a brief history lesson. On December 6, 1865 the 13th Amendment to the constitution was adopted by the United States. It states:

"Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."

For those of you that did not read that because it was a quote in the middle of the page, it says that slavery is a crime in the US and any place subject to their jurisdiction. It is an honorable notion and has my full support but in my opinion, all this succeeded in doing was to shift the act of slavery from something socially acceptable and visible to something socially unacceptable and less visible.

Slaves before were whipped and flogged shamelessly and publicly, slaves today are beaten and raped behind closed doors. Slaves before worked in plain sight, slaves today work in dark rooms, red lit rooms, hot humid basements, dirty factories, and some even in plain sight on corners, film sets and poles yet one would never assume them to be enslaved but voluntarily dedicated to the profession of prostitution, pornography and stripping. But let me challenge you with a simple question: when you were growing up and talking about the future with your friends how many of them aspired to be an adult film star? How many of them wanted to dance naked for greasy, greedy old spectators? How many of them told you that they wanted to suck a dick for a dime in back alley ways all night? How many times did you desire this? I didn't, I thought the ice land bridge theory was absolute crap and was determined to prove it wrong on account of continental drift and then fly to the moon to be the first woman on the moon (these were my third grade aspirations).  Things have changed. Things do change.

One thing I am certain has not changed is the simple mechanism of enslavement: making one feel unworthy. Before, slaves were believed to be sub human. In the US they only counted as 3/5 of a person, and that was only for the purposes of determining taxes and apportioning congressmen for individual states. It makes sense that slave owners did this, how can one consciously enslave someone one views as ones equal? Slaves were thought unworthy of being treated with the respect and honor owed to free men and therefore deserved the treatment they received. Some owners even thought themselves benevolent for the great service they were doing in keeping and caring for subordinates. We are now in the 21st century, the age of human rights campaigns and hot summers, but no amount of laws or stimulus plans will bring about the change we need. Obama. The change needed is internal and individual.

Psychology is psychology. Devalue someone to the point that they believe they deserve the lot they are being given and you have complete control over their life. No chains necessary, and if that is not sufficient a good beating and threat to loved ones will do the trick. This is not a slavery how-to, this is a slavery how-it-is. It is a mentality ignorant of grace, mercy and love that acts in the pursuit of one thing: personal capital.

And if you need a number to prove slavery exists, it's 12.3 million worldwide according to the 2010 TIP report. That's 1.8 people out of 1000 in the world. Do the math with the population of your town, school or work and it will make it more personal. Some organizations report higher, some lower but the argument of numbers is a cold one, I will advocate whether it be 1 slave or 27 million.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

What does it mean to pay for sex?

What does it mean to pay for sex? It is a mind so dark, so nearly inconceivable. How is it born, what possesses it to disregard self respect and take so hastily what is not its, what will not be its, and what despises it at its very act of taking. Is it so foolish to think that the passage to which it entered this world would forever be its entitled property? Or did it, after years of practice and enforcement, learn not to feel? Or did it simply forget to feel?

What does it mean to pay for sex? Could it be a more sinister deed than that? Is it the domineering power that drives the hand to pay and the genitals to play? Is it her fault for swaying in such a way to render the senses blind but for pleasure? Did she choose you and relentlessly taunt until you justifiably prodded and she whispered the money from out your pocket? Or maybe it was a him; maybe it was his gentle stature that charmed you into his out. It was his silent submission, his unripe complexion that righted you in the wrong you were consuming.

But you paid. Power pleasure pressure ecstasy ignorance oneness closeness love lust compassion greed intoxication desperation whatever it may have been has died back into two, divisible by paper with faces yet unified in an encounter saturated with self-gratification. The deed is done. You paid. It never really was alive. It was an illusion, a brilliant Hollywood picture, a horrifically played out scene that would make Shakespeare tremble in the great beyond, but the curtain has closed, the credits are rolling, the illusion as broken as your bank and all that is left is you and the memory. She will be there in you, as sure as you were in her, and the next, and the next, and the next until you must sell yourself to him in order to pay for her. But maybe you did not pay. But of course you did not. This was just a penny back from the debt owed, if any crime was committed, it was she against you.

She owes you this; you paid for her to come, now she pays you to come. Her debt was so great that maybe even her mother owes you a share, maybe even the child she so foolishly allowed to grow will cover half the interest, but oh she is racking up debt faster than she can pay with every next day she audaciously breaths within your house. She begged you not to share her but it has gone too far and you must put your foot down. Burden as it may be, you graciously allow her to pay you back by soliciting her to your coworkers. Of course there is the issue of her appearance, her ribs have protruded so far past her tits that they would be better off growing nipples themselves than protecting whatever resides within their cavity. And that crooked nose and gaping grimace; she is hardly worth an Alexander Hamilton, and he out of anyone knows his value. It will be hard to deface his bill with her sin.

But what does it mean to pay for sex? Is it the emptiness that fills us? Is it a desperate need to feel connected that drives us to pay? Have we never learned how to make two into one? Have we so quickly forgotten Thumper's rule the minute Bambi learned it? Where was in on this path that we abandoned God, Darwin, Freud, mom, dad, our amygdala and every other trapping of conscious existence by the roadside and set off on our own, so drunk with freedom that we drifted into the destructive abyss of entitlement? Is it too late to turn, to even realize we need to turn? What will it take for us to understand the garden we defecated into a wasteland? More importantly, whom does it cost to return?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Please, be educated.

It's ironic because I am risking being late for class, or worse not finding parking, by posting

In short: please be an educated advocate. I have added links to sources for human trafficking stats and info. The information is not there in your face so you will have to take the extra effort to click links and decide what you will read, but it's all there for you. I have done this with some of them, but not all of them yet. YET. I will be adding more in the future as I find more.

The Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report is from the State Department and it is a whopping 300 and something pages. Do not attempt this alone. Divvy it up amongst fellow advocates or just read the basics at the beginning. Also, take the time to discuss this too. Through discussion we sometimes discover that what we had at first understood to be true was not quite on the mark. Exhibit A: midterms. A lot of it can be dry, boring, political stuff that I know is not the most stimulating of reads, but I really encourage you to take at least a brief look at it. The more educated you are, the better prepared you will be to support a cause and defend yourself against the critics.

Which means that I will be held accountable for this information too...there goes my weekend. Well, off to class now!