A Larger View

a commentary on how current events reflect— or not—our search for higher values

  • Volume XXII
  • No. 5
  • September/October
  • Bulletin of The Inner/Outer Partnership

The pieces are reposted from some of the entries in InnerLifeDirections.com

in this issue:

  • Children and Guns
  • Child Marriage and Economic Development
  • Extreme Commutes
  • Modern Slavery--The Scope of the Problem
  • Bias Against Atheists
  • Sex and Gun Violence
  • To Ponder On

 Children and Guns

Here are some statistics about children and guns

  • In a typical week in the US 25 children die from gunshot wounds
  • Between 2012 and 2014 1297 children under 18 died each year as a result of firearm injuries
  • In addition there were 5790 non-fatal injuries from gunshots
  • African American children are 10 times more likely to be killed by homicides than white children: 3.5 per 100,000
  • Suicide among white children is 4 times as high as it is for African American children
  • The rate of unintentional firearm deaths is twice as high for African American children than it is for white children
  • The District of Columbia and Louisiana had the highest firearm death, respectively 4.2 and 4.5 per 100,000
  • Child suicide by gun were highest in Montana, Idaho, Oklahoma, and Alaska
  • Most children who died of unintentional gun injury were shot by another child about the same age
  • Child gun homicide deaths have declined, but suicide have increased by 36% from 2007 to 2014
  • Gun suicide rates for that period increased 60%

Child Marriage and Economic Development

Child marriage has normally been seen as a human right issue. But a new study by the World Banks and the Center for Research on Women (CRW) suggest that child marriage is also an issue of economic development.  While child marriage does occur even in countries like the US, the greatest proportion occurs in poor countries. In Niger for example 77% of women between the ages of 18 to 22 were married before the age of 18. Sometimes the poorer the country, the more child marriage is likely to occur. Often there are laws banning child marriage, yet it still occurs.  Laws have been on the books in Bangladesh for example since a surprising 1929, but have been ineffective. There are many economic consequences to child marriage which cost the countries involved. Globally it’s been estimated at $500 billion, involving the costs of child mortality, malnutrition or the effect on growth and development.  By looking at the problem in economic terms, it may be that an incentive may be found for countries to address the problem with greater commitment. If girls were not married so young, they would be able to go to school and contribute to the economy so that the productivity of the country would increase. Another factor that would have economic consequences is that the more education girls can have the more they are likely to use birth control. Not only do they then have better control over their lives, population growth can also be controlled, and that is of much help to a country, particularly a poor one.

If the economic ramifications can be of use to motivate countries to resolve the issues associated with child marriage, then by all means, but it is still a human rights issue.

Extreme Commutes

Talking to the nurse in the doctor’s office she shared she had a long commute, “it’s only 32 miles” she said, “but it takes 2 hours because of traffic.” She didn’t like four hours of her day spend driving, she did however like her job, and felt lucky since she had to work. Other nurses in that same office shared similar stories of 2 hours commute to work.  Of course living in Southern California where things are so spread out, such stories are not unusual. Yet when the NYT published an article about what it called extreme commutes, and did it the very same day I had had that conversation with the nurse, I had to pay attention. Decades ago, commuting is what created the suburbs. People moved further away so as to be able to own better homes, have better schools, enjoy better neighborhoods. The motive is the same now, people move away to have access to better living conditions. But   found something disturbing in the Times article. It’s not the commute, I’ve commuted myself rather long distances on both coasts.  It’s the extreme aspect of it. It’s the fact that this is now a trend, a sort of new normal, that the people mentioned in the article had one way commutes longer than 2 hours. I couldn’t help thinking that if property values were not so high, that if cities were better planned and better organized around people rather than buildings, there may be a different outcome. The people for whom long commutes can be a hardship are middle class people, struggling to make sure their lives and that of their children has as much of what life has to offer as they can afford. Certainly people adjust, make the best of the commute, read, sleep, relax, open their laptops or unlock their phones. That’s not the point. The point is the underlying inequality of it. Certainly the people who commute do so out of choice. And yet it is like a bird in a cage, it can go anywhere as long as it is not outside the cage. Similarly people who chose a long commute do so not because they freely choose it or like it, but because that is the choice left them.

Modern Slavery—The Scope of The Problem

We all know that human trafficking is a bane, that it is a form of modern slavery. What is new according to new research by Siddarth Kara, a slavery economist at Harvard Business School and whose book on this subject is soon to be published, is that its scope is much larger than we normally think of. Kara’s research is based on 5000 interviews with people who have been victims of slavery which makes its finding all the more meaningful.  Modern slavery involves a minimum of 21 million people and, generates profits that are estimated to be as high as $150 billion a year. Each victim brings about $4000 a year and generates about $36,000 for the traffickers, letting us know that once a victim has ceased to bring in income, they are discarded, and more will take their place. Sexual trafficking which is only about 5% is the most lucrative, the rest are involved in a variety of labor including domestic work, the sea food, hospitality and manufacturing industries and the article in the Guardian  mentioned the beauty and fashion industries as well. Two industries which were not mentioned in articles I have previously read. Other uses for the victims are pornography and organ donations.

What is striking is that modern slavery is twice as profitable as the slavery of the past.  Slave owners of today have a return on their investment that is 25 to 30 times higher than those of the past. From the 15th to the 19th century 13 million people were trafficked, usually brought across continents. Today while slavery involves a number of countries, it can be local and it is very possible that we may encounter a trafficked person without knowing it. What is a concern is that the numbers of conflicts in the world, their ensuing instability and economic crises create new pools of victims and makes it easy for traffickers to jump in.  Another scary conclusion is that Human trafficking is  not only global  it is on par with the arms and drug trades.

Kevin Bale, a slavery expert at the University of Nottingham in the UK, says that it would be possible to eradicate slavery within 2 decades, that it would cost about $23 billion, but that the political will and determination to make that come about is lacking. I wasn’t able to find out yet how he proposes this would happen, but will share it when I do.  Yet the mere idea that someone with knowledge of the problem’s scope thinks it can be eradicated is both hopeful and important.  It means it is a realistic goal.

 Bias Against Atheists

I first looked at the headline I thought oh no they’ve documented that atheists aren’t as moral as other people. But when I kept on reading, the article talked about a finding that people believe that atheists aren’t as moral as people who are religious.  A study from psychology professors published in Nature Human Behavior journal  asked 3000 people from 13 countries across 5 continents  whether a person who tortured animals as a child before becoming a teacher and then went on to kill 5 homeless people was more likely to be a religious person or an atheist. Twice as many people thought that the killer was an atheist. The research finding documents that even in more secular countries atheists are perceived as dangerous and morally depraved. People in countries with a high number of religious believers like India, the United Arab Emirates or the Unites States are more likely to have, as the BBC article put it, an anti-atheists bias. The only countries that seemed to be free of such a bias were New Zealand and Finland. To be  against for one’s religious beliefs—and non-belief is a belief—is wrong no matter who holds that prejudice or why they do. Prejudice as we know is based on ignorance, in this case on the idea that it takes a religious basis to form a moral code. More than one studies have shown that not to be so. It may unfortunately make sense that religious people hold that bias, perhaps making it all the more important for those of us who don’t to realize how wrong they are.  The atheists I know are all moral, giving, sharing, wonderful people. It’s time for this prejudice to come out of the shadows.

Sex and Gun Violence

Young people in cities like Baltimore may not like gun violence, but telling them that gun violence may shorten their lives does not seem to reach them. James Evans an advertising executive who was born in Baltimore and who wanted to try to reach these young people, mainly young men, did some research, mainly through focus groups. He found that the old adage of sex sells applied. If you tell a young man that guns could make him impotent, he is more likely to listen. So does the idea of living in a wheelchair, and since most gun victims do survive, the message has a chance to resonate. So Mr. Evans raised some money and had an ad that said, “We saved him but he’ll be pissing in a bag for the rest of his life. No sex and no kids.” He is now trying to raise $250,000 so that his ad campaign can be fully implemented. There are of course those who don’t agree with Mr. Evans, who is African American.  His critics say  he whole idea of linking sex with Black young men reinforces a stereotypes that go all the way back to slavery. They also say that scare tactics do not work. Those young people need jobs, education, mentoring , mental health services. The police department is not sponsoring the ad campaign because they want to know more about the research so they are not endorsing it, yet they say they are supportive of any grass roots movement or idea such as this.

Why couldn’t this campaign not be a substitute for other needed programs such as job opportunities. Meanwhile wither as an adjunct, or on its own in the absence of something else, the idea, to me, at least, has merit and deserves a larger try out.

To Ponder On

“Never let your sense of morals get in the way of doing what’s right.”

Isaac Asimov









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