A Larger View

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

  • Volume XXII
  • No. 3
  • May/June
  • Bulletin of The Inner/Outer Partnership

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

in this issue:

  • Human Trafficking--Some Stats
  • Libyan Slave Market
  • AnAnti-War Lesson
  • Famine and Its Consequences
  • Alternatives Therapies in Hospitals
  • The Structurally Unemployed
  • To Ponder On

Human Trafficking—Some Stats

Here are some statistics about human trafficking, statistics that require no commentary.

<>79% of trafficked people are women and children

<>Victims of trafficking are found in 106 of 193 countries

<>from 2012-14 the UN Office on Drug and Crime estimated 0ver 500 flows of trafficking from 137 different nationalities

<>Victims are compelled to act as beggars, enter into sham marriages, forced into organ removal, participate in pornography production among others

<>According to the ILO human trafficking earns $150 billion a year for the traffickers. The following is a breakdown of profits by sector

  • 99 billion dollars from commercial sexual exploitation
  • 34 billion dollars in construction, manufacturing, mining and utilities
  • 9 billion dollars in agriculture, including forestry and fishing
  • 8 billion dollars is saved annually by private households employing domestic workers under conditions of forced labor

<>22% of the victims are trafficked for sex, but commercial sexual exploitation earns 66% of the profits

<>Sexual exploitation can result in 100 to 1000% profit while an enslaved laborer in India 50%

<>Labor exploitation in the US includes many industries particularly hospitality, restaurants, nail salons, massage parlors

Libyan Slave Market

Once in a while in all I read to prepare for these pieces, I find myself in disbelief, encountering how evil humans can be. This week it was a story in The Guardian newspaper about what they called Libyan slave markets. Migrants, usually from West Africa, with little or cash and often with no papers, manage to pay people smugglers to get across the desert to the coast. The rescued migrant interviewed for this story tells of a bus ride organized by th4e smugglers. In the middle of it, the driver saying he had not received his fees, sold those in the bus. They ended up in a public square in the Libyan city of Sabha   where what looked to him like Arabs bought them. They were taken to a kind of prison, and made to work for meager rations, while their families were contacted for ransoms. Should they not come through or wait too long, the men were killed and new ones were kidnapped and brought in. The International Organization for Migration, a UN agency, rescues as many as they can, but still many remain and more come. The European Union Trust Fund for Africa was just established with $95 million to help migrants. Efforts ought to be underway to help migrants for example not drown on the Libyan coast. It’s doubtful the slave markets will be dismantled in the near future, still it is possible that its victims may have additional help down the road. But then it would be naïve to assume this is the only such slave market in the region.  Not so long ago we heard of those from the Islamic State selling Yazidi women.

We tend to avoid these stories or gloss over them. And yet it is through our knowledge, through our sharing that knowledge that we can be part of the long chain that might make a difference. Things can go viral on the Internet, but before the Internet things spread through word of mouth. Now we can have both, for we must bring attention to those forgotten stories, so that as people become aware of them, they hopefully are touched by the need and are spurred and inspired to take whatever action is possible for them. In that way we can be more active participants through our voice and our vote giving where we can, yes but also influencing governments to understand the need to fund international agencies. It is particularly relevant these days when the tide is against such funding in the US. A NYT editorial asks that foreign aid to Africa must continue, that funding of the UN and its agencies must continue, and so must we.

An Anti-War Lesson

The tragedy in Syria, now in its 7th year, is inescapable to anyone who cares about what’s happening in the world. We have all been touched by the number of refugees escaping their war torn country, by the number of casualties, by the number of orphans, or wounded who have gone untreated. There’s also another aspect to the devastation of this war. Whether it’s been on the screen or in print, pictures of the destruction of several cities seem unparalleled. I for one have not been aware of a country with as much destruction. I remember WWII pictures of the bombings of Dresden and of London, of the destruction which that war engendered. Still it seems to me the ravage has yet to rival what has happened to Aleppo, Homs, Damascus and other Syrian cities less in the news because they are not as much targets in the war. And through it all Bashir al Assad remains president of the country. Is it fitting that he presides over rubble, and deserted, or semi deserted cities? Is he aware of what it is that he now rules, of what he had a hand in creating? He has, as we were recently reminded, stopped at nothing to ensure his continued hold on power. He used chemical weapons before and it seems he has sanctioned yet another use of them.  The use of such weapons and the kind of harm and death they inflict must no doubt be seen by him only in terms of how they can help him hold on to power. The flight, plight and fate of the Syrian people do not seem to matter to him.  Neither does the rubble. It’s the territory.  He is, at least for the present, still president over an area that was once a booming nation. But what is territory without the people, infrastructure, institutions that make up a country? It will be a long time before the war ends and longer before foreign investment aids in rebuilding, and then not without assurances that the political climate has acquired a certain stability regardless of who ends up the leader—a very tall order. We can’t undo what has happened in Syria, but we can learn from it. We can remember the price people pay for war. And when chemical weapons are used, the price civilization pays.  That might even, to a small degree at least,give meaning to the untold suffering of the Syrian people.

Famine and Its Consequences

Some 20 million people from 4 countries, Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and Northern Nigeria are undergoing famine conditions.  The UN and food aid organizations ‘s definition of famine is when more than 30% of children under age 5 suffer from acute malnutrition and the mortality rate is 2 or more death for each 10,000 people each day. The number of people is the highest since the founding of the UN in 1945 right after WWII. The UN under secretary-general for humanitarian affairs Stephen O’Brien, describes that many will simply starve to death, or suffer and die from disease unless help is given them. The problem is that by July $4.4 billion are needed to prevent a human catastrophe.  And of course funding to UN agencies and its humanitarian work has been reduced or held up, and the US contribution may be further reduced.

The economic development of the countries would also be reversed worsening the livelihood and future for millions.  The causes are not even.  In Yemen about 2/3rd of the population needs aid as a result of the proxy war by Saudi Arabia and Iran. In South Sudan the issues are more man made due to the 3-year old civil war, where both sides refuse to allow a stop to the violence. In Somalia draught conditions have worsened the situation, and in Northern Nigeria the consequences of fleeing from Boko Haram are being felt.

Piracy has begun again off the coast of Nigeria and off that of Somalia. It may have oblique tangents to the famine, but it’s sure to be related—perhaps a message for us that we can ignore human suffering only to create unwanted consequences..

 Alternative Therapies in Hospitals

Several hospitals affiliated with top universities including Yale, Duke and John Hopkins are doing something surprising. They are offering alternative therapies. They are not offering energy heling to help multiple sclerosis, acupuncture for infertility, homeopathic bee venom for fibromyalgia or herbal therapy to reverse Alzheimer’s because they suddenly believe in them. They know these are not likely to have medical results, but they also know that these are what patients want, and why not give them what they want. Hospitals which are now almost exclusively for profits have MBAs on their staff, and talk of their patients as customers. As customers it is their job to sell them what they want. There are those who feel such hospitals are making doctors no better than witch doctors, there are those who rationalize and say who are we to decide what is helpful. They acknowledge the placebo effect or psychological benefits a patient may receive from one of those unproven therapies.

The line between traditional and alternative medicine has shifted, but like the use of meditation or certain supplements such as zinc or vitamin C, these, as well as others, are included with the back-up of research. The new wave of alternative therapies’ inclusion is different. The motivation does not seem to be the search for other ways, better ways to help patients. Rather the emphasis seems to be on profits, meaning that the blurring of the line between traditional an alternative medicine no longer appears to be for the sake of the patients, but for that of the hospital’s bottom line. It’s therefore up to us to decide how we participate in this and to what extent we want to validate or endorse this new practice.

The Structurally Unemployed

 There are 20 million people in the United States who would like a job and don’t have one or else have a part time job and would like or need more hours. These are those who are persistently without a job and are called the structurally unemployed. Their numbers has grown over the last few years. They are people who are unemployed because they have a criminal record, because they lack the skills or do not have the required education, because of where they live, in rural areas where jobs can be scarcer, because they are disabled, have a history of mental illness, or drugs. In more cases than are acknowledged, age is a factor too.  And for each unemployed person, there is a story of why, a moving human story. There’s Tyler Moore, 23, in West Virginia, a  coal miner, trying to get a job somewhere else since the coal industry is down, but he has an arrest record due to drugs, and can’t get hired although he finished rehab. There’s David Wolf in Florida, he’s 40 and a former Marine with 2 kids, but was once convicted of faking a social security number while on drugs. He gets many offers, and once his past comes to light the offers get rescinded. Then there are people like Leroy Moore, 48 in Berkeley. He’s on disability and half his check goes for rent. There are many jobs he could qualify for but he doesn’t get hired, jobs like working with disabled youth.

Since 2010 15.8 million jobs have been added to the economy, but still not enough to reach those who are part of these 20 million. These men and women are usually forgotten by unemployment statistics, just as they are forgotten by the employment system and by the society. Employers either won’t or can’t employ them.  Current decision makers speak of creating jobs and of getting people jobs, but do not address the issues that will provide jobs for the structurally unemployed. As a society we speak of reducing inequality, yet there has been no mention of any policy, program or initiative to tackle the problems faced by these people.  Given their number, it’s doubtful the structurally unemployed will be included in the job market unless we confront the very problems which make them unemployed, the structure of the society that excludes them. Politically they may not be a priority yet from a human point of view they ought to be.

 To Ponder On

“The only way out is through.”

    Robert Frost






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