I was moved and provoked by this article by Max Fisher that includes a map of global slavery. According to the graphic, there are 30 million slaves, 60,000 of them in the United States. The article makes clear that this is not a “softened” definiton of slavery. From the piece:
These 30 million people are living as forced laborers, forced prostitutes, child soldiers, child brides in forced marriages and, in all ways that matter, as pieces of property, chattel in the servitude of absolute ownership.
I was immediately reminded of George Orwell’s assessment of the underclasses in his book Down and Out in Paris and London (which I teach in a remedial English class here at the college). The reason this form of blatant, forced labor and horrifying child sex and war slavery exists is because of a larger point of view that enslaves us all in the “softened” way Max Fisher is worried about. Here’s Orwell, writing in 1933:
I think one should start by saying that a plongeur is one of the slaves of the modern world. Not that there is any need to whine over him, for he is better off than many manual workers, but still, he is no freer than if he were bought and sold. His work is servile and without art; he is paid just enough to keep him alive; his only holiday is the sack. He is cut off from marriage, or, if he marries, his wife must work too. Except by a lucky chance, he has no escape from this life, save into prison. At this moment there are men with university degrees scrubbing dishes in Paris for ten for fifteen hours a day. One cannot say it is mere idleness on their part, for an idle man cannot be a plongeur; they have simply been trapped by a routine which makes thought impossible.
A routine that makes thought impossible. Or a routine that makes thought less desirable than the alternative, which is to tune out and believe that slavery is a thing of the past. The individual has choice and determines his own fate.