42 Slaves is 42 Too Many


I’ve been wanting to write this post for a few weeks. But papers, colds, visiting family and just being tired has helped me procrastinate. Where to begin? You might not like me after this post.

A few weeks ago, someone tweeted this link about how many slaves you “employ”. Intrigued, I clicked, did the quiz and pressed “finish”. My heart sank when I saw the results.

Yowzers. 42?!!?!

First off, a disclaimer. I realize this quiz makes a lot of assumptions and is not completely accurate. Maybe 42 is too many, I mean I don’t shop much and don’t own many diamonds. But am I okay even employing ONE slave?!

I was at my parents house for Columbus Day/Canadian Thanksgiving and went on a rather long rant at dinner about how Columbus is a (fill in the blank) and how we shouldn’t have a holiday commemorating the man. Someone tried to point out that maybe the things he did which to me were so blatantly immoral seemed reasonable in his day. In my arrogance I smirked and said, “That’s no excuse”. And it’s not. Yet how often do I use that same excuse?

“I can’t be responsible for who made what…Fair trade costs too much… Wouldn’t they rather work in a sweat shop than not have a job?…The problem is too big, what difference can I make?” And on and on and on.

Okay, buddies. I know it’s Christmas and you probably just got home from shopping and are about to X out of this window. But wait!!!

Here’s my point. I have no idea what to do or how to move forward. I’m not yelling at you or flaunting my slave-free wardrobe (‘cuz it doesn’t exist).  I’m so sad and so moved by the fact that my decisions and purchasing power have not brought good or blessing but rather troubles and hurt and enslavement.

Varun and I have been talking and praying about this for a few months. How will we respond? At this point, we want to begin to make incremental changes. Step 1? I’ve resolved to try to have a slave-free Christmas. To the best of my knowledge, nothing that I’ve bought has been made by underpaid, underage or un-free people. I’ve attempted to make donations in people’s names to meaningful organizations, buy local or buy from organizations that support rather than exploit others. This post from Kristen is a fabulous gift guide of amazing people and organizations who make gorgeous and unique gifts! Also, her post about chocolate will definitely challenge you. This post blew my mind and broke my heart. It’s written by Heather, a beautiful woman who moved to Haiti with her family.

Varun and I have a long way to go in becoming responsible and caring citizens of the world. This post is just the beginning, the first in a long discussion and life change. If you stuck with me, I’m curious as to your thoughts. How do you respond to global poverty and injustice and your role in it? What changes have you made? What other resources can you suggest?

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14 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Beth
    Dec 08, 2011 @ 09:35:33

    Amels. Man, I like your brain. Thanks for the links – I’ve been thinking about this same issue…unfortunately I’ve already done some of my Christmas shopping and I don’t think it’s all “slave-free.” But I DO want to change where my money is going. Maybe this will be a part of my 2012 resolutions? (or THE resolution I make. I usually don’t do well with multiple resolutions.)

    Reply

  2. Karen
    Dec 08, 2011 @ 09:45:38

    oooh Amelia! our church started this money series in November and our pastor asked us to think about our purchases (cheap shoes made in a sweat shop vs expensive shoes). This was early november. Then I did this quiz Nove 15th..if you want to see how many slaves “work” for me..it’s on my facebook page. This has been heavy on my heart since..we can chat more when I see you :)

    Reply

  3. Karen
    Dec 08, 2011 @ 09:47:37

    oh and then I watched all the videos in this series as it happen to be the crazy pumping week
    Bawled my way through all of them
    http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/slaverya21stcenturyevil/2011/10/201110108583163675.html

    Reply

  4. Lindsay
    Dec 08, 2011 @ 14:16:50

    I try to buy fairtrade or locally made products instead of products from abroad. But sometimes Dollarama is just so cheap and convenient and tempting. :(
    I’ve been switching over to organic and/or local produce, and it has caused me to be more conscious of the amount of food that I buy (not buying too much, so none goes to waste).

    Have you read this article about the slavery situation in Dubai?
    http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/johann-hari/the-dark-side-of-dubai-1664368.html
    It’s heart-breaking, but definitely a must-read. I didn’t realize things could be so bad.

    Reply

    • Amelia
      Dec 10, 2011 @ 17:46:18

      Wow, this article is SO sad. And so true of many, many countries. When my brother was working in Bahrain he found similar things, that’s when he started to want to fight human trafficking. Thanks for sharing that!

      Reply

  5. Lindsay
    Dec 08, 2011 @ 14:29:31

    Just another thought:
    Electronics are a tricky product. I’ve never heard of fair-trade cellphones or MP3 players, have you?
    I know that those items are made in third-world countries. It’s likely that workers are handling metals and other materials that could be toxic to their health, and they are not given anything for protection.

    We can’t quit buying cellphones all together, but we can all be more conscious about our purchases. Like do you really need that new iPhone or Blackberry, when the one you have works perfectly fine?

    Reply

  6. Team Oyeniyi
    Dec 09, 2011 @ 15:33:05

    Great article, Amelia. I hope it gets many, many views.

    I have no suggestions: people power can be powerful, but we need a LOT of people, people with consumer power.

    Reply

    • Amelia
      Dec 10, 2011 @ 17:35:45

      Thanks, Robyn. It’s true, you need a lot of people for change. It can be intimidating, but I have to go with my conscience on this one! :-)

      Reply

  7. Miranda
    Dec 09, 2011 @ 21:42:25

    We’re having a similar experience as you are. I put the bag of non-fair trade shredded coconut back on the shelf at Fortinos. And then I had to do the same thing with the fair trade coconut at 10,000 Villages because it was $6 (SIX DOLLARS!). So, yeah, some of it is making the right buying choice, and some of is it just being willing to not buy.

    This year, I’ve decided to cut myself some slack as a newbie to conscientious consumerism and am aiming for a realistic 50% of all purchases (including food) to being local or fair trade and handmade or upcycled. Next year, maybe we’ll be up to 75%. Some is better than none.

    Reply

    • Amelia
      Dec 10, 2011 @ 17:35:01

      I’d love to hear more of your thoughts! Please feel free to post and suggestions or tips. I agree–it’s not just buying different, sometimes it’s not buying. And small goals are the best way of making any chance. So excited to journey through this together!

      Reply

  8. Sharon
    Dec 13, 2011 @ 12:03:17

    I also saw this floating around facebook a couple of weeks ago. I took the quiz but don’t remember how many slaves I got. Enough that I wanted to change it. (Mind you I think the fact that I own quite a bit of diamond jewelry – all gifts – skewed the results considerably). As someone who (recently) sells handmade products and donates 10% of its sales to the food bank I volunteer with, I’m glad to see that other people are thinking about this though. I definitely know how hard it is to forego buying the cheaper option for the more ethical choice. This Christmas, my family are getting handmade gifts, and on Jon’s side we’re doing a Compassion Christmas.

    Reply

    • Amelia
      Dec 31, 2011 @ 14:55:59

      Awesome Christmas gift ideas! I love the “Compassion Christmas”! Super cool, thanks for sharing. I agree the quiz isn’t fully accurate, it doesn’t take in to account fair trade purchases, gifts, etc. But I think it’s an important beginning to at least get us all thinking!

      Reply

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