Who Are the Abolitionists of Our Times?

What peculiar institutions do we embrace today that modern abolitionists see as evil?

Humans are an evolving social species and in every era some people see further than others.  They understand that common assumptions are wrong.  19th century abolitionists could see that slavery was a vile institution where most were blind to its cruelty.  They wanted to abolish a long held practice that other people embraced dearly.  This brought about the war of America against itself that was so violent that no other enemy has ever come close to hurting us so much.  And even though the war came to an end in 1865 some people are still fighting it today.  It’s very hard for people to change.

What I ask:  What evil do we embrace that is invisible to the society at large that a few people rightly want to abolish today?

The list could be quite long and it might take a century or two before the issues become obvious to everyone.  Evil is not invisible.  Evil doesn’t take a century of social evolution to see.  Evil is ignored.  Everyone in the 19th century should have seen that slavery was evil.  Southern states embraced slavery because it benefitted them economically.  They had to rationalize the practice.  The framers of the Constitution had to carefully dance around the issue in words.  Our forefathers accepted a level of cruelty in life that we can’t rationalize, but instead of feeling enlighten, we have to ask:  What cruelty do we rationalize so easily?  What vile practices do we embrace because we don’t want to see its evil because it profits us?

The first thing that comes to mind are animals.  Factory farms are nightmares of animal cruelty that slaughter billions of beings each year.  We’re also destroying animal habitats worldwide and causing extinctions only slightly slower than mass extinction events.  Given our trends, we’ll start surpassing some of those events soon.

The second thing that comes to mind is how we’re destroying the environment for future generations.  A century from now the the people of the world will hate us far worse than we ever hated slavers, colonialists, Nazis, Communists, terrorists, serial killers or child molesters.  Our excesses will make us the worst of the worst.

Most people today if confronted will go, “Huh, not me, I’m not doing anything wrong.”

And you can’t claim ignorance because we do have our own abolitionists.  They are out there.  They are telling us what’s wrong.  We’re just not listening.

JWH – 2/5/12

9 thoughts on “Who Are the Abolitionists of Our Times?”

  1. I often think about it.
    We have (as a culture) forgotten about animals. When we eat them, when we ‘wear’ them, and when we test them in our laboratories – we are ingoring most obvious part of it – they are suffering, even if we acknowledge the pain – we are disregarding it.
    I can’t find excuse for that.

    But on the other side, when you look on society, you can see that something is changeing. More, and more people are becoming vegetarians/vegans. More people (I think this is even more important) is taking a part in proanimalist movement actions – even in Poland in last few years, we were having many anti-circus action, anti-vivisection etc. So maybe it isn’t so bad or it’s bad but going to be better.

    To prove it – http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=9yDfVP1wG68 – a video of silver fox that was saved few months ago from fur farm. He’s name is Keitan 🙂

  2. Yes, animals are enslaved and we should think about that — but first, there are literally millions of unseen slaves in the world. There are people whose family is owned by someone just as in American once. And there are young women – truly millioins – who are own as sex slaves in many, many countries around the world. These are invisible slaves but they ARE slaves — read Nicholas Kristoff’s columns in the NYTimes. Before we are terribly proud of what happened in America 160 years ago, let us remember that humanity is humanity wherever in the world. Let’s stop this American chauvinistic p provincialism and realize we are citizens of the globe.

    1. Yes, slavery still exists, even though most people find it hard to believe. This list of conditions we accept but should be abolished is long. We all ignore cruelty. You’d think in this day and age of global news reporting that everyone common person would know when a sparrow falls from a tree, but we don’t.

  3. Just to noticed it. I’m fully aware of human slavery. In fact we computer/internet geeks, are having our part in it. As an example – workers in Apple manufactures in China, often commit sucide becouse of terrifying working conditions in the factories – in past year I had read an article about one of factories where they had to sign a pledge, that they wont commit sucide.

    And again sorry for my english 🙂

    1. Your English is fine. The tech workers in China is a very complicated issue. Their working conditions are like workers in the 19th century U.S. and the Chinese have to endure hours and conditions we’ve since outlawed. However, those jobs have pulled the Chinese out of poverty and introduced them to a new standard of living. Foxconn has thousands of people waiting at their gates wanting jobs. We benefit from the inequity of labor laws around the world. But I think that will change. And what happens if the laws change and the jobs disappear? After the civil war African Americans had a terrible time getting jobs. There are no simple solutions.

      1. Jim, do not become an aplologist for Western appetites and the exploitation of workers in a “backward” society (your analogy to 19th century U.S. working conditions). Those jobs have not, for the most part, “pulled the Chinese out of poverty” and even if that were even partially true, using what amounts to slave labor to satisfy American hunger for ever-cheaper technology is obscene to its core. More:

        1. Lee, what do you think we should do then? Stop buying from China? Stop buying from Apple? What happens to all those people over there? Can we coerce China to enforce 8 hour work days? I have no idea how to solve the problem. I don’t mean to defend Chinese labor practices, but I do think the issue is more complex than boycotting Apple or other companies that buy from Chinese tech companies.

  4. Jim, it would have to be a global effort, and Americans are not known for their willingness to make loud statements with their money (except on Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the entire Xmas spending spree). I saw this morning in the NY Times that Apple has hired an “outside” agency, the Fair Labor Association, to report on conditions in their Chinese plants, but others are questioning this agency’s selection. ( http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/13/apple-announces-independent-factory-inspections/?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha2
    I believe that the only wayto get things to change is to stop buying any new products from the companies known to use the Foxxcon and similar factories in China and elsewhere – that includes most of the heavy hitters like Apple, Dell, Toshiba, Sony, HP, Samsung, etc. The effect would not be felt immediately, but if prolonged, I think the message would be received – if not by the Chinese, at least by the Western corporate masters and stockholders. What this entails seems unimaginable, though – asking consumers in an utterly consuming-absorbed society to cut back – to largely ignore the latest Apple iPhone or iPad upgrade, or Android phone/device. After all, if we have an iPhone or iPad already, do we ACTUALLY “need” a newer version in 6-12 mos. if the device works just fine? We have become accustomed (I would argue that “trained” may be the true opreative word, as in the Pavlovian sense) to queue for whatever hits the stores because… well, yeah, because – WHY?

    1. A worldwide boycott would be what it would take to get China to change, but can we get a worldwide boycott going? I just finished reading Miding Rising by Tony Horowitz, about John Brown the 19th century abolitionist. One reason why the South clung to slavery was it financially benefitted them. The reason why so many people refuse to accept global warming is they feel it’s a financial threat. If the Chinese felt their economy was under a threat they might change, but the trouble is users of Foxconn products would consider giving them up as a threat to their way of life. And there’s probably not an electronic device that doesn’t have a Foxconn part in it.

      Most of the stuff we used in America was made in China, or parts of it was made in China. We’re all supporting China’s cruel labor practices. But will knowledge of that get us to change?

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