I understand you might have errands to run today so if you want to catch the key part of this almost two-hour Senate hearing, Ashton Kutcher’s opening remarks begin around the 27 minute mark and last for just over 15 minutes. It’s unpleasant to think about but 24 million people are trapped in the sex trade against their will and forced into slavery, and 27 million people are enslaved overall worldwide. That, to me, is unacceptable.
Kutcher’s THORN foundation has developed a technology called Spotlight that has already tracked down thousands of victims in the last few months. He’s only got 25% of the data in thus far so it stands to reason those numbers might be quite a bit higher. I watched this at 5am this morning and it really hit a nerve. I’ve been doing too much research into the depravity of humankind lately, but I’ve gotta say, abducting people and molesting them has got to be the lowest expression of the evil we can get up to.
I got to thinking about the Podesta emails, which I had downloaded from WikiLeaks and read just for kicks last month. I went so far down that rabbit hole I came back up and said, no way…this can’t be true. It’s utterly ridiculous. But then again, with the arrest of former Speaker of the House and friend-to-Podesta, the Dennis Hastert case serves as a reminder that there are dots to connect here. And the recent LA Child Trafficking sting in which 474 people were arrested basically screamed “this is not a fringe issue!!” into my heart, though mainstream cable media will not cover it.
Then I remembered when I used to do illegal things I had a motto: Hide In Plain Sight. Yup! Seriously, the next time you’re in Ibiza trying to pass your friend a pill or have an adult refreshment, don’t try to be sneaky about it. Just do your business and get on with your evening, OK? Acting all furtive and paranoid only calls the wrong kind of attention to you, and nobody wants to get pulled into a back room by security goons or a police officer. Just be cool. Nothing to see here.
And that’s how Americans are able to brush off a lot of intense news, because it gets reported so casually that even the people involved don’t lose their cool. With some of the more technically intense stories, like the logistics behind 9/11 for example – it is probably way beyond the scope of most American’s understanding of how structurally things work in our government, or to know chain-of-command and procedural protocols should we be under threat. Also, the U.S. being way behind other countries when it comes to science education crippled our ability to even know what questions to ask. Generally speaking, people accepted whatever story the press laid out, and if certain details didn’t get discussed we certainly didn’t miss them. Like the fact that three buildings collapsed, not two. I’m guilty – I didn’t even remember WTC building 7 until I dug into the story again 15 years later.
So you see, that “nothing to see here” approach works quite well in our churn and burn news cycle. But the reporting on the tragedy that occurred on 9/11 was probably the worst journalism ever…with a close second being the 2008 financial crisis that absolutely nobody saw coming. Aye. Well, I want to talk PizzaGate all day long until I figure out that there is either something to it or there isn’t. But I’m like a dog with a chewy toy: I’m not letting go.
Maybe writing this and talking about things without censorship is my way of calling out to the collective for a level-headed approach to emerge. Can we give life in the news to so-called conspiracies like PizzaGate in a way that doesn’t feel bombastic or hyperbolic? A single reporter – Ben Swann – discussed the landscape of the evidence available on a local affiliate news station in Atlanta and was immediately ridiculed and threatened. He’s actually missing now, and all his social media has gone dark. Scary!
I spent a long LONG time researching 9/11 and I will say this: getting data dumps of declassified documents and learning physics only to get a collective eye roll from the people around me as though I’m out of my mind – it does sting a little. But evidence is compelling nonetheless. So if I look a little silly to you, that’s OK with me. I’m going to ignore your look of condescension because I’m not crazy.
Back to the video. Kutcher’s passion really shines and he’s very educated on this topic, especially in drawing a direct line from foster care to sex crimes and trafficking. He rightly points out that our current corporate culture of manufacturing abroad in poor conditions is contributing, which I thought was a really smart connection to make.
Years ago I used to think by not shopping at Walmart I was making a political statement. My daughter went in Walmart for the first time when she was 10, only because I was desperate for a router. I realize my well-meaning protest is just a small whisper into the gaping abyss of human suffering that is inherent in EVERY thing we buy. I can not absolve myself; I am absolutely contributing to slavery no matter where I shop.
I think by holding America’s largest corporation’s feet to the fire, we could get the Walmarts and Apples of the world to lead the way for the rest. For American companies and American citizens to condone working conditions that are anything less than the conditions we demanded for ourselves at the turn of the 19th century is uncivilized. Why would we want to buy goods from manufacturers that are not following good business practices worldwide?
Maybe you’re the type of person who thinks that people in other countries should be treated and paid an inferior wage, because they had nothing before and so now at least they have jobs. If you are this type of person, contact me for a hug, seriously. By pressing for ethical business practices we not only show our humanity, but we might just get some of those jobs back here in the states and get those corporations to pay their taxes.
Leveraging poor people for profit and acting like it’s a favor is a ridiculous notion that feeds into American exceptionalism, a description I loathe because it sounds so self-indulgent. We can have patriotic pride without making the leap to exceptionalism that basically says to the world “it’s all about me.”
People are jumping out of the windows to commit suicide and getting burned alive in fires so they can make less than a living wage simply because that is better than nothing. It’s standard operating procedure for a parent company to contract a third party vendor with little to zero oversight, absolving themselves of responsibility for the conditions in factories and ultimately, these people’s deaths. And for half their pay, employees get to live in these shitholes, dormitory-style. Sometimes they don’t get paid at all. Migrant workers will often leave one country to go to a neighboring country to work and get totally used. President Trump’s Dubai project is a nightmare, for example. Workers on that project can’t even get their passports back to go home because they’re being held from them by their employer.
These are the conditions that both women and men find themselves in across the planet and American “fast fashion” is a big part of this equation. It’s easy to kidnap young boys and girls working in these environments. Just like it’s easy to leverage foster kids in the system here in the states for unsavory ends, or look at the Catholic church’s record of abusing lots of troubled kids over their years.
Censoring these stories or not covering them because of political or corporate pressure is a failure to protect these lives and their inherent freedom to self-determine. The Podesta emails are pretty odd, and it could be a coincidence in some cases. But there was a few emails that appeared to be discussing something in code. The infamous Comet Ping Pong Pizza has a strange website and a sister store two doors down – also selling pizza, by the way – called Buck’s Camping and Fishing. They’ve scrubbed their website since a crazed lunatic (or Podesta political plant, haha) ran into the place with a gun one afternoon last month. I found an archived version of the old Comet Pizza website and their “Friends” section was still intact somewhat – check it out, it’s weird. I don’t get why any of those links are affiliated with a pizza place, but it’s possible I’m not hip enough.
I’m not saying there’s a Hillary Clinton photo in a compromising position: I AM saying there is something fishy here. It’s global. And Podesta’s associate has already been implicated. I’m not a fan of jumping to conclusions and I will ALWAYS question a received reality. There is so much more beneath the glib surface.
How can we do better? Stop buying so much crap at Walmart and use the money you save to travel. One thing I’ve learned working for low pay at a nonprofit these last 6 years was how to live on less. I mean, roughly $30,000 less than I made when I was 25 years old. I really wanted to change my career and nothing I did before lent itself to what I did at my last job so I chose to start over rather than do something I didn’t want to do. That’s a First-World problem for ya. It’s nice to have choices, but it’s also a burden to have so much abundance. Our task is to be responsible with that abundance.
Here are some ways I humbled myself to my new pay grade: I drove an embarrassingly shitty car for a few years while I saved money to buy my sassy, gently-used Acura last year. I didn’t lease, I bought it outright. I don’t have cable. I buy new clothes seasonally, not weekly. If there’s an event or a festival I want to go to I apply to volunteer so I can donate some time and grab a free pass. Readers who know me will note that do enjoy travel a lot. But in my 4th decade I learned how to love the adventure of meeting new people in youth hostels or I will sleep on a friend’s floor or couch. Five-star hotels are for pussies, and you know what happens to those under the current administration.
Below is a link about an initiative working it’s way through appropriations in Congress right now. If I can find some grassroots corporate activism happening “out there” I will add them later. To create new business practices will require some serious organization. We can’t just slap on our collective pussy hats and march, though that often helps too. In conjunction with demonstrations, I predict activists have got to take a page from the Koch Brother’s manual to be effective. Well, minus the short-sightedness. And the dishonesty. And pretty much everything they stand for. OK then… Stay tuned for updates on this topic.
Fight Slavery Now! website with information about the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.