Saturday, 3 March 2012

the Oldest Profession - redux

Everyone knows that one of the big factors that drove the Internet's exponential explosion over the past 15 years was its less wholesome side. Those who cruise the Web's seedier alleys often are watching slaves at work. Unfree people engage in forced labour for the surfer's online pleasures. This is one not-so-secret, hideous fact on which the Web is built: slaves are never further away from us than a couple of mouse clicks. One Google search makes the global virtual world more decadent than ancient Rome. This is another great Millennial disconnect between the hype about our reality - and our actual reality. The Internet is supposedly the high tech bastion of the shiny, seamless, progressive, Singularity-ridden future. Even more ironically, the Web is home to hackers and Cyber freedom fighters who are fixated on the free sharing of information and oppose what they characterize as evil capitalist copyright enforcers.

But down in its basements and not-so-secluded corners, the Internet has been a medium built by the slavery. One glance at today's virtual reality is that not much has changed over 2,500 years: when they defined the oldest profession, the Greeks classed the lowest stratum of slaves as pornai.

Contemporary slavery is now predicted to outstrip illegal drug trafficking. This year, CNN is publishing articles to raise awareness that slavery is not a lost, purely historical phenomenon. In fact, seemingly abolished slavery never disappeared at all. It is integral to global manufacturing, especially performed by children, in the clothing industry, the production of chocolate, and many other foods and household goods, from women's underwear, to rugs, to designer running shoes. In addition, the myth that life was cheap in the past, but now - after decades of politicking and progressive legislation - we are more humane, is not true. When it comes to slavery, human life is cheaper than it was two hundred years ago. A human being can now be bought for under USD $100; in 1809, a slave cost the equivalent of $40,000 in today's US dollars. Life is cheap, and the Internet is free.

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