I’ve spent part of today yesterday reading about the various levels of injustice occurring around the world, with many documented cases happening within the United States. Most of these stories gain little real readership and even lower levels of action from officials. One of the things I noticed was the unwritten part of every story – how we are all contributors to these problem of injustice.
The above story reveals the practice of slave labor on the high seas. It’s a high level article with not a lot of detail, but if you follow the related links, they reveals the working conditions of the seafood industry for thousands of sea faring slaves. Most people don’t know how many human slaves there are now in the world, but it’s nearly 30 million now. It’s worse now then at any other time in human history. There is a huge global black-market of labor and goods which funnels production (and labor) to countries like the United States and throughout the world.
But few people really seem to care. The COVID pandemic within the U.S. revealed the staggering levels of indifference held by hundreds of millions of Americans who can’t be bothered to even wear a mask, let alone give a damn about some poor soul with the wrong skin color being exploited as a slave on a fishing boat. But this apathy is just a extension of what has always existed.
We never really want to talk about our apathy or how the practice of apathy contributes to global injustice. Or how our notions of justice is actually warped and very selfish, preserving the status-quo of global injustice, keeping us perched on the heap of humanity slavishly laboring away worldwide on our behalf, providing all of our essential and luxury goods. Who cares about a wearing a mask when you already have everything you can possibly need? Your future is already ‘secure’ or so you think.
Our success as a nation and our personal wealth as individuals, and all of the “stuff” that we own – how did it all come to be in existence? How did we come to actually own it? Nobody really wants to think about this. The similarities in injustice, from seafood slavery to global resource exploitation are identical in nature. The combination of cheap raw materials, cheap labor forces and global exports only barely conceals the stories of cruelty, human exploitation, resource destruction and global pollution. The beneficiaries of this abusive arrangement tend to look away, willingly unknowing, and most of the time, also uncaring. We dare not shine the light to reveal the crime, or the culpability.
Instead, we devised defensive mechanisms to assuage our collective guilt, using religion, philosophy and ‘reason’, couched in terms of comfort, solace and promise. Capitalism seeks to justify, while religion seeks to apologize. We refuse to acknowledge that even the paths to enlightenment we’ve devised are inherently selfish and cruel, or that we’ve deliberately devised a society that exist for the sole purpose of exploiting everything from everyone and everything, and the cascading harm caused. And finally, we perpetuate this gigantic fraud, all the days of lives, apparently completely helpless to find any other way.
We’re all in a prison, some prisons are just bigger then others. Many prisons are very small and excruciating hell-holes, full of suffering and pain. Others prisons have bars that are all but invisible, but still, no one escapes.
Our existence is not ‘just’. The social constructs we’ve created for society are appeasement strategies to assuage guilt and hide crimes. We’re all guilty of picking and choosing who will live and what kind of life they may have when it has always been within our power to change this arrangement. We decide who will suffer and who will not, who will have a “fair” life and who won’t, cauterizing our conscience to filter out what we cannot emotionally endure.
Humans are particularly good at self-deception. We think ‘we’ matter because it is unthinkable to comprehend that we really don’t. The fallacy of this claim is apparent when we find ourselves constantly drawing boxes around ‘others’ and whether or not ‘they’ matter. None of us really matter to anyone else, certainly not for very long. What do we know of the billions of lives that have gone on before us, living their hellish existence, eking out their substance, only to then disappear into the forgotten? The same will happen to us and in a very short time, nobody will remember what we are, who we were or what we did with few exceptions.
Is the path to enlightenment even just? Isn’t this a selfish act for empty claims of redemption? Salvation to ‘save’ oneself from what, to what, exactly? God certainly doesn’t care and never has. The endless suffering and oppression of the entire biosphere at the hands of humans is the shared guilt of all. We commit these crimes hourly and think nothing of it as we chase after the emptiness of ‘meaning’. There is no meaning but that which we create for ourselves, which itself is temporary and transient, deceptive. Humans are not the center of the Universe. Our lives are not important because we do believe other lives are either. If their lives do not matter, then how can ours?
How do we save ourselves from this terrible self-deception that leads us so far astray? We can’t. Everything that says we can is delusion. The suffering goes on, as always.
Why are you here? The answer is painfully simple: Because your mother and father had sex. That’s it. There was no plan, no conspiracy, no purpose, no other reason then the simple act of two humans of different genders having had sex. The divine decree doesn’t exist. There is no evidence at all that there is either purpose or meaning or a plan for anyone. When you get here, you have to fight like hell to stay alive for as long as you can, which for some, is incredibly hard to do. For others, it’s easier purely because of chance. Being born into a First World country, or a family with minor or modest means puts you at the head of the line for survival. For others, they barely make it to their six month birthday or even less.
The fallacy is how we wrongly think that any of this has ‘meaning’, especially for those of us who have survived into adulthood. It doesn’t, unless the meaning is an indictment of our indifference. There is no exterior ‘plan’ that governs the fate of billions of lives, anymore then there is a plan for the survival of a given species in the world’s oceans. Everything devours something else, while you and I devour everything else. We’re all a part of the intricate web of life that plays a huge role in the not-so-well-being of all the other lifeforms on the planet. We all share in the collective guilt of being the uncaring oppressors and destroyers of the world.
To assuage the guilt, we fabricate stories about existence and how we should improve ourselves ‘spiritually’ with a reward for our supposed ‘good deeds’ at the end. It’s all utter crap and self-delusion. We go on, as we must, closing our eyes to what we really and truly are. Predators. It’s all just too painful to really think about most of the time.
I came out of the church world, which revealed both rampant hypocrisy and deception, but religion isn’t the only place to find these delusions. Since then I’ve seen it everywhere else and I’m just as inflicted as anyone. I now know that this is human nature, encoded within our DNA. We are seriously flawed creatures. We are what we are, and we do what we must, while the other half of our brains points out the conflicts which we can’t solve. Injustice will always be here and so will predatory humans practicing injustice until we are finally gone from this existence. We pillage, rape, plunder and exploit everywhere and everything we possibly can. Most of us hire this all out so that we can’t see the suffering being inflicted (that’s why you “work”), and how the lives we demand are creating the hell others must endure.
Nobody seems to be aware of all that wealth that we’ve each accumulated exists because others paid an enormous price in order for you to have it, often with their very lives. We simply don’t care. Survival of the fittest and all of that. Evolution did not equip us to be the caretakers of the Universe, and after 200,000 years of human history, this is now pretty obvious that caretakers of just the Earth is proving to be nearly impossible.
An American adult consumes 70 times more then a like-aged Bangladeshi who may not even get the chance to grow up. The American isn’t concerned about where his next meal will come from, his or hers future is pretty much guaranteed with only a modest amount of effort. That does not make you ‘special’, if anything, it only proves your greed.
The entire apparatus of civilization is designed to exploit all those and that which it possibly can, and transport it to those that have hired it out. These are the slave-traders in the modern age. In exchange for this ‘privilege’, we bond-slave our own selves to cubicles and cubbyholes, towers and ditches, buildings and assembly lines, mortgages and rents, bemoaning our first-world problems and whining about our ‘poverty’. We think this is a fair exchange, knowing we’re almost guaranteed to eventually get what we want, still oblivious to the destruction we’re still causing.
Our existence has always come at the price of other life and the suffering of others. That’s just the way it is. But we’ve refined this depredation enormously. First-worlder’s take whatever they want, whenever they want by simply demanding it. There is always a pathway for this to happen, always a resource that can be exploited, always a population that can be leveraged and forced to do the bidding, expending their lives in our service. The slave-traders are organized now into gigantic global corporations. We’ve learned to close our eyes to the practice, leading selfish lives and a even shallower existence. It’s always been this way as far as I can tell.
We’re no better then our ancestors and the brutality inflicted upon the conquered and enslaved tribes and regions. Our ‘progress’ since then has been to perpetuate the savagery on a global industrial scale, arrogantly wiping out parts of the biosphere faster and faster, inflicting endless suffering and death on trillions of lives. We’ve globalized cruelty and mechanized selfishness with factory precision.
I have looked for decades to find answers to the terrifying dilemma of a planet imperiled by indifferent and careless humans. We seem to be incapable of doing anything else except offer pathetic excuses. We still haven’t learned to treat all others with the respect, decency, support and right-to-life that should be inherent and obvious, even for our own survival. Our flaw is how we consistently fail to accurately understand ‘our place’ in the Universe and in particular, upon this planet. This has never been just about ‘us’, or the privileged few, but it’s about everything, and the fundamental web of life that connects us all. The life that we’ve demonstratively proven we care little about.
Civilization was developed to produce an abundance and stable food supply. When we ‘see food’ what we really see is civilization, the comfort, stability, luxury and wealth that sustains us all. But to truly see food as the title suggests is to see slavery and slave-traders and exploitation of human capital, and the extinguished lives marketed worldwide with bar codes and stickers. We may not truly matter, but your choices definitely matter because it is your power to make a difference.
We’ve always had the choice to do things differently and end the abusive relationship we have with everything and everyone else. I still wonder if and when we finally find the courage to do so.