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What's your slavery footprint?

Thu, 07/02/2013

Today I took an online test. The Slavery Footprint website claims to calculate the number of slaves working for you, based on basic information about where you live and what you own. The results are pretty confronting. Apparently my family rely on at least 72 slaves. The information you provide is fairly general, but the message is starkly clear. As a person with children, living in a wealthy western country, my lifestyle relies on people who are enslaved in distant poor parts of the world. Its all rather remote. I am not in a position to treat them well or badly. But perhaps through my choices, through my wealth and freedom, I have the power to free them. What I like about this website is that it puts our global economy into perspective. It asks us to think about how our lifestyle impacts on other lives. Actually I think I got off lightly. If the website were to include all those workers living below the poverty line, those with poor standards of living and short life expectancy, who contribute to the wealthy world I inhabit, the figure would be substantially more than 72, it would stretch into the hundreds. And relatively speaking mine is not a wealthy family. We are middle class, living in a small town outside London. We don't have the latest gadgets and gizmos, we restrict what we purchase and try to be modest. But England is rich. My personal wealth is only a small part of the equation. Everything is relative. I am shocked and shamed by this test. It fills me with guilt. That's a smokescreen and not particularly useful unless it leads to action and change. I could do with less. I could. I don't need to grow wealth. I am actively opposed to the greed that drives my culture. Greed has become an acceptable attribute and a ferocious cultural force. For many the arts are trappings of this wealth, fed by our insatiable greed. Creativity is richer and kinder and more interesting. BiDiNG TiME is an attempt to share and be generous, to ask difficult questions through a creative process. How can we rethink these global systems that rely on slavery? What is needed to free impoverished people, to enable them enough food and water, to inspire them with stories and song, not infect them with the greed of rich countries, to consume and waste in such epic proportions? We don't know the answers yet but ask and we must keep asking. And in the meantime... Take the test.