The Bounds of Reason and Humanity

What is the value of a human life? Is it priceless or can personhood be quantified in mere dollars and cents? According to the International Labor Organization, the current market price for a human hovers around ninety U.S. dollars. What is the value of human dignity then? Does dignity have worth beyond measure or is there a sliding scale based on geography?

As far as I have been able to ascertain, there is no estimated market value for a person’s dignity. I wonder why that is when there are advocates doing battle on all fronts in the name of the right to life. If all lives matter, surely lives deprived of dignity merit some rallying cry, some social media campaign, some public demand for action, or at the very least, a ribbon.

In my search for some reason as to why there seems to be no value ascribed to human dignity, I made a disturbing discovery. It turns out that slaves are in high demand, and it’s a buyer’s market. That’s right, the buying and selling of humans globally generates billions of dollars annually. What makes this business so lucrative? The answer is not complex. Ready? Buyers for the large inventory of disposable people drive more than one segment of our global economy. To be certain, slavery is in the supply chain of many goods traded legally around the world. Cocoa, harvested by children on Africa’s Ivory Coast, for instance, fills the shelves of our supermarkets. This documentary tells the story.

In addition, sexual exploitation accounts for more than half of the humans being bought and sold worldwide. People who buy children for sex, referred to innocuously as Johns, strip the human dignity from their victims and cast it aside as if it were trash, without threat of prosecution. This documentary tells that story.

Reason tells us we should be collectively outraged by the knowledge that in 2016 people are being sold into slavery. Reason tells us that there are no innocent bystanders, because we cannot unknow the truth of vulnerable populations living in every state, every country, every place there is poverty and corruption. Survivors’ stories should compel us to rise up against this assault on human dignity. Unless, of course, we do not value human dignity.

We do, don’t we?

If you believe there is value in human dignity, show someone that their life matters. Volunteer, talk to your neighbors, vote, help someone learn to read and write, get involved in your community, contact your local, state, or federal representatives, listen to someone who needs compassion. Check out these sites to find out how you can prevent human trafficking.

The study abroad experience gave us an opportunity to learn about Eastern Europe’s response to human trafficking. What we do with that knowledge now is in our hands.

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Reposted from DFST Study Abroad 2016 – Romania Blog by Stephanie Briggs.

13 thoughts on “The Bounds of Reason and Humanity

    1. You might be surprised to learn that it is you, S.W., who is making a difference. Reducing the vulnerability includes engaging children at risk for being trafficked through books and helping them discover their own potential. You do that through your work. I met a woman in Romania who has authored two books. One of them won international acclaim. The sale of these books helps to fund a community outreach program in one of the most dangerous areas of Bucharest. Never underestimate your talent and how it can change lives.

  1. Until a few years ago, I honestly believed that human trafficking was just something fiction writers users to create horror in their plots. Worse, I thought it was a rather pathetic plot device. Who would believe such a thing? Now I know it’s true and I still can’t believe the level of depravity needed to do this…for money. 😦

    1. It becomes even more unbelievable when it turns out that family members and friends do a great deal of the recruiting. The common scenario is not some stranger lurking in a park, but instead a person who is trusted by the victims.

  2. Thanks for writing this post, Honie. There’s too much suffering in this world, but you remind us that even small efforts can make a huge difference in someone’s life.

    1. It’s easy to become discouraged when the everyday news of violence is overwhelming. The vitriol on social media, too, prevents us from having meaningful discussions. But we do what we can, and no effort is too small. Your comments are always appreciated, Amy.

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