Dark – Darker – Darkness

human_evolution_article_big3[1]How far are we humans along the road of evolution? Some will point to our technological advances to suggest we are well north of phenomenal. They will point to developments in science generally and to medicine, travel and communication in particular and pronounce that the world is growing smaller and more beneficial for all.

A minority report may argue vociferously that the world has grown worse. This report would point to trafficking of people, drugs, and weapons, in effect anything illegal that generates cash. Money is the oil which keeps the wheels of the economic system working. This ‘black economy’ is perhaps the real economy.

Power and its offshoots – privilege –prestige – influence (there are more) are the motivators. It’s a truism that money speaks and money buys, whether you are a CEO of a major company or a head-honcho of a major drug cartel. If you are truly ambitious and have enough dosh personally and in support you can become the President of the USA, numero uno of the world’s politicians.thKGW4YVRM

“It is now painfully clear that elections depend substantially on money, and elected officials have to spend too much time raising money and respond disproportionately to the preferences of donors.” US Supreme Court cited Reuters 2015/01/19

www.blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/2015/01/19/

In my previous post: Morality: Did it Ever Exist I mentioned that slavery is now more prevalent than ever and sad to say but the same is true of child abuse. The statistics are a tale of human depravity.

Figures such as, forty million kids below the age of 15 are subjected to abuse, WHO 2001. Most suffer from physical abuse. Emotional abuse can devastate for a lifetime. thBHNITY72Sexual abuse is estimated to affect 36% of girls and 29% of boys. In 2005 UNICEF suggested that an astonishing 100 – 140 million girls are subjected to genital mutilation. The ILO (2006) say that around 250 million kids between the ages of five (5) and fourteen (14) are used as forced labour. Also that one million kids have been trafficked for the sex trade.

Check the dates, they are from years ago but nothing has improved. Up to date statistics can be found at:

My attention was redrawn to this heinous crime by the events in Kasur Pakistan. Here child abuse was run like a family business.

Around 270 kids from the age of 12 were forced into sexual acts which were videoed. The child and family would then be blackmailed or the video sold. The depravity has been going on for years. We may never know the true number of kids abused in this way. Telegraph 2015/08/10 + uk.reuters.com

Another attention grabber was in Bedford England where a man was jailed for 16 months for having 20,000 images of child abuse on his computer. Some 3,300 were Category A – the most obscene. Personally, I would lock the cell door and toss the key! www.bedfordtoday.co.uk

The picture in the UK generally is not good, the NSPCC report that 62,000 children phoned Childline in 2014 of these over 18,000 referred to sexual abuse. Of 23,000 sexual offences against kids some 5,500 were under the age of eleven (11). The number of cases continues to rise.

Meanwhile across Europe 250,000 kids go missing. Almost half are runaways – from what? Of the rest; will we ever know? There is a European hotline 116000 but the funds to operate it run out at the end of the year. Do many know of its existence?          Euronews.

I was bemused to read that in western countries preventing abuse was “a high priority”, among politicians.  Read the coverage at this site.      www.en.m.wikipedia.org/childabuse

The situation in America is dire. The website childhelp.org suggests that 3 million child abuse cases are reported annually which is categorized as the worse of the industrial nations. In addition five (5) kids a day die from abuse and neglect.

Furthermore, compassion.com suggests that 20% of women and between 5 -10% of men say they were sexually abused as kids. That worldwide nearly two (2) million children are exploited in the commercial sex trade and, that sexual abuse is the second largest criminal industry and growing.

There is a slither of good news Google (developer) Facebook and Twitter are to block “hash lists” of child abuse. This is good news indeed by these companies but hiding it will not prevent it. Our politicians must do more.

What of the “high priority” pledge by politicians. Is it a pretence that something is happening when in fact it is not. We should demand a ten or twenty point plan with a timeline agreed to at a G20 summit.

At the 2014 UN General Assembly meeting – the 69th session –  seven (7) summits were organised for the week: indigenous people, climate change, counter-terrorism, Ebola, education and a Global compact – businessmen meeting. www.ipnews.net

Have you noticed any significant change in these areas? Ebola, but that in reality was a marketing exercise by the West. (Call me cynical) It was an easy fix in global terms. More people die in Africa from poor water supply and malaria. Let’s eradicate them!!

Another UN meeting in August 2015 the Sustainable Development Agenda was accepted with the aim to end poverty by 2030. The cost will be in the region of $3 – 5 trillion per year. Can you see it happening? Cynical!! One interesting point came from the discussions:

“Women and girls everywhere have much to gain from the SDGs. But to make it a reality we have to keep pressure on governments to follow through in their commitments”. Shannon Kowalski

Note the ‘But’! That’s a big ‘if’ factor as success depends on national politicians. Note also that everything is geared to sustained business development as the only hope of achieving the goals. However, centuries of capitalism has not ameliorated poverty, slavery or child abuse.

Capitalism is not the best-fit option for humanity. It stimulates our base instincts like greed and pride. When stress enters our lives some go dark, the greater the stress the darker they go. In times of great upheaval we enter the darkness, ethnic cleansing etc.

The world cannot grow until men learn how to!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Child Labour: A True Horror.

 

cotton mills

I wish we could escape

From 1833 to the modern day children are forced to work!

The worst offenders in the tragedy that is child labour

child lathe worker

I must do!

are found in the Asia and Pacific region, where 122.3 million kids aged 5-14 years old are employed.

  • 49.3m in sub-Sahara Africa
  • 5.7m in Latin America  (These figures are too precise- see later)
  • 13.4m in other regions   (ILO)

South Asia which includes India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh have the heinous exploitive method of child labour called, ‘bonded labour’ which is just another word for slavery. (See India: An Indictment). We cannot put an accurate number on the scale of children affected by this foul work.

What happens to all those children caught in the horror of child labour is not dealt with adequately either, but what we can be sure about is that the use of kids in such circumstances is inhumane! A study by Tulane University (2011, USA) is cited by a number of organisations. The study found that 1.8m children work in the cocoa industry in Ghana and the Ivory Coast. That 40% of these kids are not enrolled in any education programme whilst only 5% are paid for their labour. Slavery, alive and well in Africa! (Huffington Post) (stopchildlabour.org)v

child grinder

What if I was your kid?

Of course it’s not just cocoa that these kids are forced to work in. An estimated 1m work in mines, others are forced to become domestic servants and are under the constant threat of physical and sexual abuse. The majority are found in agriculture, usually associated with subsistence farming.  Many industries make use of the cheap and easily silenced workforce: sand mines, silk, glass factories, carpet factories, the brick industry, the making of matches and fireworks, the list goes on. Tobacco farms in Malawi and the cotton farms of Uzbekistan. (UNICEF)

The US Department of Labor, (dol.gov) state that, “There are no specific international standards on forced child labour.” Why is such a scandalous situation allowed to continue? They also report that in Sudan you can buy a boy aged 7-12 for a mere $70. I am finding it hard to accept that information as a reality. I just don’t want to believe it. Also that boys from South Asia are trafficked and sold as camel jockeys in the Gulf States. I’m sitting here with a cup of tea thinking, is this how depraved we truly are?

“Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.”

H.G.Wells

Thankfully, a number of industries are under scrutiny about how and where they produce their goods. I read that Hershey’s has come under fire because of possible involvement in the cocoa usage from Ghana and Ivory Coast. Other industrial giants are also under the microscope, such as Samsung because of dealing in China. Businesses in the UK have been questioned regarding their promotion of goods as British when in fact the goods have been made in : Africa, India or China. (Which.co.uk)

The American economics writer, P. Davidson, speaks for many when he states,

“To accept the outsourcing of high paying manufacturing jobs to the competition of countries that employ child labour and workers in sweat shop conditions at real wages per hour of labor far below the American standard is a disgrace.” (econ.bus.utk.edu)

Moreover, it is not just so-called underdeveloped countries that child labour happens. A recent report suggests that some 2000 children have been trafficked into the UK by Romanian & Bulgarian gypsy gangs for the purpose of begging or to be used in the sex industry. (Daily Mail) In the USA it is estimated that around 10,000 foreign children are trafficked into the country each year. (CIA) It is quite clear that to some, children are just another commodity to be bought and sold, just like a pair of socks.

I never thought that a statistic could shock me, but 1.2 million children trafficked each year for sexual exploitation, blew my mind. (UNICEF) Lust, depravity disguised as desire! Where are all the politically correct, all the human rights activists, all the do-gooders and the entire liberal minded? Come out, I say, come out! Come out from your swamp and howl at your politicians until you’re breathless. Or hide in your compartmentalized bog where you fiddle with God politics. It is a staggering figure, be ashamed be very ashamed.

I am stunned having read various reports from several countries of the extent of trafficking. This is a huge industry, making billions of dollars, $$$$ and it goes on right under our noses. And politicians, the guardians of our rights, I await their voice raised each day in condemnation of such a heinous crime. The children have been waiting since 1989! That is 24 years X 1.2 million. You do the maths!

I have no intention of demeaning the horror of child sexual exploitation but don’t these guys have hands? Can’t they buy a blow up doll!

Whilst doing my research I found that June 12th is World Day against child labour, I had never heard of it. I am not ashamed; it’s just that it is not well publicized. Why not? The question now, is can we put the date on the map?

  • Why doesn’t every church, worldwide, have a poster outside paid for by the congregation?
  • Why hasn’t UNICEF paid for an advertisement?
  • Local councils could promote the day through their regular circulars.
  • Why don’t human rights lawyers pay for an advert?
  • Why don’t newspapers mention it a few days beforehand?
  • Why don’t schools make it an activity day?
  • Why doesn’t some big advertising agency design an advert for free, actors perform it free and TV companies air it for nothing?

As you can see lots could be done but, but, but, only where there is a will. You have to think beyond ‘me’ to make free truly free!

Child Labour: A Stain upon the Soul.

 

 

See Saw Margery Daw,

Johnny shall have a new master.

He shall earn but a penny a day,

Because he can’t work any faster.

How many of the 220m child labourers will never hear a nursery rhyme because they’re at work. Will never experience the warmth of a cuddle? Never experience the sheer exhilaration of being swung between two loving parents as they stroll along. Never is a forever word and that’s how you measure true sadness.

boy carrying load

It ain’t easy

According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO.org) there are 217.7 million children at work around the world.  The figures differ as you read through the reams of paper associated with child labour. UNICEF, say 246m are engaged in work, while goodweave.org estimate 220m. Why is there no clarity?

Another problem with the figures is the age range, generally it is set at 5-18 years old, but the ILO has given 5-14 for its analysis. I would suggest that both need amending as it is known that children as young as 4 are at work. And young people at 16 often start their apprenticeship or permitted part time work. Therefore a more realistic variant might be 4-15 years old. What is clear is that the international bodies need to get their act together and provide a proper set of statistics so we are not fobbed off with the current mish-mash.

What is quite amazing is that the law and international agreement exist to ban child labour.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989 article 32 (1) states:

Children should be protected from …economic exploitation…from hazardous work that

A break from work

Lunch time

interferes with the child’s education or is harmful to the child’s health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development. A fine set of words, you can take the paper it is written on and use it to wipe your backside because that’s as much value as it warrants.

A UN affirmation in 2002 under ‘goal 21’ pledged to the world to;

“Take immediate and effective measures to eliminate the ‘worst forms’ of child labour.”

Did it happen? Choose one of the following options:       No                         No.         No!

(I hope I’m not being facetious here?)

The great and the powerful arrive in New York for their important meeting; wearing expensive clothes, well fed and catered for; with a limousine waiting to whisk them to the UN building. They eat a fine lunch and then pontificate at length on what should be done to help child labourers.

A ditty:

They’re talking over dinner.

They’ve talked over lunch.

They talk of child labour,

As they munch, munch, munch.

So they all sat there, after lunch of course, and agreed to ‘immediate and effective’ action then departed to their luxury hotel, then perhaps to an evening soiree, before flying  home the next day. And eleven (11) years later what has been achieved? Is this what football (soccer) commentators describe as an own goal? Or does it cause a moment of meditation on what is wrong with humanity?

However, the joke on child labourers does not end there. The ILO has set a deadline for the end to the ‘worst forms’ of child labour by 2016! Why just the ‘worst forms’ of labour

heavy duty

We have load on our mind.

is not all child labour heinous? In 2002 the UN insisted on ‘immediate’ action and the ILO say let’s wait till 2016. Confused? I’m befuddled!

I can’t wait for 2016 and the remake of High Noon. I can hear the childrens’ choir sing:

Don’t forsake me oh my…

(High Noon a Western 1952, starring Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly Dir: Fred Zinnemann.)

If you set a deadline then you expect compliance. What happens if China and India ignore the timeline and fail to implement the changes? Does the ILO have any power to force the issue or will they just shout louder and arrange a new deadline?

Fourteen years will have elapsed since the decision for ‘immediate’ action and the 2016 deadline. A whole childhood. A quarter of a century since the Convention on child rights and still they talk over lunch. How many young lives do we write-off before something solid is done?

Not choice

But habit rules the unreflecting herd.

Wordsworth

Assuming that UNICEF is reasonably accurate then 73% of children work in the ‘worst forms’ of labour. The transformation of the workplace to accommodate the changes needed would be immense. It would require Government dictated change and the will and the resources to impose compliance. The other daunting problem comes from the sudden release of the children from their slave labour. Who will accommodate them upon release? Who will cater for their psychological problems? The whole process needs to be correctly organized over a protracted period. It seems to me that the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. Even Satan couldn’t organize such a hell

“The condition of millions of child laborers would shock even the most hardened Victorian social reformers. National governments and international agencies are failing these kids, and reneging on their commitments.” Kevin Watkins, Brookings Institution, Oct: 2012.

Nepal: Beauty and the Beast

 

lake view

Beauty has no equal

 Mountain village

 

 

 

 

Mountain lake

Speaks for itself

It is unmistakably a landscape photographers dream venue or, for anyone with an eye for taste. There is much to admire in the country; so much to do as a tourist. Over one million visit Nepal annually. They come for various reasons; the overwhelming majority come to enjoy all that is beautiful about the country. Naturally these tourists are welcomed; their spending contributes a great deal to the nation’s economy. They are there to view the beauty of the landscape, to photograph, paint, to hike, to climb, and to challenge themselves in the wilderness of the Himalayas.

However, there is a seedier side to the country, the poverty of huge numbers of the population and the distress of so many children. The basis of this tragedy lies in the core problems that beset Nepal: the traditional way of life, language barriers, the environment, and as ever politics and its offspring the inevitable power struggle.

The Maoist (CPN-M) insurrection against the monarchy lasted 10 years, 1996-2006. The struggle for power brought victory for the Communists, who subsequently won an election in 2008. They were voted as the largest party in the new assembly. War had cost 12,000 lives, while 100,000 were displaced. (bbc.co.uk, Aug: 2012) With a population of approximately 30m both figures are sizable and must have put enormous strain on the people and the nation’s ability to cope; at a time when radical change was required.

 There is a large body of thought that maintains that change must not be imposed; rather that we work alongside the people until they recognise the rationale to change. For cultural anthropologists there is integrity in this logic. However, each day that passes more children die and are abused. I understand resistance to change by those steeped in tradition over generations. Nonetheless, the question must be asked as to whether ignorance should dictate policy. Some will argue that that very sentiment works both ways; that to intervene too early damages the prospect for success and the rights of the people. A contrary view (mine) would argue that the cost to the children is too great. That if people need to be dragged screaming and kicking into the modern age, so be it.The capitalist society of Western culture might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it does hold out a much better opportunity for the youth of Nepal to gain a better existence.

Charities can play a small part in instigating change. The individual areas they choose to work in may act as a catalyst for change over the long term. But, but, but, can the kids wait? Is the argument that we cannot prevent the brutality of the children without first winning over the dominant males of that society? Let’s not kid ourselves; we are talking about the dominant males! For me, if we do not confront them we denude the children and the women and empower the males even more.

Facts always make poor reading and so it is with these:

13,000 children die each year from respiratory infection. While 3,000 die from diarrhoea.

50% of under-fives have stunted growth and 66% are underweight. (UNICEF)

The mortality rate for kids under five is 48%. (childrensrightsportal.org)

Sad as these statistics are the fact that the, Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) has been in force for 23 years; turns a tragedy into a sick joke.  I’ll just repeat that shall I – 23 years.

The CRC article 7 states that every, “child shall be registered at birth.” Well, not in Nepal! Could this be a job for UNICEF or a charity?

Article 6 states, “every child has the inherent right to life.” What does ‘life’ mean in this context?

Nonetheless, much of the information we have on Nepal comes from UNICEF. They keep writing reports, doing studies, accumulating appropriate data. And then; and then they do it all over again.

On the positive side these reports do have relevance; they keep track of the diverse nature and spread of poverty. Moreover, the presence of UNICEF ensures that the government of Nepal has one clear eye on the need for action. In addition the reports can help to identify where need is most acute.

On the downside, there is no immediacy and therefore the children are left in a critical situation. There does not seem to be any coherent plan to tackle this daily blight. There is

children collecting stone

child workers

a history of economic plans; each with a reduction in poverty as a prime aim. Twelve plans so far, some of 5 years, some of 3 years. The latest is of 3 years duration. The plans have been running longer than the CRC but have had minimal impact. (mpra.ub.uni-munchen.de/) From the same German study we find, “…there has been no significant improvement in reducing the gap between poor and rich people.”

Q. Which side are you on? Slow, slow, slow, snoring!

Or get a move on!

Is change coming, precipitated by economic reality? Many young men are taking the opportunity to work abroad. (Guardian.co.uk, July 2012) The article talks of ‘remittances’ e.g. the young men sending or bringing home money earned abroad to the value of $3.5bn per year. The journalist,        J. Glennie cites the World Bank’s figures of a reduction of ‘extreme’ poverty, from 70% to 25% of the population in 15 years.  Glennie, suggests that the ‘remittances’ have had an impact on the poverty figures.

 In consequence of the men leaving, women in some villages have had to act as pallbearers at funerals which hitherto would have been taboo. Also alluded to in the article was the fact that some men returned with sexual diseases which has lead to divorce;  creating another fracture in the traditional family hierarchy. There is a sad irony here in that the men working in India and frequenting the local brothels may be taking their pleasure from young Nepalese girls, trafficked from their home country.

Are we seeing a fissure so deep that it threatens to transform traditional Nepal? Is migration affording us a glimpse of the future that the only prospect for a good life lies outside the country? Will the young men ever return permanently? If not, will their young women follow them? The “deserts in the sky” (hymalayanchildren.org) may well become deserted.

 Part 2 to follow…

Child Poverty

 poverty cartoon digging way out

 

Eradicate child poverty by 2020, what a bold target. Question is, is it a good target? All the major political Parties in the UK have signed up to the Child Poverty Act. Can this be achieved? Hmmmm No! Why not? We only have 7 years to wipe out generations of neglect, of institutionalised poverty. In 2007 a target was set to halve poverty by 2015. Are the politicians spinning us another tale? Definitely! They haven’t got the footballs to play this game out. The players can’t even properly define ‘relative poverty’.

Are you a believer? Keep answers short – two words only.

The Government and all the charities involved talk the ‘speak’. They bandy facts and figures around like stars in the night sky and while the stars may shine they don’t give off much light.

Across Europe ‘relative’ poverty is defined as having an income below 60% of the median, (the average national wage). However, the European definition includes housing costs whereas the UK one does not. In the USA it’s 50% of the median. Child Poverty Solutions (.org.uk) talk of ‘material’ deprivation as having less than 70% of the median

 

child lost in confusion

What the…

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation, (JRF) (jrf.org.uk) say there are 2.3m children living in poverty in the UK. Barnardo’s (barnardos.org.uk) have the figure of 3.6 million. Save the children (.org.uk) say 3.9m.  While the charity, End Child Poverty (.org.uk) have 4m.

JRF say ‘chronic’ poverty affects 3% of the total population.

Barnardo’s has ‘severe’ poverty affecting 1.6m kids.

 

Good news! The Child Public Health Interest Group (cphig.org.uk) and Barnardo’s agree that a family of 4 e.g. two adults + two kids needs an income of £349 per week to avoid falling below the poverty line. However, the BBC (.co.uk) gives a figure of £420. I don’t know the value of promoting such figures as they are subject to constant change.

The picture is not any better in the USA. Kentucky.com says that 16.4m children live in poor families and of those some 7.4 live in ‘extreme’ poverty. Thus a family in America need $23.050 per annum to avoid falling below the poverty line. The Huffington Post (.com) citing Clasp say that the poverty rate for young children remains at 24.5% and, that in 2011 some 5.8m lived in poverty and 2.8 of them lived in ‘deep’ poverty.

When addressing the same audience (and they are) should they not speak with the same tongue?

What’s with all these adjectives: chronic, extreme, severe and deep, can they  not just choose one?

Few people view poverty as poor families, of deprivation, of going without or underachievement. To some folks it’s all they’ve ever known. However, the consequences can be quite severe,

“..has persistent ill effects on nervous and stress hormone systems leading to lifelong problems in learning, behaviour, physical and mental health thus compromising the fostering of resilience and capability.” cphig.org.uk  ‘ From womb to tomb’

Adding weight to the argument, Hannah Matthews, (Director of Child Care & Early Education at Clasp.) states,

“The prevalence of poverty among the very youngest children means that during the first three years of life – a fundamental period of rapid brain growth and development – babies are deprived of the very resources they need to survive.”  Article Huffington Post.

While I would be looking for some empirical research to underpin both these statements; you must admit they make a powerful read. Barnardo’s joins hands with the above.

Significantly there are more pieces of evidence to support the views expressed.

Brooking Institution, USA (2012) suggests that without high-quality early childhood experiences, kids are:

  •          25% more likely to drop out of school
  •          50% will be placed in special education.
  •          60% less likely to attend college.
  •          70% more likely to be arrested for a violent crime.

Meanwhile JRF say that the cost of exclusion from society actually costs £25bn each year and a reduced GDP. (D Hirsh) That is a huge amount of money, huge! This is supported by Public Service Europe (.com) “Research shows that the cost of non-inclusion is higher than that of inclusion…”

Q. Is this based on the same research or independent studies?

If it is the case that it costs less to keep the poor out of poverty rather than pay for all their needs then why not do exactly that. Why don’t politicians take a pro-active stance on this issue and save us a load of dosh. They may say they have but..catch you later!  They could then cut taxes.

Sorry! My apologies, I must not ask for too much.  Ma, I don’t want to go to bed!

Does all this mean we should concentrate our charity donations on the basis of the old adage ‘charity begins at home’. The quick and easy answer is No! Why not? We pay more than enough in taxes for our government to meet the cost of welfare. It‘s just that our tax money is badly managed and spent. Politicians can’t help but screw up.

You can use different words and tone – for ‘screw up’ – if you wish.

make sure you drop in to part 2. http://www.upoak.com/2012/12/10/democracy-6/

 Thank-you.