Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Stir of Emotions: Social Evils

So, I've come to realize that the surest way to stir my emotions into profound sadness or deep anger is not through movies or novels or anything as such... but through real documentaries, reports or non-fiction articles of actual social injustices happening around the world. During the past two days, I watched a news report on PBS "Now" about the plight of undocumented immigrant workers who were uprooted from their low-paying but stable jobs in other parts of the US and were taken down to Louisiana to help re-build the cities there after Katrina hit, in the lure of high-paying wages. These workers were hired by unscrupulous and deceitful subcontractors who then contracted them out to other subcontractors, all of whom were working on behalf of other large corporations who were rebuilding their facilities down there. The point of the story is: these workers were treated as modern-day slaves. They were housed in trailer trucks, each of which had 42 beds placed in a bunked tier system, with barely any walking space in the middle. They were paid a whole lot less than they were initially told, they were bused back and forth from the worksite to their trailers and back so that they could not escape, run away, report to law enforcement agencies or journalists, and they were kept away from meeting anyone outside of their co-workers. Now, there were also some African Americans who were working in those conditions along with the latino undocumented workers. But many of the blacks got up and left within a couple weeks. Infact, the story broke out because one of the African American workers was so enraged by these conditions, he took a hidden camera with him to work and filmed the whole thing and sold it to the reporters. Notice, though that the black workers have the liberty and the means to get up and leave and look for jobs elsewhere. They are legal US citizens with recognized rights. The undocumented workers, on the other hand, have almost no rights recognized by this country -- even though they are entitled to the same human rights that all people are -- and so they are mostly helpless and silent of this exploitation. One can argue a lot about the what rights undocumented workers should have. And I have written many papers in college about this issue. But exploitation of humans, regardless of the status of people, enrages me.... and saddens me at the same time. The other documentary I watched was last night, again on PBS - "American Experience", and it talked about the flooding of the mississippi river into the delta region... and how the blacks were enslaved at the point of a gun to risk their lives and work to fortify the broken levees along the river, and when the levees did not hold, they were utterly abandoned on the narrow high ground of the levees, with no food supply, no drinking water, no sanitary conditions, no nothing. They were left there for weeks, until the large businesses of the region thought it would be in their best interest to have some of the blacks rescued and kept alive so they could be put to work in their fields and plantations. Anyway, the story goes on and on... the point is, as I sat there and watched all this, I was so viscerally attacked by the brutality of such exploitation. I think I understand this sort of degradation of humanity more personally because having lived in India for the majority of my life, I have a first-hand experience of what that kind of exploited, degraded life might feel like. Even though, I have never myself had to live as such because I was born into a comfortable lifestyle in my family, living among and around people who had very little or nothing at all, having friends who lived under those conditions, and in a country known for its levels of abject poverty, has allowed me to empathize very intimately with the experience of the exploited, and has also allowed me to so uniquely enjoy the incredible good that this country has to offer. So, when I see such instances of social evil happening here, I know exactly what it means and how dangerous it is to the concept of Americanism and individual rights. I find little things as appalling symptoms of the perniciousness of what could be. Things like the banning of smoking in Chicago bars, clubs, restaurants, and other areas... the proposed banning of foods like foie gras... these, I see as symptoms of a very dangerous erosion of freedom. And finally, there is another story that comes to mind right now. This one I watched on Oprah (I LOVE OPRAH!!) of very young American kids, mostly in rural and suburban America (there isn't much to do around there except maybe, stare at cows...) who try to hang themselves or choke themselves to a certain point where they can cut the blood supply to their brains for a few moments and experience some sort of escapist "high". Apparently, it's a game among these dumb young idiots now. They challenge each other to remain choked the longest (and some have succeeded way beyond any challenge -- they died). It's called the "choking game". American's are bored with their lives. So they find dying exciting.

3 Comments:

Blogger Loni said...

Kids ARE worth having! I have 9 living children - and would not trade them for the world, or the precious times.

Last reported there were 500 deaths in 2004 of this "choking game". Kids think nothing will hurt them - this is not a drug - just one time, etc. My son was one of them. He was only 16. And despite losing him and going through this awful pain, yes I am so thankful to have had him - to have loved him - than not having him at all. He was a "good kid". He would have never tried drugs. He loved life - loved his 9 siblings - and most of all loved God. He had compassion for people. But, he learned of a game - this game he lost - lost his life. He tried the "choking game". His 11 year old brother found him hanging. His 15 year old brother cut him down. We are at almost a year since his death, and it's still very hard. This game is dangerous, foolish, and mostly likely WILL cause death. It's not worth the risk. I know. I miss my son.

Matthew's Story
Journaling through the Valley Blog

11/22/2005 06:43:00 PM  
Blogger Ergo Sum said...

I'm sorry that you lost your son to this terribly stupid game.

It's good to know, from a cursory glance at your site, that you have managed to transform this loss into a fruitful purpose for your life, and in being instrumental in changes in others' lives.

11/23/2005 11:18:00 AM  
Blogger innommable said...

Goodness. . .

11/23/2005 08:21:00 PM  

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