Some thoughts as I begin writing my dissertation (a case study on Scotland, asking who is identified as a victim of modern slavery?)
Market capitalism keeps many of the world’s poorest people in exploitative circumstances. I have never had to make a choice that impacted my survival. Capitalism means that so many of us are born propertyless – and so have to make real choices between an exploitative labour situation, perhaps a form of debt bondage, or starvation. Nobody will say no to a job, even if it’s a job that the ILO or the UNODC would class as a form of modern slavery. Sometimes, people have to choose to be exploited.
I don’t have an alternative economic model for the world to be built on, although I try and understand the state of the global economy, lots of what I read goes over my head. However, I do wholeheartedly believe that there is a better way to live than continually exploiting the poorest people. In the beginning, the people of God were called to be a people of justice. When growing food in the kingdom of Israel, the people were told by God not to harvest all the way to the corners of the fields or pick up anything the harvesters had dropped, so anyone who did not own property could use that food (Leviticus 9:22). Once every seven years, for a whole year, the land was left fallow, not planted and harvested as usual, but left uncultivated primarily for the socially outcast and the poorest people to use whatever grew on it that year (Exodus 23:11). Lots of us are having years in which our livelihoods feel ‘fallow’ at the moment, and we are not cultivating the things we usually cultivate. I ask you to rest in this. I trust that you see this as an opportunity, that the Lord really can use this time for the long term good of the poorest people in our society. I don’t necessarily know all that might mean in the future, but I know that God can cultivate a global economic situation that does not hinge on an underworld of marginalised poor people. I do genuinely think that this moment of economic crisis presents an opportunity to begin thinking about ways of creating wealth in order to share it.
What could it mean, if I not just grow potatoes for my house, but I let anyone in my street share my produce too?
What does it look like, if when I realise I am running low on leggings and sports tops, I go first to a slave-free retailer?
What does it mean if my government decide to turn away from exploitation, towards a fairer way of being?