How many slaves work for you?
Lauren Sutherland tackles modern day slavery rather than the washing up.
“Students are workers too”; just one of the many amusing comments that may be overheard at UCL’s Print Room Café, whilst sipping on a Tall Chai Latte and dipping ciabatta bread into a pool of virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
For most, with the mention of slavery, up pops the image of Mr. and Mrs. King Cotton out on their front porch, reclining on their swinging seat. A faint ticking of the grandfather clock can be heard from inside the house, married with the chinking of ice, as they pour themselves a second glass of lemonade, condensation trickling down the sides. The couple sit back and oversee their vast plantation and watch the subjugation of another race. Yes, slavery was bad, I’m sure we can all agree on that. But slightly more ‘up in the air’ is our use of ‘WAS’. Having spent a good 30 minutes discussing the pros of disposable crockery in an attempt to avoid the bother of manual washing up, I was pointed in the direction of www.slaveryfootprint.org, an American website that aims to enlighten people on the effects of slavery in the 21st Century by calculating the number of slaves working directly or indirectly to aid your lifestyle. This interactive site softens the blow of modern day slavery, like a pig in a blanket, where the blanket is fun visual aids and the pig is a slave.
The walk down Tottenham Court Road can be likened only to the International ‘Tough Mudder’, a 12 mile assault course, where the searing pain of ice cold water, fire and electrocution takes the place of the equally agonising experience of darting and dodging between hoards of determined Chuggers. With “sorry, I’m a student” apparently being an acceptable response to “can you spare £5 a month to keep a child alive?”, I’m as guilty as the next guy when it comes to dealing with those poor fellows in red macks, grasping clipboards, bracing the biting winds and equally biting looks from passers-by. So, having just about struggled through the existential crisis that arose, with the discovery, when entering the details of my lifestyle into the website, that I essentially employ 33 slaves, I decided that this website needed to be seen.
The average student’s day can be summed up in a series of First World moans and groans; too much work, too much time spent on http://procatinator.com/, “put my smart phone in the wash”, “put my iPod in the wash”, “put my pony in the wash”, “this ratio of oil to balsamic vinegar is leaning dangerously on the side of balsamic”.
The average slave’s day, on the other hand, might consist of mining mica, the tiny ingredient in make-up that gives it that shimmer, or perhaps working 20 hours a day peeling 40 pounds of shrimp, risking violence and assault on escape for our pleasure. So, the next time you whip up that virtually calorie free prawn stir-fry, it ain’t gunna be so guilt free. And you know what they say: nothing makes your eyes pop more than the back-breaking labour of thousands of Indian Children.
Now this isn’t a self-righteous attempt to reform the Tab readership, or to guilt you all into becoming leading figures in the slavery footprint campaign. To my shame, I, like many others, hastily clicked away from the ‘sign up’ option, as if the two words instead read ‘click to detonate’ or perhaps that if I clicked away fast enough, God would just assume I hadn’t seen. It is simply to raise awareness and perhaps provide some perspective; knowing that while you may miss the odd deadline or feel like Santander is stealing all your money, it’s highly likely that you’ll never be “forced to work without pay” or be “economically exploited”. Unless, of course, you take that summer internship.