40.3 Million Slaves: Challenging the Hypocrisy of Modern Slavery Statistics

By Elizabeth A. Faulkner, a lecturer in law at Staffordshire University. She recently completed her doctoral thesis ‘The Trafficking of Children; International Law, Modern Slavery and the New Abolitionists’ at De Montfort University. Her interests, broadly conceived, are in international child law, human rights, and gender and the law, and she specialises in human trafficking, migration, slavery, exploitation and sexual violence. Originally published at openDemocracy

The new estimates on modern slavery hide incontrovertible biases within them, but their weight will be used to justify the actions of ‘white saviours’ for years to come.

The emotive power of ‘slavery statistics’ is reflected in how unquestioned they are within the mainstream press. There are over 40 million slaves in the world today, a new report from the International Labour Organisation and the Walk Free Foundation said in September, and around the world the number went: 40 million slaves on Facebook, 40 million slaves on Twitter, 40 million slaves in the The Washington Post, the Guardian, the Independent, Spiegel Online, Al Jazeera, the Hindu. Apart from Daniel Mügge’s analysis for this site, can you think of anywhere that has responded critically to the release of the Global Estimates of Modern Slavery, or acknowledged in their reporting the substantial criticism levelled against Walk Free’s methodology in the past?

The UN enshrined the eradication of modern slavery by 2030 into sustainable development goal 8.7. But, “the world won’t be in a position to achieve the sustainable development goals unless we dramatically increase our efforts to end these scourges”, warned Guy Ryder, the director-general of the ILO. “These new global estimates can help shape and develop interventions to prevent both forced labour and child labour”.

There are a number of problems with all this. Neither the producers of the new estimates nor the reporting around them acknowledge the imperialistic nature of the statistics themselves, or the influence of exclusively western thinking upon them. The individuals and institutions involved are furthermore reticent to see the racist echoes of Kipling’s ‘white man’s burden’ underlying their creation and within the policy-making surrounding them. These variations on a theme are not entirely distinct from one another, nor are they the same. The challenge here is to break down the narrative of the contemporary abolitionist movement, and highlight the racial undertones of the discourse; the abolitionist cultural imperialism.

Abolitionist Cultural Imperialism

The key players in what is most effectively described as the ‘contemporary abolitionist movement’ are easily identifiable, with the Walk Free Foundation positioning itself as its champion. Founded in 2013 by the family of mining magnate, Andrew Forrest, Walk Free orchestrated the first Global Slavery Index (GSI) and supported this latest, UN-backed edition. Both deploy the moral power of the term ‘slavery’ to generate outrage against what their authors class as ‘modern slavery’, and use statistics to bolster the legitimacy of their claims.

The numbers, however, hide an implicitly racist bias. For example, previous editions of the Global Slavery Index, the flagship product of the Walk Free Foundation, identified the ‘best’ and ‘worst’ states fighting contemporary slavery, praising the former and shaming the latter. Unsurprisingly, the best were all Euro-American and the worst African and Asian – a setup which positions the predominately white West as morally superior to and leader of the non-West.

This is an incomplete view to say the least, one which is only made possible by selectively cherry-picking developments that confirm the overall view. For example, the GSI lauds legislation like the UK’s Modern Slavery Act while overlooking the lethal consequences of UK immigration policies or the effects of Western neoliberalism on the non-West. Is this not a classic form of whitewashing and cultural imperialism?

Similar things can be said about the inclusion of ‘forced and child marriage’ in this new round of estimates. For instance, if forced marriage is a form of slavery, why isn’t forced motherhood? British Prime Minister Theresa May styles herself as leading the fight against ‘modern slavery’ and has gone on record in support of these estimates – thereby agreeing that forced marriage is a form of contemporary slavery – yet she remains virtually silent over the issue of abortion access in Northern Ireland. What is the difference?

Likewise with child marriage. Plenty of children from predominantly non-White countries are said to have been forced into marriage, implying that the cultural backwardness of their societies leaves the Western world little choice but to lift them up and rescue them. For if the West won’t intervene, who will? But in the UK, ‘children’ aged over 16 can get married so long as their parents consent. How, then, are they not also victims of modern slavery, victims of ‘cultural backwardness’?

The point here is that the elasticity of the term ‘slavery’ and its very selective application obscures the power relations behind any determination of what counts as a problem. In this case, the racialised and culturally imperialist biases of those doing the determining are clear to see. The British government makes its positions clear through its policies on abortion, marriage, migration, and the right to work. The Walk Free Foundation on how it chooses to collect, compare, and display data. The message these positions promote is that the Western saviours of the world can do no wrong, especially in interaction with corrupt, culturally inferior ‘others’.

A new ‘Civilising Mission’?

At their core, then, these latest modern slavery statistics appear to implicitly charge those from ‘superior’ cultures with the same ‘civilising mission’ that Kipling mandated to his fellow colonists in the early twentieth century. The use of the term ‘slavery’ is designed to shock and provoke moral panic in response to apparent injustice. Yet those injustices and the anti-slavery response to them are racially coded, with white superiority and non-white inferiority written into their DNA. Indeed, it is no coincidence that the imagery deployed by the abolitionist movement often echoes colonial imagery, with individuals framed as victims of their own society, from which they require liberation by the morally guided white rescuer.

Overly simplistic calls to ‘free the slaves’ in response to the release of these latest statistics fail to recognise how the contemporary abolitionist movement is being wielded as a hypocritical weapon of morality. It seeks to ‘civilise’ cultures which fail to adhere to the moral standards and expectations of the certain quarters of the West, without acknowledging either the West’s role in perpetuating inequality, injustice and exploitation overseas, or the West’s frequent failure to live up to its own ideals at home. Until these factors and structural relationships are acknowledged, and a whole new map of where (and at whose behest) exploitation occurs, the fight against ‘modern slavery’ remains a hollow call.

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  1. Jamie

    Moral relativism for me, not thee? I can accept that ‘slavery’ is not well operationalized and therefore reports such as the ILO’s should be received with some skepticism. But I see no alternate program for action here. The author scorns efforts to measure a real problem but offers no way forward. I see nothing here but virtue signaling. Perhaps Ms. Faulkner could assist with a better operationalization of the subject, but not if her primary goal is to make enemies of those with the resources and inclination to tackle it while claiming the moral high-ground for herself.

    On the other hand:

    “These new global estimates can help shape and develop interventions to prevent both forced labour and child labour”.

    sounds like wishful thinking to me. Knowing the scope of the problem may lend some urgency to finding a solution, but I don’t see how it can help “shape and develop interventions”, unless what the speaker means is that, armed with these statistics we will shame the politicians into “doing something”. That is not a path toward rational policy.

    Governments, even western imperial governments, that move to end child and sex “slavery” will be doing the right thing and can validly claim some moral high-ground for doing so. People, like Ms Faulkner, who see more deeply into the issue, can also call for extending the fight to recognize forms of “slavery” not considered by the ILO or the British government, and to do something about it. They also have a valid claim to some moral high-ground from which to push their programs. But “those people are bad white imperialists” is not a program, and deserves no recognition as moral high-ground at all.

    1. Alex

      I agree! I am amazed by the logic of the author: if a certain indicator shows that the West is doing better than non-West then this means that this indicator is wrong.

      1. tony

        It would be racist to say the West is morally superior when judged according to the Western standards of morality. After all, if you have a moral system, some people and cultures are morally superior and others are morally inferior in your eyes. If you happen to ascribe to the dominant morality of the West, say, then it is likely that the West is superior since the West actually sees those values as goals. Other cultures have their own values they aim to fulfill.

        And since considering other cultures morally inferior is obviously racist, and since the author is unwilling to say slavery, child rape etc are OK as we are required to pretend the Western morality is somehow universal, the only option left to her is attacking facts.

        1. Alex

          In other words you question whether it’s possible to compare different countries at all, since in all cases such comparison would reflect the author’s values and or biases. I think it’s not a constructive approach.
          Also the onus of proving that this particular report reflects western values should be on the critic. I would argue that rejection of slavery is a more universal concept. Consider for example that slavery was never as widespread and prominent in China and India as it was in the West and the Muslim world

          1. The_Wabbit

            Wouldn’t you consider India’s caste system, for those at the bottom, very close to if not equivalent or worse than what we’re describing as slavery?

            1. Alex

              As far as I understand their position was different in a sense that they were not considered property of someone else. But I’m not a specialist in Indian history so I would be happy to hear different perspectives.

    2. Matt

      I think one would be forgiven for coming away from this article thinking that slavery is nothing but a moral panic on the part of the West, an imperialist desire to run roughshod over “cultures which fail to adhere to the moral standards and expectations of the certain quarters of the West.” What does the author say to the many non-Western, non-white persons from those “culture” who are forceful anti-slavery and anti-child marriage advocates?

    3. baann

      I think what the author is trying to say is that the index serves as a moral crutch for western countries, to avoid realizing their own failed policies and stands against modern slavery in their homes.

      1. troublemecca

        I agree. While some are quick to dismiss the author’s logic as defeatism… I believe the intention was to highlight the hypocrisy of the arsonist phoning the fireman, as he runs off to set another fire. This is relevant, because without acknowledging the cancer that is imperial exploitation, these attempts at remedy and awareness are far from the therapy that is necessary… more like robitussin… Sweet, but ineffective.

  2. JacobiteInTraining

    One subset of the monetization of slavery business is the ‘sex trafficking’/’sex slave’ hysteria. Yes, bad things happen to some, and young women and boys are pimped.

    The hysteria which that meme instills within people ‘PLEASE, THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!!’ tends to blind many to the similarly poor statistical basis upon which the saviours depend for their own rice bowls and morally-superior actions. In many cases, it actively damages the people it purports to ‘protect’ by serving them up into the maw of the prison-industrial complex as collateral damage to the miniscule % of children actually saved.

    I have found several ladies doing great work on that front – at Reason.com there is Elizabeth Nolan Brown: https://reason.com/people/elizabeth-nolan-brown/all

    In the sex workers industry there is Maggie McNeill: https://maggiemcneill.wordpress.com

  3. Musicismath

    I have to admit that I was a little baffled by Faulkner’s article on a first read through and annoyed by her talent for false equivalence. However, I then found this earlier piece by Michael Dottridge, Eight Reasons Why We Shouldn’t Use the Term “Modern Slavery”, and it makes more sense to me now.

    Knowing where this stuff is coming from (roughly, right-wing Western governments and mining interests who want to undermine the current “international development/human rights” framework), I’ll be a lot more sceptical about these reports in the future.

    1. rps

      Yes, the paradoxical term “modern slavery’ unsuccessfully attempts to distance current day human bondage from the antebellum slavery epochs even though neither are new nor modern or improved against the backdrop of historical narratives. Perhaps its the author’s feeble aim in distinguishing historical time periods. A more suitable nomenclature would be ‘present-day slavery’ or ’21st century slavery’.

  4. flora

    Thanks for this post. Important to debunk predatory arguments that cloak themselves in ‘higher morality’.
    The new ‘White Mans’ Burden’ argument and moral claim, indeed.

    “Take up the White Man’s burden—

    Send forth the best ye breed—

    Go send your sons to exile

    To serve your captives’ need

    To wait in heavy harness

    On fluttered folk and wild—

    Your new-caught, sullen peoples,

    Half devil and half child….”
    -Rudyard Kipling

    ” For example, previous editions of the Global Slavery Index, the flagship product of the Walk Free Foundation, identified the ‘best’ and ‘worst’ states fighting contemporary slavery, praising the former and shaming the latter. Unsurprisingly, the best were all Euro-American and the worst African and Asian – a setup which positions the predominately white West as morally superior to and leader of the non-West.”….

    What does GSI say about US prisoners forced to labor for private profit? Anything?

    1. flora

      adding, from last year:
      “Prisoners on strike are calling for the repeal of an exception listed in the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which bans “involuntary servitude” in addition to slavery, “except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.” ”


      The MSM didn’t report on this or on these conditions, so it’s doubtful many know about it.


      1. jsn

        I was thinking along the same lines. Rather than berate those concerned about slavery for their “western values”, how about refining the definition to include the analogous structures those “western values” have normalized in the West?

        Human culture is capable of all kinds of values, the historical record of which is a catalogue of horrors and no culture with any significant history stands above it.

      2. Richard

        Did you see the Jimmy Dore show on this? I was actually shocked to hear that US prisoners were being used as slave labor in fighting wildfires, which is about the most dangerous work imaginable. Should not have been shocked, but I didn’t think we’d sunk that far yet.
        I’d like to hear about organizations that are active against slavery in the US, if anyone knows of any.

        1. Juneau

          I have heard from a dear relative in the heart of a particular southern republican state that young healthy strong men are particularly worried about getting arrested and being used in this manner (for whatever forced labor is needed at particular prison). Not that it doesn’t happen in the northeast….but I was shocked by her candor and acceptance of this tradition. Especially since her sons fit the bill quite well. Cool Hand Luke stuff for sure.
          In CA they reportedly volunteered:http://www.cnn.com/2017/10/13/us/california-fires-inmate-firefighters/index.html

        2. Alex Cox

          I’m a volunteer firefighter in Southern Oregon. The last big fire I attended was started by a railroad owned by Warren Buffet and burned on land owned by the regional Burger King magnate. Most of the firefighters were volunteers or prisoners from California. We put out the magnate’s blazing acres for no charge. CSX was fined a hundred dollars for starting the fire.

    1. Bill Carson

      I was writing my comment when you posted that. See below. Why are children allowed to obtain birth control, abortions, give up children for adoption, physically transition to another gender, join the military, be held criminally responsible as an adult for crimes, but not get married?

  5. Bill Carson

    I got into a facebook argument last week over a friend’s post that, according to a BBC report, the US is behind third world countries on the issue of child marriage. The BBC reported, in an awfully biased way (talk about your fake news), that more than 200,000 minors were married in the US between 2000 and 2015—all of whom I presume would be numbered among the modern-day “slaves.” The article highlighted two women as their examples–one who was forced to marry her rapist at age 11 and another who was forced to marry at age 13. These are horrific examples to be sure, but they are hardly illustrative of the vast majority of marriages of 16- or 17-year olds who may have perfectly valid, voluntary reasons to get married. When I tried to point this out, I was called a “sick freak.” LOL. That’s how emotionally attached some people are to the notion that marriage should be prohibited until the age of majority (or after?). They refuse to see the weakness of the argument and the utter lack of any semi-scientific basis for their positions, but they would rather impose a modern, Western cultural norm on much different cultures across the globe.

    So according to these modern cultural norms, children under the age of 18 should be allowed to obtain birth control, should have access to abortion, should be allowed to give children up for adoption, should be allowed to decide at a very young age to transition to another gender through hormonal therapies that would stop the onset of puberty. All of these rights and capabilities have far-reaching, life-long consequences, but these advocates don’t believe these same young people should have the right to enter into marriage. (And marriage in America is far, far from a permanent legal relationship.)

    Here’s a link to the BBC piece. Observe the bias for yourself. http://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-us-canada-41727495/why-does-the-us-have-so-many-child-brides

    1. jrs

      A 16 or 17 year old marrying someone of similar age is cultural (although the failure rate for those marriages is high, so yes it is probably better not to marry that early, but there is a difference between making a choice which is statistically not optimal but sometimes actually works out really well, and a crime). Marrying someone vastly older at that age is exploitative though, the power imbalance is just too great for it really to be anything even remotely resembling a relationship agreed to between two equally aware partners.

    2. JBird

      People find it easy to have everything in black and white, and not shades of grey, which makes discussion difficult. One does not become an adult just by a change age. How is one a child at 17 years and 364 days, and a adult one day later? Or 20 years and 364 days, and then one day later? Is there a magic switch somewhere? So whether their is lover is a child molester depends upon a single day passing. That’s goofy.

      I also think there is a serious amount of slavery out there, and that fact is being used to create, or maintain, some form of imperialism. Like it has been said, never let a disaster go to waste.

    3. Bill Carson

      I agree with you both. Marrying someone vastly older can be a problem at age 14, 16, 18, or 21. No one of any age should be forced to marry against their will.

      If they want to rail against “child brides,” I wouldn’t object to setting a marriage age at 16. But I also find it troubling that the average age of first marriage in America has gone from 20 (women) and 22 (men) in 1960 to ages 27 (women) and 29 (men) in 2013.

    4. Sara K.

      A major problem with the way many marriage statues in the United States are written now (IANAL but I have looked at some of the actual statutes) is that they only require the consent of the guardian(s), not the minor. If the guardian consents, then the requirement of legal consent has also been met, even if the minor does not want to get married at all. Some states require judges to ‘consider’ the minor’s wishes, but some states do not even require that.

      I think Virginia has good law on this. In Virginia, only emancipated minors may marry at the age of 16 or 17, and everyone else must be at least 18 to marry, and it is possible for minors to become emancipated specifically so they can marry. The guardian(s) do have to consent for the minor to become emancipated (so they can stop a marriage they don’t want to happen), but it also allows the minor to legally withhold consent.

      Also, would you force a pregnant 12-year old to become a mother? If not, they you have to allow them the choice of abortion and/or giving up the child for adoption (I can understand the pro-life argument for denying the option of abortion even though I do not agree with it, but not allowing them the choice of giving up a child for adoption just does not make sense).

      Furthermore, the situation for transition via hormonal therapy is not so simple as a minor choosing to do it, and is more akin to medical treatment. As it currently stands, there has to be a diagnosis of a specific condition by professionals before a minor could receive HRT. Thus, the decision to take hormonal therapy is like the decision to take other types of psychological/psychiatric treatments.

      1. Bill Carson

        Certainly, the consent of the minor should be required. No person should be forced to get married, no matter the age.

        Regarding the pregnant 12-year-old, she is already a mother. There should be resources in place to assist her to raise the child and finish her education. How can you argue that a minor does not have the capacity to consent to marriage, but she does have the capacity to consent to give her child away—a decision that will have much further-reaching and permanent implications for both the mother and especially the child?

        And finally, gender dysphoria is far from a settled matter. HRT is an extreme medical treatment for a mental illness. Persons with transsexualism, after sex reassignment, have considerably higher risks for mortality, suicidal behaviour, and psychiatric morbidity than the general population. You’d sentence a minor with gender dysphoria to that kind of post-transition life, but you wouldn’t let them get married?

    5. rps

      but these advocates don’t believe these same young people should have the right to enter into marriage. (And marriage in America is far, far from a permanent legal relationship.)

      Rather than debating whether a 16 or 17 year should have the right to marry without guardian consent, the valid question is whether they are competent to enter into a legal binding contract. Since marriage is a contract that must meet certain requirements determined by the contractual laws of the state whereby both parties are equally and mutually consensual to a binding legal agreement.

      Debating from this point of view, the logical question is whether you believe a 15, 16, or 17 year old is prepared to enter into a legal binding contract and all the financial ramifications of combined assets, children, responsibilities and obligations?

  6. Gordon

    One thing missing from the estimate is how many of these “slaves” are under the employ, or control of western corporations, or how many corporations are benefiting from their use. That might skew the good west a little more to the bad. I’ve heard that much of the seafood coming from parts of Asia are the result of horrible working conditions, with much of that imported into the US.

    I also always take these kinds of statistics with a huge grain of salt. Last year, the sex trafficking lobby was telling us that 250,000 sex workers were going to be trafficked into NY for the Super Bowl. With only about 60,000 actually in attendance, that made for a bit of a surplus, I’t think. Where did they put them all? Yet not one network reporter who did this story asked one skeptical question. This years is here in MN and already the local stations are running shocked stories about the thousands of poor women forced into sex work here.

    Advocates always need large numbers to make the crusade worthwhile. If only ten people are in horrible conditions, nobody will care. The more the merrier and nobody will really count them all.

  7. Synoia

    Are we not all “slaves” today?

    My summary of the historic definition of a slave was a “person as a chattel.” Property. Are children considered property? Were wives before emancipation property?

    Broadening the definition of slave to include young marriages, raises my question: “What is the current definition of slave”?

    Does it also include “wage slaves?” Slaves to Taxes?

    I’d also point out that “fee ownership” of land is little different than the Sovereign as Landlord, and Property Taxes as rent. When will we actually become free enough, and not tax slaves, to own land?

    1. Isotope_C14

      Totally agreed.

      The 99% poor are slaves essentially. Forced to deal with a carrot and stick model that is incredibly insulting, and unnecessary.

      The 1% rich are slaves to their mansions, cocaine, and getting more money, and now have to fear a poor revolt so they are surrounded by their bodyguards as they plan for their underground bunker jails.

      Too bad people don’t get really active in the Zeitgeist movement, that’s a real solution that would benefit 100% of people, and possibly curtail the onslaught of the sixth mass extinction event going on right now.

      If people embraced Peter Joseph’s resource based economy idea we could free everyone from a miserable existence that is largely self imposed by societal norms.

    2. Angie Neer

      “Are we not all “slaves” today?”
      Being forced to pay taxes is not the same as being property. Give me a break.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Today, one can sell fractions of oneself…time wise, or body parts wise.

        “I will buy 3 years of you. Can’t afford your entire remaining (working) life span. Can’t afford your repair and food bills.”

        “I will buy 3 hours of you.”

        “Your two legs belong to me for the next 3 minutes. How much is that again? No discount?”

      2. Chhhh

        I mean what happens if someone in the US decides not to work and are able bodied? Generally they may get some assistance but they’re destined to become destitute and starve.

  8. Vatch

    The author would be a lot more convincing if she would devote a little effort to showing that slavery doesn’t exist in the places where some say that it is present. Instead, she rails against imperialism and racism. Well, yes, imperialism and racism are bad, but acknowledging that doesn’t make slavery disappear.

    I’m also a little perplexed that she equates the marriage of a 16 year old with child marriage. Activists against child marriage are a lot more concerned about children 13 years old or younger being forced to marry.

    She does a tap dance around the topics that she is supposedly discussing, so this is a very disappointing article.

  9. Thuto

    I get the author’s point about non-western countries being forced to accept western cultural and moral cues as superior and more civilized than their own. In some cases, aid checks are delivered as a quid pro quo for a universal condemnation by a sitting government of some aspect of African culture that the western donor finds disagreeable or abhorrent, judging by their own western moral values. As a black african living in Africa, I can attest to this: western moral and cultural norms supplant those of African origin through constant reinforcement of the notion that “white is better” and adhering to and practising african cultural norms is systematically stigmatized (african languages are killed off in the same way). We currently have a case here in SA where young zulu girls are pushing back at those calling their topless dance routines at the annual reed dance improper and a form of abuse.

    Are there culturally oppresive norms that, considered within the context of an evolving society (not within the context of what the west considers oppressive), should be considered repugnant and perhaps abolished? Of course, but they exist everywhere, not just in the non-western world (e.g. the social darwinism doctrine dressed up as “the american dream/meritocracy” is an oppressive social construct that should be abolished). Perhaps the irony in all this is that the family of a mining magnate is headling all of this when the mining sector has practically enslaved tens of thousands of people on the continent in the pursuit of profits (I should know, my home province is SA has some of the world’s largest proven reserves of platinum and yet the mining industry has wreaked nothing short of havoc in the communities surrounding those mines).

  10. JCC

    I have actually met and/or been in contact with slaves here in the U.S. – “illegal” Chinese aliens kept as hotel/motel cleaners, their pay being room and board and nothing more. They were “owned” by a Chinese lady that owned a motel in Upstate NY on Seneca Lake (primarily a tourist stop in the summer) and a hotel in midtown Manhattan. Admittedly this is my only, primary, contact with this sort of exploitation.

    So would this be considered racism/imperialism of a Chinese woman towards other Chinese women?

    Just food for thought, not all slavery is practiced by racists and imperialists using the formal definition of those words. Slavery is part of “man’s inhumanity to man”, no one group is worse or better than the others when it comes to slavery, in the West or the East or Africa or anywhere else for that matter, and no group ever has been.

    1. JBird

      The excuses given by slave owners are sometimes different, but they always seem to be “we humans are better than those, so it’s okay to be inhuman towards them.” It does not matter where the place, when the time, or who the people, as the excuses for evil don’t change.

      If one reads some capitalists in Victorian England, and America, pre-war Southern politicians, or ardent Republican concervatives, or Democratic neoliberals their words have a dark similarity of exalting the elites and damning the poor as reprobates destined to the economic Pit. It’s as if they cannot, just can not see how ones circumstances can determine what will happen regardless of any actions or intrinsic worth or virtues.

      If I wasn’t so horrified, I’d think it amusing,

  11. rps

    The Walk Free Foundation on how it chooses to collect, compare, and display data. The message these positions promote is that the Western saviours of the world can do no wrong, especially in interaction with corrupt, culturally inferior ‘others’.

    E. Faulkner’s umbrage toward the political playbook of The Walk Free Foundation in controlling the message despite the foundation’s obvious hypocrisy appears to reflect the same arguments of previous social, colonial and feminist theorists. Part of Orwell’s 1984 theme explains that language is power. Pieter Vree extends the message encompassing the necessary mechanisms to control wealth and power through control of the language. “If you can control the language, you can control ideas. By controlling ideas, you can control the way people think and act.” Next, if you can control the political correctness of the message you can control the masses. If you restrict the grammar and limit the vocabulary, then you can limit freedom of thought.

    It also appears that E. Faulkner’s argument has taken bits and pieces of Edward Said’s 1978 book “Orientalism”, a critique of the West’s historical, cultural, and political perceptions of the East. And Lil Abu-Lughod’s “Orientalism and Middle East Feminist Studies.”

    Next, she targets ‘Abolitionist Cultural Imperialism’ and ‘A new ‘Civilising Mission’?’. Both arguments are filled with comparative similarities to the post-colonial theorist NGugi wa Thiong’o 1986 essays Decolonising the Mind: the Politics of Language in African Literature The domination of a people’s language by the languages of the colonising nations was crucial to the domination of the mental universe of the colonised. Take language as communication. Imposing a foreign language, and suppressing the native languages as spoken and written, were already breaking the harmony previously existing between the African child and the three aspects of language.

    Then she shifts gears to ‘child marriage’ as another form of slavery, which is reminiscent of Elizabeth Oakes Smith’s 1850 Tribune series, “Woman and Her Needs“. As well as feminist UmaNarayan’s 1989 essay. “The Project of Feminist Epistemology: Perspectives from a Nonwestern Feminist.”

  12. Jon Cloke

    I hadn’t come across the GSI before but the implicit racism laid out here reminds me very much of the corruption index of Transparency International. Briefly, corruption (which I have written about academically) only became fit for public discussion after the fall of the Socialist Bloc when the West no longer had to hide the massive corruption of our noble anti-communist allies.

    A bunch of refugees from the World Bank led by Peter Eigen set up TI as a basic bulwark of neoliberalism – corruption was all about the state, get rid of the state and let the free market reign and there would be no more corruption. Whereas TI’s view has softened since 1995, it cornered the market on funding of acceptable anti-corruption research and has become the go-to source for how corruption may be spoken of and researched, despite growing criticism of the simplistic analysis.

    Needless to say, the corruption index and the maps produced from it paint the so-called western liberal democracies as green, verdant zones of purity and justice and everywhere in Africa as red, dangerous zones of money-theft. TI’s attitudes don’t leave much room for massive corporate/private sector corruption and they really don’t like looking at the role of Western countries in encouraging corruption and then hiding stolen money on the network of offshore havens they sit on.

    But a TI index does come in mighty handy for depicting corruption in a simple, two-dimensional janet-and-john fashion that anti-corruption funders really like.. Global North good, Global South bad

    1. Thuto

      +1 Like how Glencore steals hundreds of millions annually from Zambia and parks the cash in Switzerland. I haven’t seen the TI map but I have a sneaky suspicion Zambia would be red and Switzerland green…

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