WARNING: this blog is different! Open minds required here!
This post is a long musing romp by the publisher of this blog. It talks about who he is; what he stands for; what he has experienced; plus a lot of talk about his knowledge of the real story of trafficking. It rambles.
It concludes with this writer’s predictions for the future, and what that means to you and for us all.
Enjoy the ride! ############################
This blog is the work of John Kane, a retiree from the United Department of State. John, speaking in the third person here, lives in Thailand. As a retiree you can guess that John wasn’t born yesterday. These are influences to his perspectives.
John recommends retirement in a foreign country for certain kinds of people – adventurers, people with small families and few close ties to community, people who want to save money, people with a special interest such as scuba diving, people with preexisting experience outside of America, and people discouraged by what they see in America these days. John fits all these categories.
When you do live outside of the USA somethings appear different. John remembers what a pain in the ass it was to get his car inspected regularly (and its cost). John remembers the pain in the ass it was to have a special car seat for children (and the expense) even when he somehow survived a childhood without that intrusion. Examples like that go on and on. More than ever America looked less like the “land of the free and home of the brave” and more each passing year as the “land of the over regulated and home of the fearful”. What do you think? (Write a comment.)
Many of America’s most important freedoms exist both in and outside the United States, such as John’s right to speak up with his criticism about American politics, laws, policies, etc. And he does speak up as you can see here! You should too!
More about FREEDOM
One difference John quickly spotted as an expat – short for expatriate, a name for people living outside their own country – is that there is more than one kind of freedom. In Thailand and many other places people do things that would be blatantly illegal in the USA, for example, to seat your whole family of four or five people on a small motor scooter or to set up a table in front of your urban home and sell food whenever you feel like it. The laws and regulations about these two examples would surely make either of these acts impossible in America of today. But those things, too, are a certain kind of freedom. But freedoms no longer possible in the “home of the free.” Yet hose kinds of freedoms feel good too.
American media is no longer honest journalism
Many of you occasionally look in on FOX News and probably gag at the hypocrisy when they claim impartiality. Then say the craziest things. For example they have open contempt for the President when a higher degree of respect has always been maintained in the past. Other media must follow suit as best they can while maintaining at least some appearance of journalistic integrity. They need to stay in the fight for ratings.
Totally unregulated bloggers (such as this blog) can say almost anything without regulation. This can be dangerous since the most extreme and exaggerated blogs can hold the front of the stage for ideas.
This blog asks for nothing except that maybe you will consider what is said here. Others abuse this lack or regulation with crazy exaggeration and only want your donations and support for ideas based on those same exaggerations and even lies. There many great boos and respected blogs about this change in our media in recent years.
Is America universally loved ?
When we actually live in another country, as opposed to just visiting, we see a different perspective in a much broader source of media news. We have new feelings for people everywhere when we meet them face to face. The world simply looks different from outside the USA.
America’s sense of superiority and entitlement disappears. America no longer appears to be universally loved as it is believed in many corners of America. The myth of American exceptionalism is well know around the world. But it is wearing thin quickly when America forces its culture – rife with social panic fears – on so many people and they find that culture lacking.
Charles M. Blow of the New York Tines offers this timely article, Who Loves America.
Give me one reason why this John guy knows any more than anyone else about trafficking? He does a lot of talking! But what does he really know?
This is hard to explain, hard for John, but it needs to be said. John has been divorced for ten years and retired for eight. After a period of angst over the divorce John got “horny” as men do He still wanted to have a sex life even in his late 50s, but he didn’t want to rush into another marriage, in fact he just did not want to get married again.
Against all common knowledge John discovered that prostitutes he met were often nice people, good company, with no obligations or baggage to mix with John’s own baggage. Weird, right? John liked prostitutes. They liked John. In a time of great stress John found a relief valve, not just in the sex, but also in the no obligation, no pressure relationship.
That is an important first step if you want to truly understand trafficking. So many experts are “experts from afar” who tend to infantilize sex workers and pull out their shovel load of shame with no real experience of their own, or denying what experience they have.
You are reading a blog written by an expert in the sense that he is not condemning prostitutes with a lot of moralistic dribble. (In most cases, to be polite, John will talk about sex workers and sex work – not prostitutes.)
Other people, men and women but often women, claim to know something about sex work in general. Often they just “know” by their own version of faith that all – ALL – sex workers hate every minute of what they do. They must be forced to do it or be very desperate for other reasons. The word spreads as if each person in the chain really knows what they are talking about. Wrong! But John knows! John has actually conducted research on that very subject with help from a Thai university. You can read about that here.
Anti-trafficking zealots with a religious point of view have a big shovel load of shame to toss around regarding sex work. Anti-trafficking zealots with a feminist point of view usually represent the anti-sex branch of feminists. (Learn more here.) They know, from their indoctrination I suppose, that all men are rapists and brutally take their male domination with them when they meet sex workers. Some feminists believe that all heterosexual relations are rape. Therefore all sex work must be rape too. Really crazy but they hold the high ground as they pitch their crazy ideas around as if they are facts.
A favorite example of hypocrisy
This issue of sex trafficking often has an element of hypocrisy too. A particular irritating example of is Ashton Kuchter, the actor, who started a campaign with his wife Demi Moore what shouted loud and clear that “Real Men Don’t Buy Women”. Of course it is far more accurate to say that it is famous men like Ashton who don’t “Buy Women” with money because they “pay” with their celebrity status. With Ashton in mind you have to ask yourself whether you prefer a married philanderer? Or consider if a single man is the better person if he approaches a sex worker with respect and some money as an equalizing factor.
Ashton, of course, is no longer married to Demi Moore, one of America’s most beautiful actresses. He married a different actress. But both women know he can have a woman in his bed at any time with no money. He doesn’t buy girl’s! He doesn’t have to, but he gets them! His young fling, a 20 something actress-wantabe that lead to his divorce was interviewed in a celebrity magazine. She said that most of her friends would be glad to spend the night with Ashton (as she did) because he is a celebrity. Wooow! Nice to know how young modern women think. It looks like lots of men don’t (have to) buy women. Hard for an older man to believe at times, but it look s like lots of women are “free” so they can have entertainment-style sex too. Who knew?
Ashton’s “real men don’t buy women” campaign falls flat on its face because Ashton “buys” women with his celebrity status. John, like normal men, uses some money when he must to equalize his lack of celebrity status.
Decriminalizing sex work could easily be the next civil right issue. That is the campaign that deserves some high level celebrity input. Sex work can be empowering.
Who do you trust?
Who do you trust to help you understand sex work in general and also sex trafficking? Do you trust a philandering married man? Do you trust middle age women or preachers who dare not talk about anything other than the acceptable company line, the common knowledge that they want you to believe? Humm, let’s see. Who is left? Do you trust a responsible single man, retired from the State Department who is trying to make sense of his very real experiences for you, and for the sake of better policy?
A side bar: I fully agree with a campaign to stop rape. Men must treat women appropriate levels of respect, especially sex workers in my case. Rape is sick!
Sexual abuse and rape on American college campuses, unfortunately, is another social panic issue in America. As much as I regret saying this, I agree with Fox News on this. Current response to questionable stories about an epidemic of rape on college campuses seems to be highly exaggerated and most likely false. But the response has resulted in men being forced off campuses with their lives changed over weak accusations. Policy changes deny them the traditional right to raise a defense and face their accuser.
Rape should not happen – ever!
Men should take leadership in making sure rape doesn’t happen. No woman should face that kind of assault. Women enjoy sex too so seek cooperation and teamwork as a partnership in the activity – or stand down.
I am an advocate of training men, often older men, in how to behave in a respectful manner with sex workers too. And why not? Responsible, even generous, behavior with sex workers will result in better service.
Younger men should also have more training in responsible sexual behavior. Unfortunately this should fall under the category of sexual education which is poorly funded or denied in most American schools.
A closely related subject is to help both young men and young women to behave carefully around alcohol and drugs. The earliest college years are thought to be the most dangerous in may ways. That is partly due to it being a time when the same younger people, especially women, learn about many new adult experiences when they are truly on their own often for the first time. Having adult experiences for the first time with both sex and social drinking or drugs is a dangerous combination. Everyone should be damned close to completely sober when sex is part of the entertainment plan.
How things have changed?
Prior to WWII over 50% of all American men lost their virginity with a prostitute. That has changed especially since many, if not most, American teenagers, male and female, now seem to lose their virginity before they graduate from high school. Sex work has become the outlet almost exclusively for older men in recent years. Good looking, well socialized young men get their sex for free, or they too are limited to sex work for social reasons. Young women get theirs for free. Older men, of a different generation, pay some as an equalizing factor and can safely be with sex workers. Matchmaker sites satisfy both sexes for older people so inclined. All of these circumstances are vastly different then they not so long ago.
John has lived in Albania, Dominican Republic, Germany and of course America. He has traveled often and at length in Cambodia, Vietnam, Madagascar, Philippines, and shorter stop overs in several European countries. He thinks he has learned something along the way people behave outside of the USA as opposed to in the USA. This is the foundation to later statements that John thinks the USA is exporting the sex culture of the USA. Good hearted people are involved in an anti-trafficking movement, often a veiled anti-prostitution movement, based on being steeped in American culture and little experience with other cultures.
Nation sovereignty seems to be ignored in our modern global world. This may be fine regarding some business matters, but cultural difference, especially sexual cultural difference is a tougher nut to crack. Countries will knuckle under to American demands but they won’t like it.
Is trafficking only about sex workers? Some times it seems that way.
Sex trafficking gets far to much attention. Sex trafficking, especially the highly exaggerative narrative about it, sells tickets to movies. It puts people in seats to watch television shows. The same exaggerations are used in bogs, especially for nongovernment organizations (NGOs) because they want your donation. John will talk about other forms of trafficking shortly.
Last year, 2014, was a banner year for exploding myths about trafficking.
I urge you to look into the story of Somaly Mam (Newsweek’s expose) and the same for Chong Kim (exposed here). Somaly Mam was the guest at the White House and courted by Hillary Clinton while she was Secretary of State. We can only wonder what her influence has been on American foreign policy.
I am just learning about Chong Kim. Hollywood made a movie, EDEN, in 2012 about her life story starring Beau Bridges. It was not a documentary, but a full length movie. Based on that the real Chong Kim has been active on the lecture circuit. She is represented by a major speakers bureau. John sent an email and asked if she can come to Thailand to speak at his university. Her agent quoted a fee of $10,000 for one talk. It was not clear if that did or did not include travel expenses. But, again, she is being exposed for telling an entertaining story she made up. Based on that alone she might even get more money as a paid speaker now that she is exposed as a fraud. (See more here)
As I researched the Chong Kim story for this post, I liked this general quote that affirms
exactly what I am saying here, mainly that the issue of sex trafficking in America and internationally is built on a foundation of exaggeration and even lies: Read the entire article here.
It (The movie Eden) is a pretty good summary of the standard narrative on sex-trafficking these days: it’s everywhere, all the time, and we don’t even know it; the only way to combat it is to keep throwing cops and money and laws at it; and anyone who questions any of this is only aiding the evildoers. It’s almost impossible to argue with people who buy this narrative, because the more evidence you present challenging sex trafficking’s pervasiveness, the more they see proof that sex trafficking is so under the radar we need to throw more cops and money and laws at it.
As we’ve seen time and again, however, these tactics tend to under-produce on the stopping sex trafficking front and overcompensate by targeting consenting adult sex workers—either by arresting them or labeling them victims and sending them to things like “prostitution diversion therapy”—and their clients. The majority of genuine sex trafficking cases that are uncovered tend to be older teenagers—still terrible, but far from the horror stories we hear from anti-trafficking advocates, who insist throngs of young girls are being sold as sex slaves.
This kind of understanding trafficking both in America and internationally is spreading rapidly as more and more serious cases of exaggeration and deliberate lies are being exposed.
No one involved at any level interested in the issue of trafficking can claim to be properly informed without reading this article.
One of the most important contributions from the quality journalistic sources is a 2007 article by the Washington Post (unquestionably a historically significant ethical journalistic source) written by Jerry Markon, with the very clear title of Human Trafficking Evokes Outrage, Little Evidence.
No one involved at any level regarding the issue of trafficking can claim to be properly informed without reading this article. The article provides an early history of what for many is now being exposed as just another social panic issue, but one that is affecting US relations around the world.
What about labor trafficking? How is that different then sex trafficking?
There are more people, mostly men, being forced into a bad job possibly with slave-like elements, then there are people, mostly women, forced into sex work.
There is a lot MORE labor trafficking then sex trafficking!
Labor trafficking does not have the flair, and yes not the sex appeal, that makes very ordinary movies (Taken, Skin Trade) into financial successes.
But a lot more people qualify as trafficking victims when they are trapped into a truly bad job circumstance. There is more labor trafficking, by far, than sex trafficking. Anti-trafficking zealots take advantage of this and pull out their “slavery card.” Slavery in nineteen century America was nasty business. Maybe there is some exaggeration about that too, but I do not question that it was brutal and dehumanizing.
Because of this emotional understanding of slavery, especially in America the world’s wealthiest and most powerful country, there are people who benefit from an emotional connection to slavery: it fires up the volunteers and it fills the donation box.
Challenging this narrative is even potentially dangerous for people who offer a different understanding of this association of slavery. It is not a friendly world to be a “slavery denier.” The anti-labor trafficking organizations know this and so they have their own word for the slavery they see now: Modern Day Slavery or MDS. This is their way to link the emotions of 19th century slavery in America to this somewhat different issue of Modern Day Slavery. There are many kinds of MDS. There are rare situations where MDS could in fact be very much like slave circumstances in pre-civil war America – but rarely, very rarely and only in somewhat remote poor countries.
My complaint about use of slavery as a tool to justify anti-trafficking agendas is that, just as is the case with sex slavery, people who want to rescue “victims” of slavery find few victims.
Just as is the case with sex trafficking, again, the anti-trafficking forces have to beg people they want to rescue to agree to be “victims” on the record. Some cases are obvious of course, like the man shanghaied (to use a classic old expression) to work on a fishing boat, but the boat only returns home after months, even years, at sea. Sure, that’s slavery, but in interviews even those people do not always agree that they are victims.
Most people who have been trafficked (or more often smuggled) for labor do so willing. Again, a major job of rescue industry NGOs and government officials is to teach or reward people to agree to be a victims. The main reason for this is to get their victim status on record to satisfy American demands to show results. Men shanghaied on ships know they got a raw deal but it was a job and their were often among friends and simply do not agree to be a victims to satisfy someone else’s agenda. I would supply samples but they are in the Bangkok Post and not in digital form to add here.
American government misunderstanding of this entire issue as a result of the influence of people like Somaly Mam and Chaing Kim and hundreds of others writing exaggerations on the internet. That misinformation has clearly found a willing group to lap up the exaggerated stories. That would be the American people and the American Congress.
Labor trafficking is largely explained by a simple statement used throughout this blog. John says this: People out number jobs. In a world quickly approaching 8 billion people, people now out number jobs!
Let’s go a step further and explain this statement: Hungry people are driven off their land or away from their home for many diverse reasons. They become one more person without a job and become a part of a huge churn of people in the same boat. Often those people are the unskilled or semiskilled. John says this, “When a farmer is forced off his land, he usually goes to the biggest urban center. When he gets there what does he have to offer an employer? He has “farm skills.”
What about working women? Yes, sex workers again!
Please note: Sometimes it is the women, usually daughters, who have something to do to earn a living, often a better living than college educated teachers, nurses, and the like can earn. Those women become the saviors of their families as they take care of their mothers, fathers, brothers, sister, sister’s children and their own children. These noble women are often mistreated. Anti-prostitution campaigns, masquerading as anti-trafficking NGOs, lead attacks on all sex work. Those same organizations never talk about any alternative to replace the hundreds of thousands of well paying jobs they will eliminate if their campaigns are successful. Sex work is work! Never forget it!
And, again, what about those semi-skilled men who want a job?
Is this often uneducated, at best semi skilled person happy to get any job, even a dangerous low paid one? I say YES! He says YES too! Is he a victim, and is he happy if we treat him as a victim, when he is just doing the best he can do. How would you feel about a forced “rescue” from the admittedly stupid, crappy, dangerous job that may be what feeds your family?
He sees an opportunity, although not one we would chase after. He may have hopes to move up in the world. If the anti-trafficking movement of rescue NGOs “rescue” him against his will he will probably find himself in some kind of camp, not unlike a prison, either waiting for deportation or a government handout. In effect his “rescue” means he must start over on the same desperate path. This is not always the case, but it is common.
Of course, again, America wants victims to tick off on their list to prove their success at saving the world from something many do not consider to be America’s business in the first place.
When we all start to think about trafficking in this way the exaggeration will go away; some far more useful answers will become clear; and movie makers can go back to using WWII Nazi’s as their favorite villains.
Here is one small solution, but not an easy one?
I have one answer. Assume for a moment that people do out number jobs, – as they do and it will only get a lot worse – than what can we learn from that? That is my temporary solution.
People do outnumber jobs, but not everywhere. The unemployment rate in Thailand is less than one percent. But the unemployment rate in the Philippines, Myanmar, Laos, and other southeast Asian countries is much higher. This should be a big hint for a possible solution. If there are places where many idle, yet hungry, people reside and only a simple border exists between a place where workers are needed, then the people should go to those jobs! Simple, right? That is exactly the service smugglers (and to a lesser extent traffickers) provide.
Many tourist restaurants in Bangkok have wait staff from either Myanmar or the Philippines because people from those countries speak much better English. Both have had historic contact with English people, one as a British colony and the other as a United States colony. Thai children struggle to ignore their English teachers year after year until the get out of high school. Thais who speak good English are often the well to do people who went to private schools.
So, Thailand needs workers who speak English. Some waiters from other countries are legal immigrants and some are not legal. Whatever the case may be they help balance the lack of workers on one side of a border with growingly desperate people on the other side of a border. It is this process of balancing jobs and people across borders that offers a big solution to the issue of trafficking. That can be done in a more effective way.
Smugglers of people (and to a lesser extent traffickers) do their best, earning a profit based on their risk, to make that border to away. Sometimes a border is a line in the jungle that anyone can cross if they know the way. Smugglers (and to a lesser extent traffickers) are in many cases seen as the heroes of this story.
Definitions are flexible and very important to fight over!
Please note that because of the continued demonization of “trafficking,” including how the word itself is used, there may no longer be a use for the word “smuggler.” There are significant differences in the definitions of each activity but smuggling could just be redefined as trafficking, by far now a more serious crime.
Also note, on the same subject, in 2009, UN conferences worked on approval of a definition of trafficking. Currently it includes deception, coercion, and force. If a trafficked person is under 18 that automatically means she was trafficked regardless of whether she was willingly participant. In those same meetings there was a concerted effort to include all prostitution as being illegal under the definition of trafficking, just as anyone under 18 is included regardless of consenting role or involvement. Had prostitution been included under the definition of trafficking it would be illegal everywhere in the world regardless of adult consent or the laws where this prostitution took place.
Adding all prostitution to the definition of trafficking originated with the Philippine contingent, a close ally of America. Some America’s closest allies have very active and even historic sex industries. If attack on all prostitution comes up again it helps drive a wedge between America and Germany, Holland, Austria, and Japan among those with open, regulated sex industries.
So why don’t we just open borders and let idle people go to available jobs?
Governments and native people in a country who may lose their job to an irregular immigrant may not agree with this idea of balance people and jobs across borders. All the normal factors of racism, prejudice based on religion, culture, fear of others not like us, and nationalism all work against this balancing of jobs on one side of a border with idle people on the other side. In Europe conservative and even radical political parties already are becoming successful due to the influx of many irregular immigrants from Africa and Middle Eastern countries.
Who can we blame? We might others blame later?
America’s War on Trafficking exasperates the entire situation by demanding that laws be changed with longer prison sentences and quicker “justice” which simple makes the crime of both smuggling and trafficking more risky. More risk means higher fees and stricter rules and demands upon the people on the move. Altruistic smugglers asking a fair fee can be turned into brutal traffickers as pressure comes from American demands around the world. History will not be kind to America’s criminal justice style to resolve this migration issue of which trafficking is only the most obvious symptom.
American’s criminal justice based trafficking policy exasperates any chance of changes to the churning masses of trafficking of people.
In Thailand, as I write Thais are bending over backward and doing everything they can to convince the US Department of State to return Thailand from the current tier three TIP status. Thailand tries hard to make America happy. They are making new laws; making big plans; attacking more possibly innocent people; and publicizing their new get-tough attitude everywhere.
Previously a neighbor or small travel agent might have taken some illegal steps to help someone travel to job for some money. Now that same neighbor or local travel agent might be afraid to say anything because he knows that might make him a smuggler, or worse a trafficker. Local people helping each other will become rare.
Truly bad people will still be standing in the wings with more oppressive offers. Brutal forms of trafficking will flourish while far more kindly help fades away. And it will be the entire world, not including America itself, who will understand that it was American’s involvement that stirred this pot and made things worse.
Understanding trafficking results from understanding migration.
Trafficking is a symptom of migration pressures. It helps to understand population growth too. But the balancing of jobs with available people is an important stop gap measure. This too is made more difficult by US trafficking policy. Policies and programs to match people with jobs and to retrain people with “farm skills” is what this situation calls for NOW! In another 5 or 10 years that solution will be far more difficult. Focusing on trafficking as a criminal justice issue misses the point.
This is important: Sex work is work.
This is one more important topic regarding labor trafficking: sex work is work. John says this in his blog but it is not his saying. This is a common theme among feminist and civil rights based groups in Europe and around the world.
Please note that America is a very moralistic country. It is far more religious (similar to Kenya in John’s opinion) compared to any other industrialized first world country. People of faith will be proud of this, but it certainly does set America apart from normal world opinion.
The feminist movement has been split down the middle between two ways of thinking: First, there are those who see prostitution as an example of horrible domination by men that needs to be stopped at all costs. The most extreme see all heterosexual sex act as being rape whether between married couples or consenting adults. That is much more common among organized feminists in America.
Second, in Europe and elsewhere a strong opinion is growing that prostitution is a civil rights issue. Many organized groups of sex workers say “Sex work is work.” as part of their campaigns to demand rights based on work related laws.
There is a group in Cambodia, with the logo of a sewing machine with a circle and a line
across it (meaning NO to sewing machines). This is because Cambodia, with a big garment industry, has a history of rounding up sex workers and confining them to retraining camps to learn to use sewing machines. But the sex workers often left the drudgery of a garment factory and prefer sex work.
While anti-sex feminists and civil rights feminists agree on virtually everything else – equal work for equal pay, abortion rights, etc – this area of disagreement plays out on an international scale. It is a divide in the philosophy between the leadership of feminists based on American sex culture and the leadership of feminists not based on American sex culture.
Please remember that America is a follower regarding many social issues, although most Americans think the opposite. All European countries involved in the slavery trade made that illegal 20 years or more before America. Same sex marriage, abortion, use of contraception, and other issues that are big issues in America are not an issue at all in most other industrialized first world countries. Yet it is, America, this follower regarding social issues, that is conducting a world wide War on Trafficking. Many people agree that America’s War on Trafficking is a thinly veiled war on all prostitution based on moral prudish American sex culture.
But enough about this John guy and what he thinks – –
So, who are you? Who comes to this website? I assume a lot of different kinds of people will find their way here.
- I assume there will a good sprinkling of good hearted people who are very involved, or at least very interested, in this subject of trafficking. Some will be angry with me for popping the bubble of the simplistic narrative of abused children and slavery. GOOD! One of the biggest problems with this issue is that it is has a foundation of simple, often dishonest, exaggeration.
- I assume some students might find this site, maybe when they are writing a paper. GOOD! Students might still have open minds especially if they need some counterpoint to the simplistic narrative to make an interesting, original paper.
- I assume there will be some people I consider to be my peers and colleagues who take a civil rights and migration stand regarding all trafficking issues. GOOD! Everyone else needs to know the the US State Department criminal justice point-of-view is not the only way leading to understanding trafficking.
- I assume my ex-wife and my daughter will read this someday, and someday my grandchildren will too. GOOD!
In my grandchildren’s life time I predict that population might reach 15 billion people (the high UN estimate and double what it is now) and surely well over 10 billion. Clean water will be scarce. Salt water will reach a new shoreline close to the Appalachian Mountains. Many people will be in communal living conditions sharing jobs on a part time basis. Those people may receive room and board in conditions some now think of as modern day slavery. The wealthiest 1% will live a full and safe life largely oblivious to the problems of the other 99%.
That is my prediction.
Anyone reading this, and especially my grandchildren, can put this aside to find again in your old age. See then how close I came in my old age.