Hidden Slavery

Chrystia Freeland, in her book
mentions something interesting, a bit sublime perhaps, and subtle, but surely more shocking than all the calculations by beancounters as Piketty – though their work may also be of some importance – at least for those who prefer the wooden hammer info of numbers instead of approaching harsh reality shows of life. So, the reality, the real meaning is grasped in the book I just mentioned, talking about Eric Emerson Schmidt, whom wikipedia sees simply as “Software engineer and businessman” and his “interesting views”.

If you traveled to Mountain View to visit Eric Schmidt when he was CEO of Google, you would have found him in a narrow office barely big enough to hold three people. The equations on the whiteboard may well have been scribbled by one of the engineers who works next door and is welcome to use the chief’s office whenever he’s not in. And while it is okay to have a private jet in the Valley, employing a chauffeur is frowned upon. “Whereas in other cultures, you can drive your Rolls-Royce around and just sort of look rich and have a really good time, in technology it’s not socially okay to have a driver who drives you to work every day,” Schmidt told me. “I don’t know why, but you’ll notice nobody does it.”

This egalitarian style can clash with the Valley’s reality of extreme income polarization. “Many tech companies solved this problem by having the lowest-paid workers not actually be employees. They’re contracted out,” Schmidt explained. “We can treat them differently, because we don’t really hire them. The person who’s cleaning the bathroom is not exactly the same sort of person. Which I find sort of offensive, but it is the way it’s done.”

This is also mentioned in a presentation that is available on the web.
Doesn’t this remind a bit of the treatment of slaves – we are frequently shocked when thinking about the blunt ignorance of ancient times, or the slave trade in modern times. And we may be shocked (only “may be” as not all are) when we hear about migration and the fortress Europe. But the day-to-day trafficking within this system is easily ignored, not even recognised by so many.
I remember, taking part in a conference organised several years ago by the European Commission, taking place in Birmingham. The event’s concern: labour market and using the ESF as means for the integration of the weakest. During the conference dinner a friend of mine asked the waitress a few questions – about income, working conditions … We learned that the lady had been underpaid, and “on call”. Whenever she heard (short notice) that she would be “allowed” to work few hours she had to do it: “you can say “no” once, but surely not more. She had to look then for somebody taking care of her little boy.
All this surely appalling – but it came worse: We went to somebody from the Commission – the organiser. “We cannot do anything. This service had been advertised. We looked for the best bid – and we can only check the technical correctness ….”
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Switching scene, back to Eric Schmidt. Wikipdia also lets us know:

Schmidt was a campaign advisor and major donor to Barack Obama and served on Google’s government relations team. Obama considered him for Commerce Secretary. Schmidt was an informal advisor to the Obama presidential campaign and began campaigning the week of October 19, 2008, on behalf of the candidate. He was mentioned as a possible candidate for the Chief Technology Officer position, which Obama created in his administration. After Obama won in 2008, Schmidt became a member of President Obama’s transition advisory board. He proposed that the easiest way to solve all of the problems of the United States at once, at least in domestic policies, is by a stimulus program that rewards renewable energy and, over time, attempts to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy.

He has since become a new member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology PCAST.

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Switching scene, back to Europe again: there is something in all this, that reminds me of an article I read recently, talking about refugees and consumerism. The main argument: The crisis is not least a warning that we have to move away from consumerist attitudes – a bit of solidarity as sharing attitude. Yes, may be there is some truth also in that. But to be honest, the baseline of it is in my view not much more than a left good-doer attitude, not looking FIRST AND FOREMOST at the untouched relations and mode of production. The comments on the article are actually quote telling, and though I agree on many issues with the author, I see (and disagree) as well with the “quasi-religious attitude” behind it, pleading nolens volens for all of us tightening the belt …. Eating less meat and vegetarianism does not make a revolution.
And thus it easily leaves the old patterns intact – the following little episode could well be one that we find referred to in the works of Milton Friedman – I had been revisiting his work recently more or less extensively. There is no free lunch – but the “free market” surely guarantees that inequality remains:
In the journal distributed in Italian trains I saw this ad for luxurious transport bytrain:
Later then, in the same travel journal, the editorial or a dedication presented the move to make train stations public, offering space for those most in need – yes, and it is even free of charge:
And next to it again a fancy ad – but we know such clash from earlier. So to say, the free lunch, falling from the table of the super-rich ….
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Switching scene, back to the world.
Currently we can follow the UN-debates on the New Sustainability Goals.
Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa made some valid and crucially important points in his speech, highlighting the necessity to change the foundations of the current system – not by changing the determinants of exchange (more just etc.), but by changing the foundations of the current system. And these foundations are not about changes of norms, of consumerism etc.: they are about the change of the mode of production. And though we are talking (rightly) about globalisation, and even if we criticise war-mongering, we forget that nationalism is still one of the fundamental features of the current system. It causes the externalisation of cost; and it causes the ongoing debate on migration as matter of “accommodating people from other countries” instead of acknowledging the need for a more fundamental re-thinking, looking for
human mobility laws based on human rights
In his speech, Correa  also criticises “social minimum approaches”, vehemently arguing for the need of moving to social maxima.
Indeed, religion, also in a modernised form, will not get us anywhere. Dealing with distribution, has to be about production.

The sad victory of injustice

Hamlet’s thoughts come to mind

…To be, or not to be, that is the question:

Whether ‘tis Nobler in the mind to suffer

The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,

Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,

And by opposing end them: to die, to sleep

No more; and by a sleep, to say we end

The Heart-ache, and the thousand Natural shocks

That Flesh is heir to? ‘Tis a consummation

Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep,

To sleep, perchance to Dream; aye, there’s the rub,

For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come,

When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,

Must give us pause. There’s the respect

That makes Calamity of so long life:

For who would bear the Whips and Scorns of time,

The Oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s Contumely,

The pangs of despised Love, the Law’s delay,

The insolence of Office, and the Spurns

Though instead of his proposals it is now even more the time to take up the weapons against those who dealt the deathblow to the European project.

Disappointments

Following up on the recent post, here is something more on the issue of the European Fortress

Press Release from Watch the Med/the Alarm Phone

On April 20, the Joint Foreign and Home Affairs Council of the EU released a ten-​point action plan outlining their response to the recent deaths of migrants in the Mediterranean Sea. Many other proposals have also been made over the last few days. We are activists who have been involved in the struggles against the European border regime for several years and who have been in touch on a daily basis with hundreds of people who have crossed the Mediterranean through Watch The Med and the Alarm Phone project. Faced with the hypocrisy of the “solutions” that have been proposed so far, we feel compelled to undermine their falsity and attempt to open up an alternative space for reflection and action.

  1. We are shocked and angered at the recent tragedies that have claimed at least 1200 lives in the Mediterranean Sea in the last week. We are shocked, although not surprised, by the unprecedented number of deaths in merely a few days. We are angered because we know that without a radical change these are just the first of many more deaths to come in 2015.
  1. We are also angered because we know that what is proposed to us as a “solution” to this unbearable situation only amounts to more of the same: violence and death. The EU has called for the reinforcement of Frontex’ Triton mission. Frontex is a migration deterrence agency and Triton has been created with the clear mandate to protect borders, not to save lives.
  1. However, even if saving lives was to be its core task, as it was the case for the military-​humanitarian operation Mare Nostrum in 2014, it is clear that this would not bring dying at sea to an end. Those who suggest a European Mare Nostrum should be reminded that even during its mission, the most grandiose rescue operation in the Mediterranean to date, more than 3.400 people died. Is this figure acceptable to the European public?
  1. Others have called for an international military operation in Libya, a naval blockade or the further enlisting of African countries for the policing of their own land borders. The history of the last 20 years in the Mediterranean shows that stepping up the militarization of migration routes is only cause to more death. Each and every time a route into Europe has been blocked by new surveillance technologies and increasing policing, migrants have not stopped arriving. They have simply been forced to take longer and more dangerous routes. The recent deaths in the Central and Eastern Mediterranean are the result of the militarization of the Gibraltar Strait, of the Canary Islands, of the land border between Greece and Turkey, and of several land borders in the Sahara. The “successes” of Frontex mean death to thousands of people.
  1. International organisations as well politicians from across the whole political spectrum have denounced smugglers as the main cause of death in the Mediterranean Sea. Several prominent politicians have compared the smuggling of migrants to the transatlantic slave trade. There seems no limit to hypocrisy: those who uphold the slave regime condemning the slave traders! We know very well that smugglers operating in the context of the Libyan civil war are often ruthless criminals. But we also know that the only reason why migrants have to resort to them is the European border regime. Smuggling networks would be history in no time if those who now die at sea could instead reach Europe legally. The visa regime that prevents them from doing so was introduced only 25 years ago.
  1. Those who have called, once again, for the creation of asylum processing centres in Northern Africa should be reminded of two examples that are the most accurate examples of what these centres would actually mean. First, the Tunisian Choucha camp managed by the UNHCR, which abandoned those who sought refuge there from the Libyan conflict. Even those who were recognized as needing international protections were left behind in the Tunisian desert, often without any other choice than trying to cross the sea. Second, the creation by Australia of offshore processing centres on remote “prison-​islands”, which is now hailed by many as a role model for Europe, only shows how hideous the forceful confinement of asylum seekers can be. These “solutions” serve only to displace the violence of the European border regime away from the eyes of Western publics.
  1. Faced with this situation, what is to be done? Comrades and friends with whom we have shared common struggles in the past years have been calling for freedom of movement as the only viable response to this situation. We too make this demand ours, as it is the only one that has managed to open up a space of political imagination in an otherwise suffocating debate. Only unconditional legal access to the EU can end the death of migrants at sea. And yet we think that a general call for the freedom of movement is not enough in the current context. We want to consider the freedom of movement not as a distant utopia but as a practice – enacted by migrants on a daily basis often at the cost of their lives — that should guide our political struggles here and now.
  1. These are the reasons why we call for the institution of a humanitarian ferry, that should travel to Libya and evacuate as many people as possible. These people should be brought to Europe and granted unconditional protection in Europe, without undergoing an asylum process which has lost its original purpose to protect and has de facto become yet another tool of exclusion.
  1. Is the idea of a ferry unrealistic? In 2011, at the height of the Libyan civil war, humanitarian ferries evacuated thousands of stranded migrants from Misrata to Bengasi, overcoming obstacles such as shelling, constant fire and sea mines. This shows that even in the current volatile situation of Libya, considering such an action is possible. Moreover, ferries would certainly be immensely cheaper than the prospect of a massive rescue mission at sea and of any military solution.
  1. The only reality we know is that any solution short of this will continue to lead to more deaths at sea. We know that no process of externalisation of asylum procedures and border control, no amount of compliance with the legal obligations to rescue, no increase in surveillance and militarization will stop the mass dying at sea. In the immediate terms, all we need is legal access and ferries. Will the EU and international agencies be ready to take these steps, or will civil society have to do it for them?

The Alarm Phone

wtm-​alarm-​phone@​ antira.​info

http:// ​www​.watchthemed​.net/​i​n​d​e​x​.​p​h​p​/​p​a​g​e​/​i​n​d​e​x​ /12
http://criticallegalthinking.com/2015/04/23/ferries-not-frontex-10-points-to-really-end-the-deaths-of-migrants-at-sea/

humiliation?

It may be that, it is worse: an inhumane strategic orientation when it comes to the EU’s understanding and defining of  problems.

The dramatic developments in the south of the European Union are obvious – the signals of humans drowning tine sea cannot be overlooked, even if the European Commissions website is not too impressed by the problem. Today (21/42015) presents news under the headlines of
  • EU acts on illegal fishing
  • TTIP to boost small enterprises
  • Commission opens google antitrust proceedings
And the priorities are named as
  • Jobs, Growth and Investment
  • Digital Single Market
  • Energy Union and Climate
Something is leading from the main page to the topic migration – and we read
Objectives

• Ensuring that all EU countries apply asylum rules in the same manner, by fully implementing the common European asylum system (CEAS).
• Enforcing EU laws penalising human traffickers vigorously.
• Protecting our external borders better by increasing the budget of the European border agency Frontex.
• Cooperating more closely with non EU countries to smooth repatriation of irregular migrants.
• Promoting the legal migration of persons with skills needed in Europe, through a review of the ‘Blue Card’ legislation.
And all this is stated:
  • while the threat for people who are desperately struggle to survive are actually running into a death trap
  • after just one day ago the walls of the fortress Europe had been strengthened, and we find the outline of what we can expect:
Ten points
• Reinforce the Joint Operations in the Mediterranean, namely Triton and Poseidon, by increasing the financial resources and the number of assets. We will also extend their operational area, allowing us to intervene further, within the mandate of Frontex;
• A systematic effort to capture and destroy vessels used by the smugglers. The positive results obtained with the Atalanta operation should inspire us to similar operations against smugglers in the Mediterranean;
• EUROPOL, FRONTEX, EASO and EUROJUST will meet regularly and work closely to gather information on smugglers modus operandi, to trace their funds and to assist in their investigation;
• EASO to deploy teams in Italy and Greece for joint processing of asylum applications;
• Member States to ensure fingerprinting of all migrants;
• Consider options for an emergency relocation mechanism;
• A EU wide voluntary pilot project on resettlement, offering a number of places to persons in need of protection;
• Establish a new return programme for rapid return of irregular migrants coordinated by Frontex from frontline Member States;
• Engagement with countries surrounding Libya through a joined effort between the Commission and the EEAS; initiatives in Niger have to be stepped up.
• Deploy Immigration Liaison Officers (ILO) in key third countries, to gather intelligence on migratory flows and strengthen the role of the EU Delegations.
It is a kind of war – and though there is no easy solution at hand, there is surely the need to think more thoroughly in terms of opening borders and minds instead of opening the routes to war.
I wrote a small piece (in German language) on this topic in the book that is currently released:

“Kriege im 21. Jahrhundert.
Neue Herausforderungen der Friedensbewegung”,
herausgegeben von Rudolph Bauer,
mit Beiträgen von der Antikriegskonferenz Berlin2014
Annweiler am Trifels: Sonnenberg Verlag 2015
(= Friedenspolitische Reihe: Bd. 01)
ISBN 978-3-933264-77-0
374 Seiten, Euro 19.80
Bestelllink:
http://sonnenbergverlag.de/index.php?section=buecher&menulinks=buecher&menuauswahl=5