The nature and history of religion

Religion is something left over from the infancy of our intelligence, it will fade as we adopt reason and science as our guidelines.  

 – Bertrand Russell

If the ignorance of nature gave birth to such a variety of gods, the knowledge of this nature is calculated to destroy them.  

 – Baron d’Holbach

A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything.  

 – Friedrich Nietzsche

Religion was humanity’s first attempt to explain the nature of the world, since without understanding science, how other than with gods and superstitions were ancient persons expected to comprehend the phenomena within the world around them? In such absence, mysticism and superstition are the forgivable ignorance from which religions of all stripes were born. The origins of religion are, I think, therefore completely understandable. Since the advent of modern science, however, religion has lost its purported ability to explain the nature of reality, and has thus been reduced to a matter of faith, as which it continues to endure as a thing which most people, despite the evidence of science, still desire to see proven valid. Religion persists in this way, in my opinion, due to four primary factors, which I view as the central reasons why people maintain religious beliefs which are contrary to logic and evidence.

First, religions typically predicate a perfect God, omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent, who not only loves us but has a plan for us. Second, they typically provide a basis for belonging, along with an identity by which to define ourselves. Third, they provide simple answers to questions about the nature of the universe so complex that even modern science cannot explain. And fourth, people on the whole don’t have an education in science, nor ambition to pursue one, due to which it’s easier to be ensconced by comforting religion than accept unfamiliar science, particularly when the truths which science discovers dispel illusions which people very much enjoy and would, if given a choice, prefer to retain. Therefore, in my view, it’s these factors which enable religions to promote themselves within societies, recruiting believers despite having at best terrible evidence to support their doctrines.

If this is true, to discuss the nature and history of religion means to discuss the main factors behind why people have believed, and still believe, in superstition and mysticism even though we now have good reasons not to. Further, since, in my view, it’s the main factors just mentioned which most compel people toward religious belief, they seem the most suitable framework for analysing this question. Thus, the following post will be structured according to them in the order above.

Before beginning, however, it’s worth pointing out that the reason why these primary factors are so effective in compelling religious belief has, in my opinion, little at all to do with religion itself. Rather, religion owes a debt of gratitude to the world for being such an unjust and imperfect place, because it’s not so much religion that wins people to belief, but the techniques religions provide for enduring the harsh realities of life, of which history has always played host to many. For instance, corruption is common and good people are bankrupted and foreclosed on everyday due to the greed and villainy of banks and insurance firms. Children starve to death because warlords control food supplies as a means of maintaining authority and recruiting soldiers to their militias. Women are stoned to death because they’re raped by men, the preposterous justification being that they brought it on themselves with lascivious behaviour. And, on the streets of the world, homeless people sleep during the day because it’d be too dangerous at night. Indeed, when these are but some of the world’s grim conditions, it’s small wonder that the primary factors compel belief in the comforts of religion amidst the terrors of reality.

However, these benefits are not the only things which the primary factors produce. Indeed, their benefits, and by extension the benefits of religion, are in fact dwarfed by the many concomitant detriments by which I think they’re necessarily accompanied. Therefore, when analysing the causes of religious belief in the age of modern science, I think that a further question should also naturally arise when discussing the primary factors which compel religious belief: are religion’s benefits worth its detriments? This, as I see it, is the next logical question to ask once we understand why people believe in things for which there’s no good evidence, since if those beliefs were absurd, but brought overall happiness and benefits to believers, a good case could surely be made to retain religions despite their falsity.

However, if, as I’ll attempt to show, religions are actually more detrimental than beneficial; and if, as I’ve touched on above and will expand on below, religious beliefs aren’t based on truth and have no compelling reason to retain or promote them, there should then be no good cause to defend religions or argue that they should continue to exist, since they’re both false and on the whole detrimental. Thus, in addition to analysing the primary factors which compel religious belief, I’ll also use them to try and illustrate that religion’s benefits are at least equalled or exceeded by its detriments. While one might now argue that this approach is wrong because religion’s many benefits and detriments are too numerous and diverse to explore in entirety, religion’s greatest benefits surely lie with the main factors which compel belief, as the greatest benefits give the greatest cause to pursue and maintain religiousness.

Therefore, since religion’s many benefits and detriments are indeed too broad to all be presently discussed, using its greatest benefits and whatever detriments they paradoxically require as a gauge by which to predict the probable helpfulness or harmfulness of religion overall should suffice for our current purpose, in lieu of a totally comprehensive assessment of every benefit and detriment religion entails. Thus, to analyse why people hold religious beliefs and whether religion is beneficial or detrimental for believers, it makes most sense to me to use the primary factors which compel belief as a framework for the coming discussion. However, in addition to and as a useful segue for the coming discussion, it’s worth first noting one final piece of our framework – that religion’s origins directly contradict what it’s become.

Historically, as I touched on before, religion was initially sensible. Based on what people observed and without science to provide answers, it was the best explanation human beings could conceive. In fact, if you place religion and science anywhere it should be in connection, since religion was the first instance of the scientific impetus to provide answers for ourselves about the unexplained properties and events of the world. The problem, however, is that as our knowledge and understanding evolved beyond the need for religion, most societies and their people didn’t follow in kind. We invented polytheism because it made sense, some then saw greater sense in monotheism, but despite the subsequent advent and progress of modern science religion has endured, which begs the question, why?

Why were we content to invent religions but can’t bear to abandon them now that science has provided genuine answers to the mysteries they originally sought to explain? Why do we happily give priority to faith instead of knowledge? And why do we readily esteem the moral reasoning of people from bygone ages of utter ignorance ahead of our own? These questions clearly relate to how the primary belief-compelling factors impel religiosity over rationality, reinforcing that we are apt to use these factors as a framework for discussion when analysing the causes for religious belief. With that, then, let’s begin.

In my mind, the primary factors compel people to be religious, to esteem belief above reason and to neglect one’s own rationality for that of people from profoundly ignorant times, because it’s easy and comforting. Indeed, in large part, the primary factors and the benefits they offer plainly impel us toward belief due to how easy and comforting it is.

As for the first factor that compels belief in religion – the prospect of and belief in God – its inducement to faith despite evidence is simple. In a complex world, where people endure great hardship, it’s enticing to embrace the beauty and simplicity of a religion which says you’re special, you’re loved and you have waiting for you a blissful life after death so long as you follow certain doctrines. For most people, this makes religion very much desirable despite its logical faults. However, despite its desirability, this notion is at least as harmful as it is helpful, since people often deny themselves ambitions and jeopardise their wellbeing due to religious imperatives. Indeed, the world abounds with bereaved families who lost loved ones to whom they chose to deny necessary medical treatment due to religious beliefs.

Similarly, there would be too many people to count who, due to religious doctrines, refrained from friendships and careers which might have otherwise provided the great loves and passions of their lives, as well as many other similar deprivations. Indeed, in my view, it’s reasonably clear that unfalsifiable religious beliefs which run contrary to common sense and facts of science distract people from genuine understanding of themselves and the world which they inhabit. Consequently, this prevents them from appreciating the true nature of reality, compelling them to instead choose to engage with poignant and comforting falsehoods, sometimes with truly damaging consequences.

It therefore follows that although accepting religions due to the prospect of God and the benefits this prospect may provide does offer peace of mind, this comes at the cost of proper understanding and the ability to live in the manner we choose, free from the arbitrary and often illegitimate constraints of the religious preachments which so often lead people astray. Truly, the balance of detriments and benefits is at least equal, if not much more heavily detrimental. Thus, I believe it’s clear that, on inspection, the so-called benefits provided by the first primary belief-compelling factor are certainly negated by the detriments they entail, if not exceeded.

To the second primary belief-compelling factor – the invitation to belong to a community and an identity by which to define ourselves – its advantage is equally straightforward. When most people are religious in one way or another, as is and has always been the case in most and perhaps all societies, it’s rather easy to have faith, since doing so is to be in the majority, where, for the most part, we’re shielded from ridicule. In offering a means to belong and by having followers develop a community, religion becomes not only acceptable and convenient, but often necessary, since being irreligious is to be different, and to thereby expose oneself to alienation and ostracism. Certainly, when the consequences of unbelief are so serious, it’s easy to appreciate why many people overlook the nonsensicalities of religion in order to belong and live happily.

However, the insincerity of this kind of belonging is strikingly obvious: not inspired by genuine bonds of friendship or solidarity, but by a fear of isolation – though certainly genuine relationships could also still develop by happenstance. People will no doubt grow accustomed to these situations, but this explains the circumstances of this belonging without removing the facts that it’s inauthentic and designed so that people don’t pay attention to religion’s many absurdities. It becomes clear, I think, that to define oneself by attachment to religion is unnatural, because it requires and forbids many harmless human propensities, limiting our very nature. And while a person may contend that religions can be a force for good, prohibiting murder, theft, and so on, we should consider two things.

First, these are entirely common sense conclusions which people by no means need religion to figure out. And second, slavery, infanticide and murder (with certain conditions) are just some examples of abominable actions that religions have advocated that aren’t even compatible with basic morality. Thus, while religious doctrines doubtless have some merit in promoting ethics, far from being a purely positive force for morality, religions have actually been, and in some ways continue to be, obstacles to human decency.

If these assertions are true, as I think they are, given how regularly religious doctrines have conflicted, and still conflict, with moral and libertarian philosophy (like regarding the rights of homosexuals and women, for instance), human beings defining themselves by adherence to religion is, in my view, tantamount to suppressing or at least restricting one’s own nature. I admit that the reasons why people demean themselves in this way are somewhat tempting, but still unambiguously unacceptable, since the benefits provided are nullified or surpassed by corresponding detriments. Therefore, the second primary factor meets the fate of its predecessor, entailing detriments that can’t be justified by the limited and questionable benefits it provides.

For the third factor – that religion provides simple answers to complicated questions – its inducement to belief is basically axiomatic. By employing answers founded on fantastical premises and by indulging people with self-aggrandising chicanery, religion offers simple answers to the mysteries of the world, some of which even modern science can’t yet totally explain, including the origins of life and the universe. Because of human vanity and our preference for simplicity, it’s unsurprising that most of us accept these conclusions, undisturbed by their illogical, supernatural and downright untenable character.

For instance, the idea that humans have a soul that no other species possesses which allows us to enter Heaven; the idea that we are capable of reincarnation; and the idea that in all the vastness of the universe, we were specifically chosen by some benevolent creator to be their worshippers and primary benefactors are just a few of the wildly doubtful notions, without any good supporting evidence, on which different religions are based. They’re not just unlikely, but radically implausible, and yet we happily accept them despite their contradiction to the known evidence, facts and laws of science, and this is considered permissible in society because it’s the norm, making blind, unreasoned faith socioculturally justifiable.

It’s an excellent and perhaps unparalleled example of ad populum, capacitated by people’s preference for comforting illusion over critical rationality. This is the essential and disturbing point at which faith supersedes knowledge, for which people are directly and wilfully responsible. In sum, it’s plain, I think, that the third primary belief-compelling factor provides comforting illusions at the expense of genuine understanding, with detriments dramatically exceeding its unimpressively marginal benefits.

The fourth and final factor – widespread scientific illiteracy and people’s lack of ambition for an education in science – is also easily understood and clearly related to the third factor just discussed above, but less of a benefit to believers than an explanation of their belief. Hence, its analysis has less to do with the question of religion’s beneficence and more to do with the causes for religious belief, though it certainly relates to religion’s detriments through its relation to the third factor discussed above.

While, of course, scientific illiteracy varies from nation to nation, the principle that science yields to religiousness pervades many and perhaps all countries to one degree or another. Problems arise when science is deprioritised in society, and relegated to the shelf of extraneous information and esoteric minutiae. Much like how people can justify belief in absurdities when lots of others do it too, denying the ambition and need for science becomes easy as it becomes common. The quality of science education, always entwined with the vibrancy and popularity of science itself, deescalates such that obtaining a science education, wherever people are inclined to it, remains possible, but of poorer quality than we ought to want.

This harms both the present and the future, since it impoverishes the accessible wealth of knowledge and the hands in which it’s contained, both of which continually diminish in number and quality. Incidentally, the infirmity can propagate, broadening and deepening until it becomes virtually unsolvable, except for extravagant and fortuitous occurrences which seize attention back toward science and knowledge, contrary to the dominant currents of society. These often manifest in the startling and brilliant revelations of history’s geniuses, whose inspiring examples revitalize young people’s desire to make discoveries of their own. However, such figures remain frustratingly rare.

For the most part, trends like these continue and can grow to diabolically harmful proportions, during which times religion rises as a brand of thought entirely consistent with the spirit of fantasy, self-deception and willful ignorance. And as it works to embed itself tenaciously in societies, generating and tightening its sinews more firmly, religion becomes difficult to repel, and harder still to remove, especially when the greatest tool against it is the knowledge of science that’s been erstwhile rarefied. Therefore, the decline of science enfranchises the waiting religiousness which resides in all societies, eliminating or at least undermining the essential tool by which religion ought to be invalidated and removed.

Evidently, when lack of science has these consequences for people and societies at large, it’s unsurprising that religion becomes bitter, hostile and persecutorial against even rudimentary advances of science which encroach upon religious doctrines and the purview of answers which religions seek to dominate, including the origin and nature of life and the universe. In such times, when religion reigns and science has been marginalised, zealotry and fundamentalism become quite easy, the prevailing outcome of which is that ignorance dominates knowledge, often inciting trends with terrible outcomes which are difficult to reverse. Without need to dwell on it further, this factor plainly invites dreadful detriments of magnitude far beyond the extremely limited comforts offered by simple religious answers to reality’s great mysteries. And though it’s not fair to lay these detriments squarely on religion’s doorstep, there’s no doubt an obvious relation to religion insofar as religion conflicts with, and seeks to combat, science and its progress.

Therefore, it seems palpably clear that religion’s more detrimental than beneficial, as evinced by no less than its most essential benefits. Importantly, it appears self-evident that if religion were proven untrue, i.e., if the notions of gods and miracles were annihilated, there would remain no good reason to persist with religion. This, in my opinion, is the situation which humankind presently faces, as the rise of science has eliminated much of the ignorance which inspired religion, answering the questions which religions were first contrived to explain, thus removing all reason to maintain religious dogmas. Hence, I believe it’s time we discard religion and embrace the reality which science is revealing.

Though it’s therefore clear, in my view, that religions are essentially harmful and ignorant institutions with which we have no good reason to persist, there’re many further condemnations one can level against them. While these are not central to whether religious doctrines are true and beneficial, discussing them, or at least a few of the outstanding ones, will, I think, reinforce the conclusions I’ve so far attempted to draw.  Thus, in addition to the primary belief-inducing factors and their necessary detriments, it’s worth discussing two aspects of religion.

First, the role of states in its continuance; and second, the manner in which religions disseminate their doctrines and proselytise future believers. By its nature, the state as a mechanism compels conformity, while discouraging or even punishing nonconformity. This is fortunate for religion, which, as a popular aspect of most and perhaps all societies, is therefore endorsed by the state in order to help sustain stability and control. Though it can be, this isn’t necessarily a conscious decision made by figures of authority, but rather a natural, unconscious outcome of the way institutions of power and mass psychology interact in society. Things which upset the status quo are repressed, while things which support it are encouraged.

However, this assumes that all countries separate church and state, when, in fact, a great many don’t. In these cases, where states need not be subtle and vicarious, they simply support religion directly and obviously. The Maldives, for example, directly predicates an official, mandatory religion, observance of which is a legal requirement. However, not all countries without separation of church and state are so direct, as there’re ways of unofficially and more subtly establishing a state religion which handily circumvent the pesky secularism which democracies now tend to require to at least appear rational. For example, while, at last check, Iran, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia don’t legislate Islam as their official, obligatory religion, they enshrine Islamic doctrines in their constitutional law, which, compared to establishing an outright official religion, is equally effective and better concealed. Further, the people who enforce the law in these countries are deeply religious and entwine their enforcement of the law with their religious sensibilities, creating another means by which religion is subtly made into law.

While there’s therefore a distinction between the manner in which religion is co-opted in putatively democratic societies, like Australia, and in more authoritarian societies, like the Maldives and Saudi Arabia, when you look at the situation it becomes clear, I think, that this difference is somewhat superficial. Only the particular means of distribution and the consequences for unbelief are different, while the principles of spreading religion and discouraging unbelief remain constant. Overall, it appears that between the supposedly modern, democratised West and the countries it considers radical and authoritarian, like Iraq and Afghanistan, there’s little or no difference, in principle, in the way that the states promote and support religious belief.

This is even more striking if you consider that Australia is supposedly a fairly irreligious and irreverent country, and yet in principle isn’t overly different from those states it regards as fundamentalist and fanatical. Even more striking, if we compared the Maldives and Iran with, say, England or the U.S., even the superficial means of distribution and consequences for unbelief aren’t as dissimilar as in the case of Australia, as there have been now for some time large and growing elements of fundamentalism in both the U.K. and the U.S., a parallel I find rather disquieting. Thus, in light of this, I think we should further consider the techniques and mechanisms by which religions are subtly and vicariously endorsed by supposedly secular states in order to see how we can prevent this from occurring.

More or less, this state-condoned endorsement begins with parents passing belief systems to their children. Perhaps most of all this is dangerous to people’s ability to question and think critically about religion, to not only have it introduced at such an impressionable age, but by those we most trust and least expect to deceive or mislead us. No doubt, by this early teaching religion can become so embedded in our psychology that to extricate ourselves is an imposing task. Indeed, this is one of the few kinds of childhood indoctrination not only tolerated but condoned by the democracies of the world. From here, it’s a matter of sustaining that belief, which religion does for us, promoting itself in society so that it can survive, just like all organisms naturally try to preserve themselves. Though religions might call this ‘saving’ or ‘enlightening’ people, it does nothing more, as we’ve seen, than sustain religions and their institutions.

However, this isn’t to suggest that the motives behind proselytising are entirely sinister. On the contrary, I expect that the people on whom religions depend for proselytising newcomers are more or less guided by a sincere desire to help others. But good intentions alone can’t justify preaching falsehoods, even if you believe them to be the true means of ‘salvation’. For even the most congenial heart, when equipped with falsehoods, will harm those it intends to help, since kind intentions are inconsistent with spreading untruths and as if they were facts. Likewise, the actual manner in which religion is disseminated also helps to illustrate why this state-condoned religious indoctrination is necessarily harmful, even if unintentionally so.

Considering how religion is spread, it’s obvious that it relies on a fashion of demagoguery which would be deplored if used by other institution to win support for a cause or belief. People are guaranteed that there’s a God, a Heaven and a Hell, and that if you don’t follow certain teachings you’re bound to damnation, all of which stands supported by no serious evidence. Certainly, it’s easy to see why many people feel that such things are worth serious consideration, particularly when they are pronounced by movements which are supported by the majority of the population, including your own families, and condoned by the state. In this there’s yet another telling parallel, since there’s striking similarity between how religions obtain support and how propaganda sensationalises information and defrauds the public to win support for the state’s favourite ambitions when it’s concerned that if the people are given the facts they might unfortunately think for themselves and come to conclusions with which people with power wouldn’t be pleased. Without labouring the point, the similarity’s quite telling.

Therefore, I think the way religion disseminates its doctrines is clearly harmful and immoral. These are the reasons I think religion is apt to be abandoned, but, before concluding and in the interest of balance, it’s worth dissecting just one argument often used in this situation to defend the manner in which religion tends to distribute its doctrines, or at the very least the way Christianity does.

A religious person may contend that, contrary to my suggestion above, religion doesn’t use the prospect of Hell as a tool for demagoguery, suggesting instead that ‘there’s no Hell, only Heaven, and that God’s all-loving and all-forgiving.’ Of course, if this were true and were an espoused teaching, the argument above would take a heavy blow. Fortunately, however, this contention invites a paradox which protects my prior argument while actually eliminating any prospect of truth in religion, contrary to its objectives.

Consider this. If Heaven exists and anyone can enter, regardless of how they behave, why should anyone bother to follow any religious doctrine at all? Of course, there’d be no reason. Therefore, if it’s taught that there’s no Hell, this’d mean that the teaching gives people licence to altogether disregard the moral teachings which religions like to vaunt, making themselves superfluous. If this were indeed true, it’d seem that their teachings are rather confused, and since God, being omniscient, surely wouldn’t be confused, they either don’t exist or the teachings aren’t from them, both of which make religion inviable. Either way, it seems that no one who believes in religion but not in Hell could escape this conclusion, which believers should therefore avoid if they’d like to maintain their faith. Moreover, it’s important to take not of and consider the mere fact that this logical impasse exists, which in itself ought to suggest that there’s something gravely wrong with any religions whose teachings are prone to this paradox.

However, while I think this is an interesting point, it’s only one of many reasons which militate against belief in religion’s untenable impossibility, and not even one of the more significant ones. There are, of course, many other contentions which religions and believers propound in an effort to defend their doctrines, but, like with the scope of all religion’s benefits and detriments, they too are certainly too many to now go through entirely. But hopefully it’s clear at this point that, in any case, going through each is unnecessary, because we can reasonably reliably predict the outcomes of analysing them based on the prior examples and the rest of the arguments above. Therefore, with that objection discussed and the mechanism of state-supported indoctrination described, I hope it’s apparent that religion relies on a fashion of demagoguery and vacuous poignancy that would be deplored if used by other institutions.

Interestingly, the way religions recruit and disseminate information recalls the way Nazi propaganda once promised a better world and future if people commit to strict principles. Plainly, while religion provides a certain comfort and protection which helps to endure the harsh aspects of life in an imperfect world, this comes at the cost of being fearful of damnation, something not only fictional, but arguably more frightening than what we’re being protected from. It seems like an absurd exchange, not even to mention that it’s most commonly levelled against children who’re perhaps most impressionable and vulnerable to this sort of manipulation. Parents are therefore not only complicit in allowing this indoctrination to be done to their children, but are typically the ones directly responsible for it.

So, then, in terms of the usefulness and benefits of religion, it’s telling that the comfort and peace of mind which religions provide aren’t only founded on the unsupported principle that God exists, but also carry the necessary consequence that people have to subject themselves and their children to forms of state-condoned indoctrination for which religions appear to have absolute impunity. Further, the unavoidable detriments inflicted even by religion’s greatest benefits seem not to be aberrations, but rather necessary outcomes which result from the fact that religion is counterproductive and detrimental by nature – they are, I think, manifestations of religion’s true character and give insights from which we can draw deeper conclusions.

However, despite this, religion’s permitted to endure because it promises things people desperately wish were true, compelling believers to focus on religions’ superficial benefits rather than the obvious and serious detriments they enjoin. Thus, one struggles to find a cause to persist with religion that can withstand the test of scrutiny, which, I think it’s fair to suppose, is because there’re probably none to be found. While religion has undeniable benefits, they’re accompanied and exceeded, or at least matched, by the concomitant detriments they presume to justify.

It’s apparent that religions’ survival in spite of these detriments is due to a kind of superstitious, fantastical residue lingering from humanity’s early history, sustained, despite no longer being able to explain the nature of reality, because they offer people comforting illusions within a world replete with injustice, corruption and suffering. Indeed, people otherwise so reasonable easily succumb to the allure of religion on this ground alone. Thus, this is the irrational, manipulative means by which religions continues to endure, even though they run contrary to many established facts of science.

Given these conclusions and the injuries religion has hitherto inflicted on the world and its people, religiousness has surely run its course, is no longer of benefit to society and should vanish to allow humanity to grow, improve and put an end to the zealotry and fanaticism which has until now marred our history. In truth, to me religion’s demise seems inevitable, but drawn out because belief in religion is an issue of emotion and preference rather than evidence and reason. Indeed, if religion’s abandonment were a matter of logic and evidence over hope and yearning, religion would have undoubtedly perished from the world long ago, as it ought to now.

Fortunately, though, people on the whole are growing rightly skeptical of doctrines for which there is, and perchance can be, no satisfying evidence, and may soon hopefully be poised to realise that human beings are more than the supplicants we’ve become. However, even though it might seem to some that this is assured by the course of time, if we can by any means accelerate the process, every day without religion is a day won for the better future of all, which it’s now and always our moral duty to pursue.

‘Manufacturing consent’ and the nature of society

Nothing is worse than active ignorance.

 – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Ignorance, the root and stem of every evil.

 – Plato

The great masses of the people will more easily fall victims to a great lie than to a small one.

 – Adolf Hitler

Any dictator would admire the uniformity and obedience of the U.S. media.

 – Noam Chomsky

The view of the world presented in the mass media doesn’t always correspond to reality. In fact, quite the opposite, it’s often rather false. In general terms, the media worldview presented in industrialised western countries is framed in a way that’s desirable and pleasant for the intelligentsia, since it subjects the vast majority of common people to a comforting illusion they enjoy, while concealing that we’re ensnared by a machinating plutocracy, instead of the democracy they feign to represent. Though this process is complex enough that it can’t be quickly explained or proven here, Herman and Chomsky’s co-authored book, Manufacturing Consent, resoundingly substantiates the claim. Fortunately, though, in the interest of fleshing out the issue somewhat, the chief consequence is much simpler and easier to discuss: powerful institutions – government, corporate and otherwise – are able to wantonly behave however they choose, provided they’re supported by the intellectuals and elites by and upon whom the media propaganda industries are maintained and dependent. In sum, so long as the media, intellectuals and elites behave this way, complicit institutions have unlimited opportunity to do whatever they like without repercussions, including, as has been shown in recent history, terrible corruption and atrocities.

The facts of history presented by Herman and Chomsky in Manufacturing Consent establish that this use of media propaganda is possibly the most important source of the world’s problems since the end of World War II, as it’s allowed powerful and ostensibly democratic states to become neo-imperialists with foreign policies defined by state-sponsored terror. Though this claim may, perhaps, seem outlandish, it’s supported by the record of U.S.-orchestrated military campaigns throughout the world, such as in Indochina – during the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s – from which Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam may never fully recover. For an account of the historical record of these atrocities and media complicity in suppressing them, see the section, ‘The Indochina Wars’, in Manufacturing Consent.

Thus, the pseudo-democratic states of the world have been generally disinterested in the libertarian ideals they claim to be guided by, and in fact readily violate them. Moreover, these states are meanwhile committed to concealing the truth of their crimes by utilizing the startling subservience of the mass media to government programs and propaganda in order to keep the public unaware of reality and thereby manufacture its consent. This is an issue which might at first seems implausible, but has been confirmed by Herman and Chomsky beyond all reasonable doubt. Indeed, the fact that it at first seems ludicrous to a good many people illustrates the effectiveness of the propaganda system by which we and recent recorded history are deceived and distorted.

However, I most believe in this thesis, putting aside for the moment Herman and Chomsky’s sheer reasoning and scholarship, because I choose to believe that people are fundamentally good, with belonging, social welfare and moral justice as some of the precepts most important and inherent to the human condition. However, if this is true, there must be something which accounts for why people are capable of perpetrating injustices and atrocities against one another, and of allowing them to be perpetrated. One such explanation, I believe, is that in a monetised world probity is often tenable only so long as it does not challenge financial security. Generally, monetised societies impose a set of priorities which is not always in keeping with moral principles. For example, the monetary state-capitalist system on which the world is founded venerates economics, commerce and consumerism, which people must therefore also venerate in order to survive, which significantly reduces their ability to factor in moral decency and social justice. This, to me, is a fundamental explanation for why good people do bad things: the world compels them to behave that way, and offers few viable alternatives. Small wonder that some people become capable of propagandizing publics, and harnessing state power to design and implement campaigns of terror, when the world allows and even impels you to do so. Further, due to the hastening speed, multiplying responsibilities and growing atomization of life in our monetised world, people are vulnerable to being deceived by ongoing propaganda campaigns, providing another way in which the nature of life facilitates corruption, ongoing propaganda and atrocities. Moreover, if the propaganda stands without serious challenges for long enough it will eventually become an accepted reality, whereafter it’s even more difficult than before to convince people that they’re victims of propaganda and that their supposed and vaunted democracies aren’t as august as they suppose. These principles, I believe, explain why and how the kind of atrocities Herman and Chomsky document are committed, and are entirely consistent with the arguments for media propaganda systems that they outline in Manufacturing Consent.

Thus, I think that the world being monetised and the media becoming propaganda systems are the fundamental factors which enable and compel states to deceive and manipulate their populations in order to perpetrate, maintain and profit from some of the world’s great crimes. This can explain why good people allow governments to commit horrendous atrocities, such as the Indonesian genocide against East Timor, financed by the U.S. and done without objections from the American people who were never properly informed about it. Though it’s unpleasant to entertain that we’re deceived by the institutions of authority that we’re made to believe we can trust, it’s true nonetheless. Fortunately, though, while many democracies aren’t what they presume to be, the principles of democracy are enshrined in law, waiting to be utilised. Therefore, even though states and corporate institutions are amoral entities by nature, governments are legitimized by popular consent and corporations require support from populations to survive, meaning that they are both ultimately answerable to ordinary people. Thus, if publics are informed and organized, they can impose moral standards on powerful institutions, forcing them to commit to decent causes. And as publics can indeed be informed and organized – though slowly and arduously due to the effects of sophisticated, prolonged propaganda – the fundamental problem which Herman and Chomsky illustrates can certainly be addressed. This, I think, ought to be what we do to fight corruption and atrocities: disseminate information within our available media, seek out and join likeminded groups of people, and organise populations at large. This’ll seem slow and unavailing, but it’s the only way great moral victories have ever been achieved. In the end, the problems are daunting, but if we want to call ourselves good people, action’s required. We therefore can accept the tasks incumbent upon us or, as Chomsky says, “If we choose, we can live in a world of comforting illusion.”

Economic, political and social strategies to prevent human trafficking

To some degree it matters who’s in office, but it matters more how much pressure they’re under from the public.

 – Noam Chomsky

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

 – Martin Luther King Jr.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with but a single step.

 – Confucius

It seems obvious that any genuine solution to human trafficking in Thailand and throughout the world must include the Thai government and the many governments worldwide. This enterprise demands, I think, a mass collaboration encompassing the world’s states and the panoply of organizations dedicated to working against human trafficking. Further, this collaboration can’t be restricted to designing laws which then aren’t enforced, economic programs which aren’t promoted, espousing principles which’re only embraced in rhetoric, and announcing to publics what’ll be done rather than engaging them with how they can be involved. Instead, we need authentic changes that benefit suffering people, since the mere appearance of progress isn’t enough.

I believe that to achieve this objective, the collaboration itself needs to be the consequence not just of relatively small attaches of experts and politicians, but of popular organizations which mobilize and direct public support to fight against human trafficking. In this way, initiatives will be at the behest of the people, vetted by the people and implemented for the people, as opposed to leadership from the states and corporations which have hitherto proven at best inconsistently committed to combating human trafficking and addressing its root causes. Thus, the task is to organize individuals and the publics of which they’re parts so that they can harness the democratic fact that leaders are legitimised by the consent of the people, and force governments to follow the people’s demands or be replaced by another that will. This is no doubt a meticulous and, at times, seemingly intractable task due to the increasing speed, multiplying responsibilities, dwindling freedom and growing atomization of life. However, assuming, as I choose to do, that people are inherently moral and would become involved in seeing human suffering rectified if they knew the realities of human trafficking, the task is to raise awareness of human rights violations, and capture the unsummoned goodness of which people are capable and translate it into the kind of popular movements by which all of history’s great victories for justice have been won.

However, this is by no means the end, as the programs which people ought to aspire for once these movements are forged are just as important as the movements themselves. Indeed, the particular details of the programs required and the movements by which they’re conceived and implemented are both essential in accomplishing significant ends, since neither can attain the achievements we need without the other. Hence the question beyond how to build movements for change is precisely what policies should those movements pursue? Such policies, in my view, should concentrate on two broad areas: reducing poverty, and increasing the policing and prosecution of human rights violations, including human trafficking. In others words, prevention and punishment.

As regards prevention, reducing poverty prevents human rights violations such as human trafficking from ever taking place by eliminating the circumstances which place people at risk of having their rights violated. This means that by developing the economy on which at-risk people depend, their life prospects will naturally improve, which reduces their vulnerability to traffickers. For instance, providing greater financial stability reduces people’s vulnerability to traffickers by enabling them to afford secure homes, basic necessities or to simply move to less dangerous areas, all of which provide protection from traffickers or at least reduce the attraction of the offers they make by increasing people’s ability to look after themselves. Therefore, reducing poverty is perhaps the most important means by which we can address human trafficking, since it makes all other initiatives superfluous.

Any serious policy for reducing poverty begins with providing affordable (ideally free) education to all people, while instituting economic policies which nurture domestic industries on the local, regional and national levels. This, I feel, necessarily precludes neoliberal policies as an outright economic approach, at least until nations’ industries are mature enough to enter and compete within the global market. However, as Noam Chomsky points out, these policies have a damaging effect on ordinary people while they benefit the wealthy, meaning it might be best to simply exclude them altogether. Further, governments must adopt protectionist and interventionist policies to enable nascent industries to develop, as Ha-Joon Chang, Professor of Economics at Cambridge University, points out was done by virtually every one of today’s wealthy nations, including the U.S., the U.K., France, Germany, Belgium, Japan and South Korea, to name a few. Governments ought also to recognize that different industries and regions will have various desires, needs and rates of development. As such, economic policies need to be flexible enough to enable people from disparate circumstances to decide upon and pursue their own pathways for development, while at the same time retaining a general nationwide plan for economic development and a central mission shared by the population across differing locations and industries. Although this may likely require assiduous monitoring by a large bureaucracy at many levels, which will undoubtedly at times appear stifling, irritating and cumbersome, its virtues outweigh its detriments for the purpose of sustainable, long-term growth and development, as evinced by the recent economic histories of the world’s wealthy nations.

As regards punishment, it needs no discussion that monitoring and prosecuting human rights violations is one of the foremost disincentives at our disposal for combating human trafficking. For this to occur, we need laws to define crimes and convict offenders, both of which we possess. However, the laws around human trafficking are necessarily broad and at times poorly defined due to the multifarious nature of human trafficking itself. Further, jurisdiction can be poorly defined and easily shirked when high-traffic regions surround borders between neighbouring countries, as with Thailand and its abutting neighbours Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia. Nevertheless, the framework of laws, though it could certainly be improved, is adequate to prosecute human traffickers. Thus, any meaningful approach to eliminating, or at least reducing, human trafficking entails the simple enforcement of existing laws and conventions, both domestic and international.

Where this becomes difficult, however, isn’t as much with the laws themselves or with knowing that they ought to be enforced, but with actually ensuring that the laws are genuinely applied. Mere enforcement, simple though it seems, isn’t a straightforward issue. This is because there’re many people with vested interests in trafficking who profit from the industry and would prefer to see it continue. Unfortunately, some of these individuals include corrupt police, lawyers, judges, officials and politicians who are in positions to confront the ongoing travesties, but are not inclined to make use of their tools, but rather actively work to block their employment. Indeed, such corruption is a substantial obstacle in identifying and convicting traffickers. Therefore, addressing this corruption is an important aspect of any viable policy for addressing human trafficking, because it’ll enhance the capacity of governments, organizations and legal bodies around the world to place pressure on human traffickers and their clients, diminishing, if not one day eradicating, the industry as a whole.

With these approaches – popular mobilization, reducing poverty and monitoring and prosecuting crimes, as well as others I personally can’t now think of – human trafficking can be radically reduced in its scope and appeal to traffickers. Moreover, developing nations and their people will benefit from the same foundational economic development which made wealthy nations the dominant financial powers they are today, and which has the direct ability to improve the lives of people around the globe. I believe that all we require is public awareness and organization, as the necessary support will naturally follow from the intrinsic moral decency of human beings who prefer to see their fellow people live in peace and comfort rather than toil in danger and poverty.

People are good, but the world compels them to be otherwise

The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace and brotherhood.

 – Martin Luther King Jr.

We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.

 – Sir Winston Churchill

It is preoccupation with possessions, more than anything else, that prevents us from living freely and nobly.

 – Bertrand Russell

Are people fundamentally good? I’d like to think so. But if that’s true, why is it that from a population of around 7 billion relatively so few donate their resources, and especially their time and skills, to help those who aren’t lucky enough to be born, by sheer happenstance, into privilege and opportunity? For me, the answer isn’t that people are inherently immoral or callous. There’s too much evidence to the contrary for that, which ranges from everyday acts of random kindness, to great acts of uncommon charity; not even to mention that the notion of what is ‘moral’ appears to be an intrinsic feature of human nature. Rather, the answer lies, I think, with two unfortunate realities.

First, throughout history, including the present, most people have needed to slave and toil for much of their lives simply to survive, thus seriously limiting their ability and inclination to think about the plights of others and take steps to help improve them. And second, for people interested in donating themselves to a cause, it’s never been particularly easy to find one that speaks to each individual, even in today’s sophisticated, globalized world. This, I believe, is because hardships tend to go hand in hand with poverty and marginalization, meaning people’s grievances are suppressed from worldwide view, making it difficult, if not impossible, for their travails to reach and pique the interest of the many people who might become involved if they were aware of the situations.

Therefore, in rousing support for worthy causes, the chief obstacles we face, it appears to me, are that people are either unable to help due to the multiplying demands and responsibilities of an ever-hastening world, or they’re simply unaware of the opportunities available when they’re in positions to pursue them. What, then, can we do to change this situation for the sake of the people, the victims of circumstance and misfortune, who need and deserve our support? It seems to me that both can be rectified, though the first is a more complicated discussion than there’s space for now. However, the second, removing the obscurity in which human suffering is shrouded, has, I think, a comparatively simpler and easier solution.

As I see it, the issue is threefold. One, those who suffer fail to penetrate and utilize significant media to make their realities known, though a candid discussion would scarcely place the blame for this on the victims being repressed and marginalized. Two, the media themselves show, perhaps, occasional interest in people’s suffering, but typically only some people, only when it’s diabolical or genocidal enough to draw media attention, and only when the media’s home states don’t have a hand or vested interest in the situations which might be unearthed or undermined by investigation and mainstream publicity. And three, the various publics in countries around the world, leaving aside the people too ensnared by demands and responsibilities to become involved, largely don’t seek out situations in which, if they were aware, they’d be keen to participate. Without discussing ethical responsibility, these are three components of the one problem, each with their own solution.

For the victims who can’t broadcast the dangers and poverty by which they’re beset, the solution’s to provide them with the means they presently lack. This requires steady donations of resources and personnel to gradually build up a base from which they can make their situations known and hopefully penetrate the media that’re normally beyond their reach. For the mainstream media which, in truth, give quite narrow coverage of human suffering for the publics they are supposed to inform, the solution’s to embrace the fact that they’re beholden to those publics, their customers, and for those publics to demand that the media adequately report the many injustices around the world which, I choose to believe, interest most people. While this, of course, requires a great deal of arduous, grassroots organization to mobilize public opinion so that it can influence the large corporations which mainstream media have become, we now live in a time, thanks to advanced social media, online petitions and lobbyist groups, and good old-fashioned community organization, when such tasks have never been easier, though no doubt still difficult. In the end, it seems self-evident that undertaking the task, regardless of its difficulty, would certainly be worth the successes it achieves. And for the world’s publics, good people with decent intentions, the solution’s for individuals and groups to keep apprised of dire situations, spreading information within their available networks, and for them also to ensure that the two genuine solutions above aren’t forgotten or neglected by those with the means and the good nature to support them.

As with life in general, few worthwhile tasks are easily accomplished. But if people are indeed fundamentally good, and if we can harness that goodness to address injustice in the ways described, and the many others I cannot now imagine, in time, great changes are doubtless assured.

The Heinous Ensemble

Trafficking in persons is now the third most profitable business for organized crime.

 – UN Office on Drugs and Crime (2000)

…it is now the third largest source of profits for international organized crime, behind only drugs and guns.

 – U.S. Department of State (2000)

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

 – Margaret Mead

Many people may be familiar with some of the architects of the child slavery industry, such as the international and domestic mafia, corrupt police and bureaucrats, brothel owners and operators, and pimps and clients. While these people are essential members of the heinous ensemble, their contributions alone don’t engineer and sustain the human trafficking industry of which child exploitation is a part. Rather, it requires much broader participation from a range of further members whom many people may not be familiar with. In addition, the ensemble doesn’t even include the vast network of reticent bystanders who view, but turn blind eyes to, these crimes and who’re not just poorly known, largely due to the surreptitiousness of the human trafficking industry, but are virtually imperceptible. And although this network isn’t directly involved in human trafficking, its inaction helps to facilitate the direct involvement of others, meaning the people of which it consists bear guilt from their knowing complicity.

Similarly, the lesser-known members of the ensemble aren’t always as directly involved as their better-known counterparts, though they, too, are as necessary as the other contributors, since the system of induction into and exploitation within human trafficking could not continue without enduring assistance from the entire group. In recognition, then, of the nature of exploitation, leaving aside the network of silent spectators, it’s worthwhile to meet the cast of the ensemble and to understand their motives in order to see how we can prevent their collaboration and attack human trafficking at its foundations.

Beginning with the better-known members, their incentive for collaboration is plain enough – profit. International and domestic mafia are professional exploiters of human beings, and have been now for centuries. From drugs, to weapons, to child prostitutes and everything in between, they’re masters of profiting from the suffering and depravity of others. Likewise, corrupt police and government officials are experienced profiteers of criminal industries, having long been rewarded for actively abetting and passively allowing criminal enterprises to function and expand without interference from the law. Indeed, this section of the ensemble is particularly large, encompassing lowly officers and police captains, border guards and immigration officials, bureaucrats and elected leaders, and many in between.

The matrix of individuals is driven both by the profit which they can obtain and by the fear of the consequences which might follow should they oppose or expose the prevailing system. In turn, this enfranchises the owners and operators of brothels who, with certain discretion, can freely carry out human trafficking so long as the right kickbacks are disbursed and potential opposition is cowed, meaning good people are silenced by the threat of reprisals. Incidentally, with reality shrouded and the industry built, the clients whose gruesome desires these businesses serve, and the pimps who profit from seeing them satisfied, have no compunction in exploiting victims and being rewarded for their suffering, including small children.

Thus, the motives of the better-known members are as clear as they are sickening. But what of the lesser-known members, what’s their inducement? As becomes equally clear, though there’re some additional circumstances and general nuances, in principle, there’s no great difference in motive between the lesser- and better-known members – they’re all moved by profit at the expense of others, even their own children.

The lesser-known members include village leaders and elders, bankers and beauticians, drivers and doctors, travel agents and tour guides, and family and parents. Simply enough, village leaders and elders, entrusted by their communities with making important decisions for the welfare of their people, are paid by traffickers not to impede their business or make a fuss with authorities. As people’s poverty grows, so does the enticement of such offers, until leaders eventually succumb to temptation and often also to intimidation and threats. Though the inducement to such ends is more or less comprehensible, this in no way mollifies enmity towards their acquiescence, since no circumstances can justify slavery and exploitation, particularly of children.

Bankers and beauticians, too, are essentially the same. Banks and bankers are approached by brothels for loans. The loans not only finance the businesses, the fundamental units of human trafficking, but contribute an element of legitimacy to the façade which traffickers try to cultivate. While, in theory, the bankers could refuse to be complicit, forcing the traffickers to find funding elsewhere and withdrawing the veneer of legitimacy, it ‘s a terribly slim prospect that bankers would summon the nerve to refuse petty criminals and sophisticated mafia who’re at least tacitly supported by corrupt police and members of government.

In truth, there’s an appearance of inevitability which is crucial in compelling many members of the ensemble to cooperate in spite of their better nature, each depending on how deeply they object to the situation. Again, though, the apparent hopelessness and unavoidability these people perceive only makes their situation comprehensible, not excusable. For beauticians, too, the equation is the same, as the circumstances compel them to silence and complicity while they beautify women and young girls to please their clientele.

So, too, drivers and doctors are instrumental cogs for whom the pattern of inevitability and collaboration holds the same. Drivers are responsible for transporting people to where they’ll be exploited. They receive a cut for their involvement and, according to rescued and escaped victims, many are police. As another fundamental service, doctors are needed to keep slaves healthy enough to work and to maintain necessary health certificates. This entails checks for STIs at clinics, incorporating not just one doctor but knowing medical staff and the clinic at large, not to mention hospitals, should they be involved.

Travel agencies and tour guide services exist in dozens of countries around the world which specifically cater to this industry, informing prospective clients of the businesses available and giving instructions and tours to herd them to the brothels. Naturally, such organizations are valuable assets, requiring great subtlety and expertise to develop contacts without attracting unwanted attention, and are well rewarded for their services. Hence, commensurate with the importance of their role, the risks for the perpetrators are often worth the dividends they reap.

Finally, perhaps the most disturbing component of the ensemble is the participation of the family members of human trafficking victims, especially their parents. Living in poor regions where human trafficking is most common – such as border regions where the rights of impoverished Thais and ethnic minorities are fewer and more readily violated than elsewhere – the traffickers view the families as vulnerable sources of easy profit, deliberately operating in areas where they reside. Being approached by traffickers or their proxies, the decision to sell one’s child, grandchild, sibling, niece or nephew into slavery is complicated. With their family member on the traffickers’ radar, relatives might recognize the distinct possibility that regardless of their consent in the matter, victims of trafficking can be simply abducted, particularly girls and young children.

From this, a line of thought reasons, with obvious turpitude, that it may be best to sell the relative before they’re abducted in order to at least derive some profit. Such thinking’s encouraged by pretensions that victims will earn money to help themselves and their families, repaying ‘debts’ to their captors until they’re one day free to leave. In reality, however, the vast majority and perhaps the entirety of the money gained will line the pockets of the heinous ensemble, very little of which, beyond the initial transaction, will see its way to the victims, their families or their communities – though, of course, even if it did it’d in no way legitimise the despicable situation. Families are thus placed in awful positions, especially the intended victim, to which some will more quickly yield than others, depending on their moral integrity and wherewithal to resist. Tragically, though, regardless of families’ refusals and protections, if traffickers set their sights on a particular target, the outcome may nevertheless be a fait accompli.

These, then, are the members of the heinous ensemble, whose active and passive collaboration is required to manufacture and sustain the human trafficking industry. It’s a large industry, spanning over fifty countries and generating value of over US $30 billion per year. The primary benefactors are the mafia and the owners and operators of the brothels involved – though the petty criminals, corrupt officials, and numerous intermediaries also profit enough to make their involvement worthwhile.

For example, tour guides can expect at least a 30% cut for each customer they deliver to a brothel, while taxi drivers can expect at least a 10% cut for the same service. Drivers transporting victims from villages to brothels can expect 3-5,000 baht (roughly $95-160 USD) per trip and will be recompensed out of the pitiful subsistence wages the victims earn if the car’s stopped at checkpoints and fined for improper documentation or if impromptu bribes are required. Recalling that many of these drivers are in fact police officers, and noting that their kickbacks as officers are in addition to their profits as drivers, corrupt police receive quite handsome benefits for their twisted collaboration.

Brokers, on the other hand, receive a mere 1.5-2% commission on the victims they purchase – roughly 2-3,000 baht ($60-95 USD) – giving them good incentive to keep their quota high, employing whatever means they deem necessary for such results. Incidentally, this places the average price paid to families in exchange for one of their relatives at around 10-20,000 baht ($310-625 USD), roughly the cost of a television. Plainly, the practice of not only applying prices but low prices for the purchase and enslavement of a human being is consistent with the disregard for human life implicit in the concept and practice of human trafficking.

With the ensemble present and its motives clear, the question then becomes, what can we do to overcome it? While there’s probably not one simple solution, there’re many possible methods we can employ to at least reduce, if not altogether eradicate, human trafficking. One method is that chosen by DEPDC/GMS: provide as much education and protection to as many at-risk children as possible. This improves children’s prospects for gainful employment, enhancing their chances of escaping the poverty cycle and thus also of escaping the specter of human trafficking. Further, the security provided by safe daytime schooling and accommodation when required places an immediate obstacle between at-risk children and the traffickers looking to enslave and exploit them, creating an added dimension of protection. This is wonderfully effective, as DEPDC/GMS has shown by its work since 1989. This isn’t, however, the limit of what we can do.

Assuming, as I’d choose to do, that people are fundamentally moral and would prefer to see justice prevail on criminals, raising public awareness of, and popular opposition to, crimes and injustices can be central to bringing an end to abominations such as child exploitation. This requires that we corral support for decent causes, making use of democracy to force powerful states to place enough pressure on traffickers that it’s no longer worth their while to enslave others for profit. Such is, or at least ought to be, our democratic right that elected leaders must follow our demands or else we can find replacements that will. This path, like the others, isn’t an easy or a quick one, requiring commitment and enthusiasm to organize the public so that it can impose its will upon powerful states, but it;s nonetheless among our most important and fundamental weapons in the fight against injustices.

There’re still many other strategies, ranging from large, complex ones such as those above, to smaller everyday actions which, if done by many people, can also accomplish significant change. For the purposes of now, though, let’s consider just a few. First, making regular donations to NGOs, not only in the wake of natural disasters and man-made atrocities, even if individually they seem inconsequential. Second, utilising social media to disseminate information that’ll help to raise awareness of events which may otherwise remain little known and far removed from the realm of influence and decision making. This’ll help develop the foundations of popular support on which movements for justice are built, and is particularly significant for raising awareness of events in poor areas which rarely penetrate national, let alone international, mainstream media. And third, simply keeping apprised of goings on abroad is a personal task of great importance, since it ‘s the critical foundation from which all other initiatives spring.

If ordinary people gradually commit to such measures, basic as they are, awareness would be raised and eventually translated into action. This is, as history shows, the most crucial means by which people have engineered a better future, as all of humankind’s momentous victories have emerged from humble origins and exceptional diligence. Therefore, the problem is clear, the culprits are known, and the tools of change are within people’s grasp – all we require is the will to pursue them, which, if we choose, we can slowly create.