Aaron Williams

“From a council estate in Hastings, East Sussex now a graduate living and working in Surrey. I take a keen interest in social, political and ethical discrepencies and offer thoughts on how to remedy them.”

How Slavery is still legal in the UK

The reality is slavery is still alive and well in this world, including the UK. Not only is this upsetting but also difficult to acknowledge; how can one of the world’s most economically and ethically developed nations still not only tolerate, but participate, in slavery without offending and outraging wider society? The answer is simple; informally.

Firstly, to understand this it is important to acknowledge different forms of slavery. Historically slaves have been regarded as legal property as opposed to individual humans. This was not only the case in the notorious slave trade from Africa to various plantations around the world, but also existed in a variety of other forms as well, such as in feudal Europe and the serf based economies of eastern-Europe, Russia and Asia. For those unfamiliar with these systems, although technically not property, the serfs or peasants essentially counted as a part of the property that they worked and had been dehumanised. These individuals had been forced to produce food on land they didn’t own in return for somewhere to live and a small amount of food for themselves producing massive profit for those higher up the social ladder.

‘What has this got to do with slavery in the modern day UK?’ you may ask. Well, picture an individual who works a 9-5 job for a wage. This person will be generating for their company or organisation more than their wage in goods or services providing profit for the employer. This is not intrinsically negative; however, what happens is this individual will then have to fund their transport and food to sustain a life in which they are able to work. This again is not completely unreasonable. But even reasonability has limits, in this case, excessive rent. An individual, particularly in Surrey, is lucky to find a 1-bed for less that about £650 monthly. If we subtract that from low-medium income, that presents a substantial chunk of their monthly pay; for cheap accommodation it could be up to a third of your wages. Now the necessities mentioned previously; food, travel and even utilities start to take their toll. This is essentially slavery; more akin to the aforementioned serfdom than the far more brutal slave trade beginning in the 17th century but slavery nonetheless. You are forced to work with so many constraints on your income that you are left with very little spare per month to enjoy the life your hard work genuinely warrants.

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I am a strong supporter of the state safety-net, our benefits system, helping those less fortunate than us. Equally, as a worker, I get frustrated with those who cheat the system. When you look at a system that will hand an individual enough money to escape this cycle of exploitation, a level of empathy can be established and you understand why people will be exploitative of this system. View the choice from their perspective; working a 9-5 job and having all your wages consumed by those seeking to exploit you for profit (landlords, utilities, food, travel), or you could not work, do what you want with your time, not be exploited and be in a similar financial situation. From a sensible perspective it stands to reason that people, especially those who would otherwise be on a low income, may wish to avoid work.

Now you see that a cycle is in place that will create a society of people who can afford to do little more than work, sleep and eat in which people are profiting from them from all angles, through food, utilities and work in a parasitic-like manner and those that leave attempt to leave this system end up demonized by society and ‘benefits-porn’ television shows such as ‘Jeremy Kyle’ and ‘Benefits Street’.  This effectively creates a scapegoat; the anger felt by the oppressed is angled and manipulated by television and newspapers towards those with the same frustrations as themselves. You look at these scenarios and ask you self; is this fair? What can be done to change this? With rent in Surrey and especially London rising year after year, social cleansing is evident. There are a number of ways to end this system of exploitative profiteering (all of them unappealing to the exploiters); impose a cap on rent per region, nationalise utilities and travel, increase wages. Now not only would this improve the scenario of millions of people oppressed through our current system by giving them ‘spare money’; through money comes choice, and therefore elements of freedom, and with people spending more of this ‘spare money’ they are improving not only their quality of life but they are also investing in to our economy.

Freedom as a word is different to freedom in practice. Right now you have the choice to varying degrees of how you are exploited. Having real and true choice costs money. Those crushed under exploiters are not free. They are slaves.

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Democracy is not just dead, it was never alive

Imagine you are a vegetarian, and have a choice between a cheese burger and a steak; it will make little difference to you what to choose, you don’t agree with any so why bother? Then why is it acceptable in 2017 to have a democratic system based on a similar style voting system? We all know about the first past the post (FPTP) system; it gives constituents the choice between the two most popular parties in their constituency to represent them as their MP. However, this is not democracy. If you vote for something you don’t believe in just to stop something potentially worse you can hardly say that it is democratic. You are being held electorally for ransom.

Most people will have done the online tests that suggest who you should vote for based on policies alone. Many people will see high percentage of Green policies as something they agree with but despite this, no one ever votes Green. Why? Is this because no one trusts them? No. It is because the electorate know it won’t make a difference. Your choice is primarily Labour or Tory (with a few exceptions dependant on constituency). It is true that we no longer have this ‘Diet-Tory’-centrist-Blairite monstrosity that was Labour and we do now have a credible left wing alternative to the Tory right, so there is at least a difference between the two parties now. But that does not mean the system is now fair. In a democracy you should be able to vote for what you believe in and get that voice heard equivalent to the proportion of the public that agree with you. That’s just fair. That’s not being unreasonable. It is just being democratic.

Proportional representation (PR) is the best current way to solve this problem. A few examples; if Greens get 10% of the vote, they deserve 10% of the seats. If UKIP get 10% of the vote, they too deserve 10% of the seats. This is just what democracy is. One of the main arguments against PR is the increase in frequency of coalition governments. Yes, this is true; PR will likely damage the percentage of seats the two major parties hold. However, if you have a coalition of two parties that in total represented the largest proportion of seats, is that not better that having, for instance, the Tory party needing to bribe the northern Irish DUP with over £1billion to secure a larger amount of seats not even in proportion to the number of people who voted for them? We would not get situations like this with PR. If PR was in place for this most recent election Labour would have 40% of the vote to the Tories 42.5% enabling either side to form a coalition. But this would be a coalition based on the legitimate majority of our choice which would be a far stronger and in fact more stable coalition than whatever on earth is going on now.

It almost stands to reason that if you don’t feel represented you will lose interest in politics and voting altogether. When you get to the polling station on an election day you can either compromise your beliefs and tactically vote, vote for what you truly believe and affect nothing or just don’t vote. How are any of those options democratic?

The Tories would never relinquish a system that keeps them perpetually in power and I’m sure there are many in labour also against PR. It is the duty of anyone who genuinely aligns themselves with the minor parties or anyone who agrees in democracy to lobby for a change in the system. It does not matter if you are left, right or centre, you deserve to be represented in your own country. I urge you to write to your MP’s and begin the process of true change in this country, for a democratic Britain.

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