Two posts back, I shared my understanding of a talk by Reb Shmuel Lewis. The Torah insists that human morality can and must progress; that history is not cyclic but rather linear or teleological. We are heading towards a better world. The example Reb Shmuel gave was slavery, which was once accepted as an inescapable part of reality and is now abhorrent to all of us.
My post triggered complex reactions from many of you. No one left a comment on my blog site, but, as is always the case, I received many comments by email and Facebook, and each one made me think again.
I don't know any slave owners personally. But I am certain that my wardrobe includes clothing and my kitchen cabinets include foods that were produced in part by the hands of slaves. In the year 2000, a report by the US State Department noted that 15,000 children aged 9 to 12 had been sold into forced labor on cotton, coffee, and cocoa plantations on the Ivory Coast alone. And where is all that cotton, coffee and cocoa heading? You guessed it -- our wardrobes and kitchen cabinets. The Slave Free Chocolate coalition estimates that cocoa production worldwide uses 100,000 child slaves.
On the other hand, in 2008 the UK's Fair Trade Foundation announced a total of 4.12 billion dollars of fair trade sales worldwide, and the fair trade movement is slow but growing in the US and Canada. Many chocolate companies in particular make a point of selling only products that do not rely on exploitation (at least, not severe exploitation.)
So now I am posing it as an open question, on the evening after Holocaust Memorial Day. In the past millennium, humanity has made astonishing progress in science and technology, but have we made any progress in matters of the heart?
Please tell me what you think. If you are unable to leave a comment here on the blog site (many people have told me they've tried to leave comments, but their efforts were lost when they clicked "post"), send me an email at email@example.com, and give me permission to copy your email into an anonymous comment on my site. Let's get a conversation going.