Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Finding a Cause

Note: I suspect that perhaps a reader or two (Hi Jenera) might want to quote or link to this. Feel free. I just want to be sure that I'll get credit for it, of course. After all, if a post here somehow becomes the Answer to all my problems, I want to be sure I get recognized for what I write.

I just finished reading (for the second time) one of the most maddening books I've ever encountered. Victor Malarek's "The Natashas: Inside the Global Sex Trade". I first stumbled upon it about 3 years ago, when I saw it in a bookstore. Couldn't figure out what "the Natashas" were from looking at the spine. I pulled it out, flipped it open and was hooked.

It's a book that is sickening. It tells of how almost a million innocent women, a quarter of them from Eastern Europe and Russia, are dragged into prostitution and pornography every year. For instance, according to what he says, in Ukraine, unemployment for women is somewhere around 75%. Given that, is it surprising that a beautiful, intelligent, educated and yet desperate woman would be willing to take a chance on a "too good to be true" job in the West? Some are naive, some are misled into thinking it will only entail non-nude dancing, some are aware that it is prostitution (though not the true conditions), and some are simply kidnapped from their villages. And of course, some are led to believe that they are flying west to marry a rich man and raise a family.

These women are beaten and raped into submission, and then sold to pimps and other lowlifes. Then they're forced to "service" their "clients" for hours and hours on end. No days off, no lunch breaks, no nothing. Just a constant stream of unattractive men making humiliating demands. Often, when the money she brings in (every single dime she earns goes to the pimp, of course) starts to decline, she's sold again. And again. It's disgusting, unbelievable, and yet obviously true. As an American, I find the idea of slavery and violence against women to be appalling. And yet, a large percentage-possibly a majority- of the men that avail themselves of these women are also American.

I remember being incredibly angry as I first read the book (not that it gets any easier the second time). Some of these women sound like the sort that I have desired (unsuccessfully) my entire life. Perhaps my morality is misleading: from the sounds of it, I could get one for a mere $1000. One part of my brain (okay, maybe not my brain) wants a stunning 21 year old woman who would cater to my every whim. But my God, not if I have to beat her up to keep her. If I had a woman like some of these, I would want to look in her eyes and see respect, friendship, and humor. Perhaps even, during certain times, love and desire. No way on God's green earth would I want to look in her eyes during (forced) sex and see fear and loathing. The very idea is sickening.

Since I started rereading it over the weekend, I've been thinking. If ever there was a Cause that I want to fight for, it's ending the trafficking of women and girls for sex. It's hard for me to understand why I feel so strongly, but I do.

And there's the rub. I'm a middle-aged, unmarried American male. Frankly, people like me are more likely to be looking for a way to get involved in this from the other side of the fence. So I suspect that in this case, demography works against me. Why would a person that knows the real situation believe somebody like me really, truly, feels this strongly? It would sound suspicious, I think. Hell, I'm contemplating the idea of teaching English in Eastern Europe, and I understand schools there are suspicious of single men of my age. Apparently many want to get over there and live a life of hedonistic pleasure with the local women, work obligations be damned.

So what to do? One part of my brain says to just contact groups that work against Trafficking, and tell them "I want to help. To give of myself, not merely of my money." But that's the other part of the problem. The groups that I have found fall into 3 broad categories: Women's Groups, Human Rights Groups, and Church Groups.

The first of these doesn't sound appealing. I suspect some of these are comprised of women whose opinions and world-views clash strongly with mine. I don't want to be surrounded by hairy-legged women of the sort that, after the Tsunami in SE Asia a couple years ago, were collecting and sending birth-control supplies, nursing bras and such things to people with no food or clean water. And if anybody there ever suggested that Islam is anything other than an abomination against women.... well, I suspect I'd be fired within 5 minutes.

Ironically, I might be more of a feminist than some of these harpies.

As to the human rights groups, I'm sure the people working there feel strongly about what they are doing. And I'm enough of a realist to know that no group or country is perfect. But I think that these groups spend too much time worrying about the death penalty in the US, or how prisoners are treated at Gitmo. Again, I'd last only a few minutes there. My concern-my passion- at least at the present time, is trafficking and slavery. If a terrorist has to use a communal bathroom while in prison, tough. So I would want to focus my energy on just the one issue, and these groups don't.

Finally, the Church groups. Some seem to be focused on just the trafficking issue, which is great. The only problem is, I'm not a particularly religious man. I was raised Catholic, but I don't practice it, and I'm not even a strong believer in "Christianity". Thus, a group which requires (as one does that I found) a "statement of faith" from applicants is not a terribly good match for a "Jesus wasn't a Christian" kind of guy.

So I appear to be left out in the cold. There just don't seem to be any groups that work actively for human rights- REAL human rights issues, are "conservative", and also secular. I tend towards thinking I should just start one, but I have no experience and no knowledge of how to go about it.

And again we come back to the underlying theme: would people I meet take me seriously on this issue? Even if I was able to get to say, Serbia (apparently, thanks to the UN mission in Kosovo, one of the worst places on earth for trafficking), and even if I was somehow able to "rescue" some of the victims, what would they think? The last person in the world they would trust would be a man, right?

Ugh. It's a hard feeling when you find something that you feel strongly about- an issue that makes you simply think "this is it. This is my calling to make the world a better place", but you can't find any practical way to do it.

Of course, John R. Powers suggested in one of his books that the true meaning of the inscription INRI on the head of the Cross was "Below hangs an impractical man". Perhaps, having found something I truly believe in, I'm finally looking at the world through a "practical" eye.