What if We Shamed Businessmen who visited Brothels?

Most of my what if? questions are concerning imagining the world differently, but not really thing we can take practical action on. There are already some organizations out there doing similar work, IJM, Not For Sale, and Perverted-Justice (from To Catch a Predator).

I was reading the book Freakonomics and it talks a lot about how the right incentives can help guide peoples actions. Shame is a powerful (negative) incentive, and I think can and should be used to help deter heinous crimes, like pedophilia. Ever since I first heard about the terrible sex trafficking that occurs worldwide I had a thought we should find ways to expose the businessmen fueling the business. A few years back I saw a Dateline special featuring IJM (International Justice Mission) and their work in the South Pacific bringing freedom to young girls forced into sex slavery and justice to the criminal brothel owners and others involved. In the feature, dateline used it’s investigative journalism to videotape a US businessman visiting brothels in Cambodia, and then they confronted him in the United States. (Here is the video below)
Dateline Special Report: Children for sale
Dateline Special Report: Children for sale

Even before the To Catch a Predator shows started, I figured digital cameras and the internet could help expose and shame business men entering brothels, thereby draining the demand and thus keeping children in their homes, rather then being lured into sex slavery.

Here’s my idea. A photographer (paid or volunteer) takes high quality pictures of those entering known brothels. These pictures are then posted online. IDing the pictures would be difficult and time consuming, but wide spread advertising could help with that. If you effectively spread the word so that every concerned friend, wife or peer knew about the website, you would probably accomplish your goal. Say pictures were posted daily (maybe blog style), divided up by city or region. If you knew someone going on an overseas business trip, you could check the site for their photograph. I could explain more, but I think you get the basic idea.
The goal of the site wouldn’t be to have people arrested (IJM does great work on that front), rather it would be to use public shame to bring down the terrible industry. I think shame can be a powerful deterrent.

I’d love to see a group with resources like Not For Sale adopt this strategy. The fact that slavery, and particularly sex slavery, exist in our world today is disturbing and atrocious. It is something we all need to be involved in addressing and doing what we can to put an end to it.

“…it’s the ugliest, most preventable, man-made disaster on our global today.” -Gary Haugen

Turning Our Ear to The Cries of the Poor (Foreclosure Victims)

If you own a house, especially with a sub-prime mortgage, you’ve probably heard the recent news that Countrywide is going to refinance up to $16 billion of loans to help people avoid foreclosure. This is great news amidst the recent housing crisis because it means people will be able to stay in their homes and avoid foreclosure. Those who were taken advantage of by predatory lending, and those who simply made unwise decisions, during the housing boom will have a chance to fix things up and avoid possible horrible outcomes of those mistakes. And, yes, this should benefit the poor, as well as the majority of the middle class, who are facing current foreclosure.

However, predatory lending is nothing new. If you come from a low-income or minority race community, you’ve seen plenty of this before. Predatory lending plagues a great many urban communities. Banks are often few and far between, check cashing shops on every corner, and redlining have negatively impacted low-income communities for decades. Not only that, but forcing foreclosure is often a strategy used to gentrify urban areas and force home-owning poor families out of their own neighborhood. Unfortunately, the plight of the poor in our country has rarely caught the ear of our politicians, corporations or even churches.

This handout will benefit the poor somewhat, alongside the middle class it is aimed at helping out, but will these same sorts of handouts, government attention and concern continue to exist once this ‘housing crisis’ is over? Unless radical changes happen, the urban landscapes will still be full of predatory lenders and redlining practices.

YouTubesday: I Could Have Saved One More…

One of the most moving movie scenes ever, that has impacted my day to day life, is this scene from Schindler’s List.

The background (for the couple who haven’t scene it) is Schindler is a German businessman who has saves the lives of over a thousand Jews by employing them in his factories during the Holocaust. The clip is longer, but the first four minutes is the part I’d like you to watch.

Schindler, who did so much and is a hero to many, still has sincere regret about some of his lifestyle choices. Notice the Jews that come around him don’t discount his statements that he could have indeed saved more people by selling his lapel pin or car, but they don’t try and lay the guilt on either; they are grateful for those he did help.

We live in a world that is daily filled with tragic and unnecessary deaths. Thousands die from lack of access to food, basic health care, clean water, preventable diseases. These are deaths I can help prevent by choosing to put my resources towards providing for others needs, but so many times I don’t choose those things.

This is a reality that I struggle with often. I fear I might have the opportunity in this life or the next, to meet the child I sponsor and, like Schindler, I will breakdown and weep at how much more I could have done, how many more I could have helped, had I only been selfless enough to put their needs before mine.

Financial Lesson #2: What to do with Wants

Last week we talked about discerning between ‘Needs’ & ‘Wants’ and then we discussed practically what constituted a ‘Need’. Today, I want to discuss how do we handle ‘Wants.’

Financial Lesson #2: What to do with Wants

I hear the term ‘blessed’ thrown around a lot amongst Christians and in Churches as it relates to financial well-being. I believe that is extremely unbiblical, and it gives us a false notion of how to handle our Wants. The fact that someone has a lot of money (say a brain surgeon) often has more to do with were they were born then any sort of ‘blessing.’ If anything, I believe God might be trying to use them to channel resources to those in need that he desperately cares about. Yet, instead we get to throw around this idea that God has ‘blessed’ us with good jobs and financial stability, thus shown by our big houses, fancy cars and expensive hobbies. That is not what I see modeled in the life of Jesus and the early church.

To clarify, a ‘want’ is something that is not necessary for you to live a productive and health life. They are things we can certainly go without, but have believed the lies of our culture (and commercials) and feel that we need. What we need to do is get honest with ourselves and make the distinction first of all. Then we can begin to discern an appropriate way to handle our wants as part of a global society.

“There is enough in the world for everyone’s need; there is not enough for everyone’s greed.” -Gandhi

Everyone has maxims and values that guide their lives to one degree or another. Yours might be ‘He who dies with the most toys, still dies.’ or maybe it’s ‘He who dies with the most toys wins.’ Whatever the case, I think making the distinction and then categorizing accordingly is an important step. This is where our budget differs from others.

Some people have budgets that commonly have categories such as: entertainment,  recreation, travel, eating out, and others. I’m okay with making distinctions between these things, but they should fit into a bigger category of Wants. For our budget, we lump all of these into something called ‘fun money.’ Fun money is not extra in addition to all your other ‘wants’ it is the category from which you fulfill your wants. In some ways it’s a lot of fun because it’s like having a weekly allowance, but unlike when you were a kid, you get to choose how big it is. There is a lot of wonderful lessons that can come from a clear understanding of ‘wants’ and ‘needs.’

When you divide wants and needs and clearly articulate what things are simply ‘wants’ you start to have a great appreciation for those things. You also learn to make choices. Once you choose your alloted fun money, you start having to choose between dinner out, a couple lattes, or saving for that camping trip. Which ever one you choose you recognize that it is not a given and that there is a trade off in fulfilling that want. I might share some stories related to this later in the week, but I’ll leave you with this today.

The ability to fulfill your desire for things you ‘want’ is a luxury of a privileged few in this world; make no mistake, you are participating in something others only dream of. 

Tomorrow: I could have saved one more…