“By viewing what I viewed and doing nothing to stop it, I failed as a human being.”
This was a statement from Robert Smith, former Alexander Keith’s pitchman, who was just sentenced to 20 months in jail and three years of probation, after pleading guilty to child porn charges. Though Smith is not a pedophile (doctors called him “hypersexual”) and has not abused either of his two children (ages 4 and 7), he is not allowed to see them without supervision until two years after his probation ends.
I would tend to agree with Robert Smith. He enjoyed watching children get raped, and he made it available to others on the internet. I would say that “failed as a human being” pretty much sums it up.
The crime itself, its existence, its recurrence, the size of its market, is nauseating. And when they catch one of these guys, when society can put a face to the crime, people just lose it. Well, I do, at least. I save up my judgments so I can cast them upon people like this guy. Even prisoners have no use for fellow inmates who exploit children. Granted, Smith did not create the pornography, but he certainly perpetuated it by giving money to those who did.
The Crown prosecutor, Allison Dellandrea, said that Smith’s sentence will help dispel the myth “that those who possess child pornography and child abuse images are somehow not responsible for the abuse committed against children in those exploitative images.”
I agree with her completely. When people buy into something that is so contrary to basic human rights, they have a responsibility for their actions and should have to answer for them.
Sadly, it was in using that same logic that I realized that I am guilty of doing a similar thing. Jen Sorlie, who waves her critical finger at Robert Smith, also has a part in exploiting human rights. I would argue that most of us do.
Somewhere in our households, we probably have items that were made by children in developing countries. If not children, it was probably workers who weren’t given proper working conditions, adequate pay, or protection from abuse. Maybe it’s coffee or sneakers or a rug. The bottom line is that a lot of things that we purchase are a direct result of human exploitation. Other people suffer while we live gratifying, low-priced lives.
I like to think that there’s a difference between Robert Smith and me, that we are not equals on the moral scale.
The distinction, of course, is that most of our infractions are not blatant; we’re not entirely aware that we’re doing it. There are ways of finding out about where and how products are made, but most of us don’t even think that far to link what we buy to its original source.
If this sort of thing was happening here it would be altogether different; it would be a Robert Smith-type response. If our children were forced into labour, we would be a lot more concerned. The picketing would start and law suits would be filed and the constitution would put some people in jail. But a lot of this stuff is happening where we can’t see and to someone else’s kid. Does that make it better? Obviously not. And yet, no one has knocked on my door demanding justice.
What if we were more aware and still purchased irresponsibly? Is it still as bad as enjoying and disseminating child pornography? I have no idea. And thank God that it’s not up to me to judge the world. But let’s agree that negligence is not a good thing.
All I know is that we, as Western consumers, aren’t answering to anyone for our part in the violation of human rights. In our position of power, we decide which other countries are uncivilized and inhumane. Those with the gold, make the rules, right? And as long as it’s not our children whose rights are violated, we live on, not failing, but thriving as human beings.