Monday, March 13, 2017

A World Too Savage

There’s a series of somewhat related items I came across the past few days. Some of them heartbreaking for a lover of civilization.

This first is from December, but it came to my awareness this week. The piece begins, “Nearly 400 children have been rescued and 348 adults arrested following an “extraordinary” international child pornography investigation in Canada.” This was the result of a three-year undercover project. It wasn’t limited to Canada:

What they eventually found was a full blown child porn production and distribution company in Toronto that was distributing their content online. The site was run by 42-year old Brian Way and sold and distributed images of child exploitation to people across the world.
The head of Toronto’s Sex Crimes Unit said they enlisted the help of the United States Postal Inspection Service since many of the videos were being exported to the U.S. and began a joint investigation. After a seven-month long investigation, officers executed search warrants across the city of Toronto including at the business of Brian Way.
It is hard for a civilized person to understand the demand—the market—for obscene violence to children. There are actual people, among us, who choose this evil.

This next story is about a man, a hero, named Tim Ballard, who has dedicated his life to rescuing children enslaved in sex trafficking. After 12 years working for the government as a special agent, he used his skills to create a private organization, Operation Underground Railroad. They recently had a successful sting operation surrounding a Super Bowl party. On February 5 O.U.R. led to the arrest of 9 traffickers and rescued 29 girls.  Since its founding four years ago, O.U.R. “has successfully completed 73 operations, rescued 643 victims, and aided in 273 arrests.”

Tim Ballard, screen shot from here

I’ve seen Tim Ballard talk about his operations on the Glenn Beck show. It is eye-opening to realize how much slavery—and much of it sex slavery—exists. Estimates are that there is far more slavery in the world today than there ever was during legal slavery.

Much of Ballard’s work is in Haiti, which the 3rd highest rate of sex trafficking in the world, mainly because of severe poverty there. He says, “If you just painted orphanage on the side of the wall, people would bring children to you, and then the kids would go out the backdoor in a deal."

But he adds that the US is the highest producer and consumer of child pornography in the world. His operation is successful by posing as American buyers, because they seem plausible to the dealers.

Again, it is beyond shocking that there are people among us who would purchase sex with children, or purchase child slaves for the purpose of using them for sex. This seems beyond the imagination of a dystopian novel.

Closer to home, I came across a third piece, about a woman named Tracie Mann, who spoke to a women’s group in Montgomery County, just north of the Greater Houston Area. Mann is the founder of Phoenix Charity, in which
Tracie Mann
photo from here

she oversees every aspect of the rescue and recovery operations and with a team of at least 30. Her team increases to about 100 with partners on the streets and from various levels of local and state law enforcement agencies in Montgomery and Harris counties, as well as federal agencies such as the FBI, DPS, and ICE.
She is working to provide hope and positively reprogram the mindset of the recovering children who on average are raped in excess of 100 times within 24 hours, beaten, drugged, and branded. As the owner of Body Restore Med Spa and Laser Center, which funds her recovery operations, her work allows her to remove the brand marks, tattoos, burns, and scars the children carry once rescued.
She has been involved in this work, on her own, since 2004. She is trying to raise awareness. She says it happens in front of us, and we don’t notice—at doctors’ offices, at fast food restaurants, through social media and phone apps.

She said, "We watched the sale and purchase outside a McDonald's in Montgomery County. It happens. It happens in plain site because we all live in our own little bubbles."

I admit that I am in something of a bubble. This is a hard thing to think about. Especially close to home. I wrote about a sting operation, in Waco, a couple of years ago. There were 29 arrests, 9 of them for human trafficking. The shock there was that one was a Ft. Hood sergeant. Another was a law school acquaintance of son Political Sphere, who reports that the guy had seemed normal.

That’s what I’m finding puzzling. People among us, enjoying the benefits of civilization that come from a preponderance of people living basically decent lives, yet who willingly engage in heinous acts against fellow human beings—often the young and most vulnerable.

In the Spherical Model I offer a chart of behavior relative to family, showing the ideal on down to the savage, marking where civilization has decayed and the culture sinks. Since we’re talking about the savage behavior, we’ll travel that chart from the bottom up, in hopes of gaining understanding.

Starting at the bottom, my experience is close to nil. I might not have ever met someone who would engage in any aspect of human trafficking. OK—I just thought of an exception, because I grew up on the same street as the kidnapper of Elizabeth Smart. But I’m unaware of ever meeting anyone who would buy or sell people.

Moving up the scale, I can’t imagine anyone I know engaging in child porn (although the less violent versions of porn have affected people I know). I have never met anyone who would admit to participating in prostitution, as either the prostitute or the buyer. But Mr. Spherical Model has come across both in regular business-related circumstances. So it may be shockingly common for people on business trips to pay for that degradation.

Going further up, I have known a very few people I would consider promiscuous, but none that expected approval from me, although in the celebrity world that appears common. And I’ve known a few more who were adulterous; most were ashamed, and recognized it as a causal factor in their divorce.

Further up still, I’ve known quite a number of people who consider sex outside of marriage a normal part of a relationship, and many live together before marriage as if that is an expected step in a relationship. This is where much of our culture is today.

I attended a women’s interfaith event where we discussed various belief questions at our tables. At mine, out of about eight religious people, only two of us clearly believed that sex outside of marriage is sinful and goes against our religions. The other was a Christian immigrant from Iran. Since the scriptures are clear, I wondered why the other Christians were so vague on the subject.

Going up further, we find people who believe as I do, that sex outside of marriage is unwise and wrong, but fail to live true to that belief, but then turn their lives around and work in their future toward a strong family. This is the minimum level for civilization. If we don’t get back up to this level, and work to sustain this belief and behavior, we sink further.

There are a couple of other things I came across this week. One is a quote from the Prophet and leader of my Church, President Thomas S. Monson. He said, “Today, we are encamped against the greatest array of sin, vice, and evil ever assembled before our eyes.” The thing is, he said it 50 years ago. There has been some serious sinking since then.

But not all of society sinks, and many individuals rise. And that is reason to be hopeful.

The other thing I came across was a piece in my local section of the Houston Chronicle last week, by Rick Brown. He was talking about the history of cultures that believe, as ours does today, that sex is “to be enjoyed recreationally and that best happens outside of marriage.”

He made the comparison to the apostle Paul’s Greco-Roman culture. As he put it,

There was a lot of sex in the city of Thessalonica. Many—if not most—of the Christians that Paul is writing to came out of a pagan background where sexual promiscuity was the norm and widely tolerated. They had to learn a new way to walk.
The interesting thing is that they did find the new way—the way that had been taught by God from Adam and Eve onward, but was new to the Christian converts. That recovered truth eventually became the accepted and understood way in most of the Western world for the next 1900 years.

It can be done. People can change. People can go against the common culture and toward civilization.

The way—the only way—to civilization is a righteous people honoring God, family, life, truth, and property. We know this. I guess we need to do some Paul-style spreading the word.

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