We’ve all heard it said that for evil to triumph, it is merely necessary for good people to do nothing. Apparently, the attribution of that quote is the subject of some dispute. The Chicago Daily Tribune paraphrased it this way in 1910: “When bad men combine, good men must organize.”

An easier quote to source is, “With great power, comes great responsibility.” Stan Lee wrote that in the Spiderman comic. Or you could just go with, “To whom much is given, much is expected.” That last one was Jesus in the Gospel of Luke. In both cases, the challenge is the same: how do we respond to evil in the world?

A pessimist might look out at the world and conclude that evil persons are in no short supply. I’d like to think that neither are good people. The Spotlight section of the Fog of Policy project is dedicated to help bring the attention of good people to bear on the injustice that thrives through our collective inaction.

I’m not here to preach (for that we have Peter Singer). But we could all do with a reminder that the ugly parts of the world don’t go away just because we haven’t looked at them lately.

(You might be surprised not to find the latest armed conflict on this list, but that’s because we all already know about them. It isn’t a lack of awareness that kept the world from intervening in Rwanda or the Congo.)

Slavery, Human Trafficking, and the Sex Trade

Though it might shock people used to thinking of slavery as an institution that disappeared with the end of the Civil War, the United Nations and the International Labor Organization estimate that there are approximately 21 million modern-day slaves in the world – many of them victims of the sex trade. That comes out to three out of every 1,000 people in the world today. Put another way, there are more people enslaved today than at the peak of the cross-Atlantic slave trade. The U.S. State Department estimates that each year, over a million children are exploited in the global commercial sex trade. The New York Times reports that the number of enslaved people in the United States could be as high as 100,000 and while the number of victims of sex trafficking in the US is a matter of heated debate, some estimates put the number of children at 1.6 million.

  • If you want to learn more about how the Civil War didn’t even mean the end to the sort of slavery that term usually brings to mind, then check out Douglas Blackmon’s revelatory book, Slavery by Another Name.

Sexual Violence in America

The perennial puzzle of sexual violence in America is how it is that such a prevalent problem receives such scant meaningful attention. One in six women in this country reports being the victim of a rape or attempted rape; for women who have gone to college, that number rises to one in four. Though rape cases are notoriously underreported and difficult to prove, the FBI determined that 95% of reported cases were substantiated with sound evidence.

In addition, 75% of rapes are what used to fall into the category of ‘date-rape’ but is now more often referred to as ‘acquaintance rape’. This just means that the victim and the assailant knew each other; in that way women can add the anguish of betrayal to the trauma of sexual assault. (Source)

For information on the financial health, transparency, and accountability of a particular philanthropic organization, visit Charity Navigator.

For an interesting take on the need to rethink how we look at charity spending, check out Dan Pallotta’s TED Talk.