Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Third Cup of Tea (10/30)

So I guess I lied about a cool beer post on Friday. I couldn't really get anyone else in my house interested in buying/making equipment, and I'm not sure I have the finances or the wherewithall to do this whole process alone for the first time. But the dream lives on, so stay tuned.

I've been playing a bit of Red Dead Redemption and so far I think it's working for me. Yeah, yeah it's just Grand Theft Horse...but I dunno. For whatever reason I can't get too much into GTA, but RDR's period piece aesthetic does it for me. I guess maybe it seems more mature, bein' set in history and all? I don't really know what it is. It's far too late to review, but I'll post occasional thoughts as I get further into it.

It's September 11th again. 9 years now. Still no sign of Osama Bin Laden (and I bet you a couple bucks it'll be the same story next year). It's starting to feel like part of a different time, a different life. It's so very weird to look back, because while technology and culture have been moving forward at the usual rapid pace...look at all the awful baggage that we're carrying: Britain is still living an actual Orwellian nightmare of pervasive surveilance; the US is still embroiled in two theatres of war, and us in one of them; airport security is still paranoid and ridiculous. And we have to start asking some tought questions like "when are we going to get over it?". If our goal was to beat terror, why are we still afraid?

I guess we are slowly getting our shit back together, but in a way maybe that's part of the problem. Maybe we've adjusted too much to a little more restriction of our civil liberties. Maybe we're too busy worrying about the economy to understand the irreparable damage we've done to our integrity by having ever allowed human beings to be held without trial. Maybe we're too busy worrying about bringing the troops home to ask what the hell is going to happen in Afghanistan after they leave? I think there are some things we need to be afraid of now, and unfortunately they're all our fault. Or the US's, but I mean we're not so separate really.

The answer to this problem of violent fundamentalist religion has always been understanding, education, and goodwill. The work of individuals like Greg Mortenson (founder of the Central Asia institute) is of extreme value in this regard:

"Central Asia Institute’s mission is to promote and support community-based education, especially for girls, in remote regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan. The philosophy is to empower the local people through their own initiative. As of 2010, Central Asia Institute has successfully established 145 schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan, which provide (or have provided) education to over 64,000 students, with a emphasis on girls’ education. Over the first decade of CAI’s evolution, our programs and projects expanded to several regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan with an emphasis on education, health issues, environment and cultural preservation."

I've taken IDS* and I know to be critical of missions to "develop" other countries, but there's something here. Because I have only ever heard of one truly successful way to empower communities, and that is to educate the women. I recall my grandfather relating the story of an orchard project in which the men of a community were being offered the chance to make some money working on this orchard. Not bad, right? Local business, (presumably) some kind of self-employment...certainly not a sweatshop factory. Turns out the women wanted none of this, because they said the men would just take their wages and drink them away. It seems that on some kind of macro-economic scale, my kind are just not very forward-looking when it comes to money and prosperity. If you educate women, however, they can gain power and traction in communities. When that happens, they can then exercise that power to improve conditions for them and their families.

*International Development Studies

So let's not compound the waste of dollars and lives we've been funding for 9 years now. Rather than sending an invasion force to foist development on people, let's spend our money on envoys who will take the time to get to know a community, to ask them about their aspirations, and then try to make those into reality. Maybe in another 9 years the world might actually start looking like a better place.


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