[iDC] FW: One Laptop Per Child - MIT/Negroponte Initiative

Alexis Turner subbies at redheadedstepchild.org
Thu Jan 3 02:40:47 UTC 2008

Don't be absurd.  Having actually worked in a sweatshop, I am not about to 
recommend it as a life choice. Having also lived in a rural area and seen 
what became of the people I grew up with, I am neither going to accept the 
Romantic picture of that as a better alternative.  This is, in fact, precisely 
why I would like to see people given a set of tools that might allow them 
to extricate themselves from either such situation, or even avoid them 

That is what I would like to see. But, unlike others on the list, I am also not 
celebrating the One Laptop project as the most philanthropic wonderful, 
incredible thing ever to come across the face of the planet.  Because those 
people make the same mistake you are making - they fail to accept that the 
world is not black and white.

Ultimately, my argument is simple.  People suck, okay?  There will always be 
inequality, and there is nothing *NOTHING* that will change that, because most 
people do not *want* that to change, not really.  Even the best person, when 
confronted with the decision of whether to help a neighbor's child succeed at 
the expense of helping one's own child succeed,  will choose their own child.  
The sad reality is that someone is going to be stuck being a garbage man.  
Someone is going to be a miner.  Someone is going to be the girl stuck in the 
drycleaners pressing your clothes all day long, surrounded by steam and toxic 
waste, with no air conditioning, in Houston, in the summer, working for $4 an 
hour. We can't all be academics and webmasters and creative directors.

In the face of this, I choose the only thing I feel I can - to allow people to 
make their own decisions and lead their own lives.  I do not believe I have the 
answers. I lack the hubris that your "imperialists" have - whether the hubris to 
believe that what works for me works for others, the hubris to believe that 
others are in a bad spot because they are not as good as I am, or the hubris to 
believe that I can make a decision for a person they can't make for themselves.  
I am perfectly aware that people's situations are dictated by forces often out 
of their control.  But I also lack the hubris to believe I can change this.  
The only thing I can do is measure my own decisions in light of how much 
positive or negative impact I suspect they will have overall and attempt to 
make choices that seem, at the time, to lean more towards the good.  To tell 
myself I am doing anything other than that is simply asinine.

As for your "egg breaking" analogy, the eggs are already breaking.  The question 
to ask regarding this project is whether it will break more than are already 
being broken, or whether it will break less.  The answer to that question should 
dictate where to go from here.

On Wed, 2 Jan 2008, davin heckman wrote:

::Date: Wed, 2 Jan 2008 15:40:02 -0500
::From: davin heckman <davinheckman at gmail.com>
::To: subbies at redheadedstepchild.org
::Cc: David Golumbia <dg6n at unix.mail.virginia.edu>, idc at mailman.thing.net
::Subject: Re: [iDC] FW: One Laptop Per Child - MIT/Negroponte Initiative
::Not to nitpick, but I have a hard time getting my head around the
::thought that people "choose" to leave their farms and move to slums
::and work in sweatshops.  This is a gross distortion of what is
::actually happening.  People are leaving threatening situations to seek
::opportunities which may or may not exist.  And there are decisions
::being made by other "humanitarians" like the WTO which are
::accelerating this process....  There is a strong economic carrot and
::stick operating here (and the carrot part seems to be shrinking while
::the stick is growing).
::I think this is why people throw around terms like "cultural
::imperialism" or whatever.  It places the entire responsibility of
::failure on the individual and his or her culture, but takes great
::pains to celebrate success as a triumph of the philanthropic project.
::To use an example, both Chile and El Salvador were the site of
::horrifying atrocities achieved in pursuit of an U.S.-backed economic
::and political order, yet in many circles, these atrocities have been
::reframed as unfortunate but acceptable growing pains on the road to
::the future.
::Granted these laptops are nothing like paramilitary death squads...
::But it's hard to blame people for being sensitive about imperialism...
:: especially if they have been put through the ringer before.  And I
::can't imagine that many of them are reassured by the "you gotta break
::some eggs" approach to philanthopy.

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