Monday, June 25, 2012
I don't mind trying to re-use and recycle things, I don't mind trying to cop free energy off the sun. This saves money. I get a kick out of making useful things from what would otherwise be trash. Hey, it's free. Who can argue with free?
What bothers me, though, is when people go to some poor 3rd world country and try to teach people how to make do with garbage and makeshift utilities, and then think they're so virtuous and come back here and bray about their Trip to Help the Poor Brown People.
I can do without the self-congratulatory smugness. It sets my teeth on edge. You're not going to fix social injustice caused by institutionalized, military-backed theft by teaching people how to make do with garbage. It is a poor substitute for real infrastructure investment. And it's disingenuous to present it as a good deed and try to get attention for it if you have benefited in the slightest amount from the cheap labor or goods of those who were so oppressed.
The other thing that bothers me is it's really cost-inefficient. A WHOLE GROUP of concerned, well-off folks, say from a church, will sign up to go on a third world do-gooder trip organized by some charity that takes a certain percentage of cream off the top for overhead, advertising, and the salaries of their officers and board. The going salary of the officer or board member of a medium size charity can run in the 6 figures. Plus it's extra income for the rich. The board is picked for their ability to schmooze rich people and hit them up for money. Therefore they are most always rich people. I won't say it's free money for them, because it's like a sales job, but these positions are mostly closed to anyone who isn't part of that social set to begin with.
Then the good people all pay several hundred bucks each for plane tickets and hotels and various vaccines and T-shirts and food and airport parking, so they can go to some third world country and put in one week of work as minimally trained volunteers. To do so, some may forego income probably in the $1,000 or $2,000 a week range. A certain amount of time is wasted on cultural presentations and banquets to make them feel good. And they go there and work with their hands, where instead maybe one or two properly trained guys could go there, and hire the same number of locals for a week at one-tenth of the cost.
I just think, there's probably some kind of bureaucratic blockage to doing it the cheap way. Because it's not really in the best interests of the ruling class to make it easy to lift people out of poverty. Maybe it's easier red-tape wise somehow to send yuppie volunteers than to hire the locals.
But if not, then instead of paying $1,500 to go over there, the volunteers could each donate $150 for the cheap way that would actually employ the locals, and then volunteer their time at home, say, in a soup kitchen for the homeless. But that wouldn't be as glamorous as Self Congratulatory International Poverty Tourism Travel.