FIFTH Film of E-Waste Samaritans This Week

Thanks to Waste and Recycling News for adding a 5th film to the list of "E-Waste Samaritans" this week.   The teaser video on Vimeo for the documentary "Zabaleen" rounds out a busy week for investigation of the crime of the decade - Recycling While Brown.  In Zabaleen, director Justin Kramer digs into the social, political and economic divide inside Egypt's own have-and-have-not society.

WRN Editor John Campanelli not only found this Fifth video of the week on Recycling Samaritans, but also by pens a very accessible Editorial, Film reveals the story of Egyptian trash collectors.  Campanelli interviews the director of the documentary, Justin Kramer, by telephone to make sure that his own "aha" moment he obviously experiences is clear to all readers.  (Disclosure:  WRN  also reprinted my modest proposal post on "A-Waste" this week, so far the highest hit count of the weekly publication.)

Campanelli keeps it simple and not political.  Appreciate garbage people and recyclers.  They could be heroes.  While the editorial maintains WRN as an apolitical, unbiased interviewer, Campanelli gets makes the Brown Recyclers' story to be an environmentalists story, an underdog's story, a refreshing change from the "primitive toxic" story.
""The general view is that these people are what they handle," said Kramer. "Most people, especially younger people, look at them as just disgusting. They don´t see the good that they are doing."
The good is an astonishing diversion rate. The Zabaleen are able to recycle or reuse 80% of what they collect. The organic waste becomes feed for their livestock. The paper, plastic and metal go to recyclers.
"The sustainability of these people is completely off the charts," said Kramer. "They don´t waste anything."
The citizens of Cairo didn´t realize the service these people provided until 2009, when, in the wake of a swine flu scare, the government ordered the slaughter of all the Zabaleen´s pigs – hundreds of thousands of animals.
The Zabaleen, outraged at the perceived discrimination, stopped working for weeks. The trash soon piled – and rotted – in the streets.
Kramer, who´s originally from New Jersey, says his time among the Zabaleen has altered the way he looks at the world.

"E-Waste Samaritans" is a reference to two posts I wrote two years ago about the difference between dumping and trading.   Geeks speak the same language.   WRN and the documentary Zabaleen just broaden the point.  It is unnecessary and passe to treat recyclers, trash collectors, and tosher with distain and untouchable status.   It's so pre-Renaissance.  Mixing tribalism and religion and politics with hidden human evolutionary cognitive fears over sickness (typhoid) and juju (toxic e-waste) just leads to a mess.

Tom Cruise Tropic Thunder
When the Zabaleen threw up their hands and refused to collect the City of Cairo's garbage, the garbage built up and made a mess.  That is what is happening today with e-waste markets.  The Technicians at CRT refurbishing factories are still buying, and they are still buying from me as an exception.  They are no longer interested in California or the USA as a supplier.  They get all the new CRTs they need from Asian offices and Universities which are buying LCDs.   Like the Zabaleen, the Geeks of Color are increasingly telling the USA "You Don't Know Me Like That".

Meanwhile, I'm trying to put these films and stories as cornerstones to a larger image about society.

Zabaleen: A Documentary Film TEASER from Zabaleen on Vimeo.

As American politicians debate the distribution of wealth between the "halves", "haves," and "have nots", as Obama makes economic fairness a centerpiece in his State of the Union address, we find ourselves focused on the energy or political force of two inate but powerful fluids in humanity:  Compassion and Jealousy.

Compassion is the caring or distraught feeling which comes when a neighbor is suffering... the Good Samaritan impulse.  Religion wears it on its sleeve.  But the tradition of washing feet, of accepting a lowly position, and being recognized for it, is encased in the very being of the Coptic Christian sect in Egypt.   They are non-threatening, they are doing an environmental good, and they are the best at what they do.  Egypt's muslim "tyranny of the majority" response is not a reaction against garbage recycling, it's a reaction to a part of monochrome society that doesn't look the same.  But the oppression of the Zabaleen it harnesses a fear and distrust of underclass untouchables.  I see that in the proposal to ban my trade with
Egyptians - Muslim and Christian alike - through HR2284.

Greed and Fear.

Perhaps, it occurs to me (from what I've read of Stephen Pinker), the mistaking of recoiling for compassion is something base.  We fear.   Perhaps disgust is a fear impulse, disapproval, denunciation are fear and recoil.  Perhaps compassion is some faint sign of fear.  Perhaps we evolve compassion when someone - a child - is vulnerable but not a threat.  Perhaps we evolve disgust, recoil, as a reaction to needy adults.  Hungry adults represented a threat, perhaps, in the evolution of humans.

Sharing is a way of using surplus to empower greater numbers.  If you control the surplus, the power can be leveraged into leadership.

I think this whole thing - all the actors, companies, activists, etc. - are going to turn out to be a little bit human at the end of this play.

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