FRAMED: The Documentary

I've been feverishly blogging the case of an individual African-born TV repairman.   Hurricane Joe Benson was handed a sweet looking widescreen CRT with a wire cut and a tracking device installed, and accused of purposefully losing money.  That's what happens when you ship unrepairable goods, you lose money.  We are so concerned for him, we put him in prison.

But as a new documentary will point out, the problem may be when rich people create useless lists of concerns in order to "save" the poor people from themselves.

In FRAMED, a filmmaker and college professor take on the question of how the EU and USA depict African "problems" to an extent that they become a parody of the continent.  From Washington Post:
For director Cassandra Herrman and co-producer Kathryn Mathers these two cases aren't unique, but are part of a broader issue with how Western Europe and America treat Africa. It ranges from the (roundly criticized) portrayal of South Africans in the latest Adam Sandler film, "Blended," to the well-intentioned but flawed charity projects in sub-Saharan Africa that thousands of American college students work upon every year. The pair's new documentary, "Framed," is an attempt to answer why Westerners are so obsessed with "saving" Africa, and why this obsession so often goes awry.
Have well-intentioned environmentalists have fallen into the same rut as 1900s Christian missionaries?  They are emphasizing the weaknesses of African solid waste disposal systems, without showing the "good news" about reuse, repair and sustainable development.  Good news doesn't raise pity dollars, so there is no financial incentiver to portray it in a fundraiser.  What does get portrayed seems so sad that someone has to pay for it, and this summer the UK has put a television repairman in jail.

FRAMED (which is still collecting investors on Kickstarter) poses a broader question than the set up of Benson for "e-waste" crime.  Framed poses a question endemic in all kinds of charity, and all kinds of cause championing.   #Kony, #BokoHaram "campaigns", where people in wealthy nations earn a living "championing" an image of weakness, it becomes a melange of conflicting self interests.

Many people, in fact, are writing about the "carpetbagger" approach of green missions in Africa.  The RustyRadiator Awards, Peter Buffett's essay on the "Charitable Industrial Complex", Adam Minter's Junkyard Planet, and my own contributions (Disney E-Waste Poster Child Union) all make essentially the same point.  I should have quoted Adam Smith in Useless Lists of Jobs Beneath Wealthy People.
"Every man is, no doubt, by nature, first and principally recommended to his own care; and as he is fitter to take care of himself than of any other person, it is fit and right that it should be so."  - Adam Smith

Won't go on about this now (I'm in Toronto meeting with ... let's just say it's quite a melting pot of colorful geeks up here) but wanted to do my part to plug FRAMED while the Kickstarter campaign is still open.  They have actually met their 28K goal already, but there are some neat recognitions and gifts to pledgers.  A year ago, before my company was destroyed by incompetents in Montpelier, months after the Middlebury Fair Trade Recycling Summit, I probably would have contributed much more.

Vermonters are victims of Environmental Malpractice, too.  We are not in jail cells, like Hurricane Joe Benson, we did not lose wonderful sustainable businesses like Hurricane Hamdy of Cairo, or Hurricane Fung of Malaysia.  But we lost contracts because of doubts raised about our "perceived proximity" to emerging markets, and have had to cut perfectly good purchase orders worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in exports because of the expense of "certifying" those downstreams for R2.  Payroll is cut from 26k per week to 11k.

The "charitable industrial complex" marries the interests of planned obsolescence, big shredding conglomerates, landfills (which use "alternative daily cover" as an excuse to avoid taxes on dumped material), and well-meaning social and environmental "stewards".   It's morally abusive.  As John Cleese says in his Monty Python's Flying Circus sketch ("Dennis Moore") "Wait a tic ... blimey, this redistribution of wealth is trickier than I thought.".

This is a hold up, not a botany lesson.

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