"It was a close place. I took . . . up [the letter I’d written to Miss Watson], and held it in my hand. I was a-trembling, because I’d got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself: “All right then, I’ll go to hell”—and tore it up. It was awful thoughts and awful words, but they was said. And I let them stay said; and never thought no more about reforming."
After ten days in Ghana, I'm more certain than ever that many of my peers, the people in the "respected" recycling field, the E-Stewards and even the R2 Standard bearers, have kept a too- respectable distance from the victims of the worst of the "e-waste" crimes... false witness, defamation of character, and false imprisonment (of Joe Benson).
- "If not for BAN.org, none of us would be here"
- "You must admit, BAN's work in China in 2002 was very important"
- "It's not about the steak, it's the sizzle. BAN brought sizzle to the scrap conferences"
As alone as I feel at the ISRI or E-Scrap shows, as empty as WR3A's booth and coffers have become, I'm surrounded now (in Africa) by people who get it'. It's the silent majority of people. There are about 6 billion people in the "non-OECD". The eyewitnesses to the "e-waste crime" are Africans,
If they were forced to choose today between Joe Benson, who charged African traders hundreds of thousands of dollars to sell them used equipment they need, and the 1,300,000 Swiss Franc "grant" project, via Blacksmith Institute, to "reform Agbogbloshie", the jury would be unanimous.
Benson, the African born TV repairman, has done far more to benefit Africa than Blacksmith Institute's no doubt "well-intentioned" reform project. And as the young Howell of the Scrappers in Agbogbloshie noted (in local talk to Wahab), of the 1.3 million, not a Swiss franc went to the scrappers for a job. Blacksmith used the money on hardware, travel, and consultants. They declared it was part of a "hands on" solution in Agbogbloshie, and left "clean" equipment which took 3 times the effort to produce the same amount of copper. Declared victory and left.
"Things Fall Apart" by Chenewa Achebe has come to mean so many things, as a title. But the biggest hope Africa has are people who put things back together again. Repairers. Fixers. Tinkerers. Geeks. Nerds. Techies. And at Chendiba Enterprises in Tamale, I'm surrounded by them.
In Blackmith's - and to some degree & or Qampnet's defense (a different project I link to later), they didn't have the three decades experience I have in trying to create affordable win-win solutions. First off, partner with a Tinker. The best and brightest kids in a Peace Corps volunteer's 1980s class should be tinkerers, fixers, repair people, techicians.
The ones who fail, who drop out of African class, are not bad people. Those are the ones who go on to burn wires, or sometimes steal electric cable (something they always prefer to burn, to cover their tracks). I'm not attacking the "bottom of the class" in Africa, I'm just noticing how Americans and Europeans want to go the Mother Theresa route and build solutions around the weakest players.
Is it because, in comparison with the weakest links, the American and European is more exotic, more heroic, more the protagonist? Or are they like the doctor who wants to treat the sickest patients and leaves others to die of infections? The phrase "you have to learn to step over the bodies, and help the soldiers on the field who you can help" was taught to me by Glenda Patterson, a long time counselor of Vermont's hard knocks cases.
|The only prison cell Joe Benson Belongs in|
"All right then, I'll go to hell". I'm neither stupid nor brave. I'm better educated than Huck Finn, and if I had the education I have now, and the foresight, I'd have been with him on the raft because that's where America was going. We'd have an African American president. We would have African American generals, and national security advisors, and lawyers, and Oprahs and Denzels.
Peronally I doubt we are looking at anywhere near the amount of time before pre-Civil War Huckleberry Finn and the Civil Rights Marches. I don't even think it will take as long as it took Guangdong Province to shrug off Communist Party State Run Appliance Bureau manufacturing for free market investment. Jim and Huck were both uneducated losers, basically. My friends in Africa - the ones I picked to partner with - are extremely bright.
I'm hopeful that this picture of Africans is going to get turned around in my lifetime, And if I can do something to hasten it, glory hallelujiah.
The pile of scrap metal above is another one of several in Tamale, found this on a small city street near a tailor I was meeting. About 6 tons of end of life whatever. Yes, I saw one CRT. But this pile isn't proof of anything except that Africa's no that different than we are, and the term "third world" is so 20th century.
And now for some quotes from my fav Dustin Hoffman film, "Little Big Man"
Jack Crabb: You're not going to hang me.General Custer: Your miserable life is not worth the reversal of a Custer decision.