Nuance Delivery 4: Correcting Our Aim

Having trouble with the video editing software to get Oluu Orga's excellent video-bio on his years in Agbogbloshie up for view.  I had been using Picasa for the previous videos I edited. Alphabet (Google) is kind of the popular boyfriend/girlfriend that only dates you for a couple of years and then loses interest... Love their free products but they wind up dropping support and pulling the plug-ins.

While I keep working on it, I'm also getting ready to receive a bunch of African Fair Trade Recycling members. Wahab "Ghana Tech" is arriving in Boston. Emmanuel Nyaletey arrives tomorrow from Georgia Tech. Evans Quaye of Accra is networking in South Africa.  Web Element is completing their Fair Trade Recycling Waste Offset (re-export) paperwork at Ghana EPA. Our newest Fair Trade Recycling staffer, John Sumani of Wa (far Northwest), a Ph.D in environmental studies, has a good network at Ghana EPA. The Techs of Chendiba Enterprises check in politely now and then. And the "three musketeers of Agbo", Awal, Yaro and Razak, have their Whatsapp credits ready to spend (at all hours of day and night).

Legit European researchers like Dagna Rams and Vero Johannes and Rafa Font have kind of brought a "Charitable Industrial Complex 2.0" to the e-waste scene. I mean that as a compliment, they are turning away the creepy photo-alarmist ([povporn]) documentary approach. But their very livelihoods (their research funding), the source of their relevance, depends on the oxygen of home country consumers mistaking diaspora for dystopia.  The researchers know the difference, but unlike yours truly, depend a little bit on the hype for relevance. In Nuance 2, I described how I did the same thing, we all do that, it's not a bad ego.  It's just a normal human ego, seeking validation.

The central challenge of this blog is to call out the hyperbole of the ENGOs whose utterly false claims about origins of pollution, poverty, and victimization created this combustible combination of aid and environmental concern. I've been trying to find the balance, the Nuance, for 10 years, as a blogger.

My claim is that I'm better networked with smart Africans, as I was with smart Asians and smart Latin Americans. The balance, or nuance, I have to achieve is the same ego-drift... The Peace Corps volunteers who "went native", or who seem so in love with their experience that it creates resentment... "cultural appropriation" is a term that I hear college students using a lot.

Oluu Orga took me on his motorcycle to visit a tailor in Tamale, who was happy to make me shirts as gifts for my friends in the USA.  The tailor made more money than he would selling through middlemen wholesalers and retailers, and I got to know the guy, there's a memory with the shirt, a memory of an hour spent on the back of Oluu's motorcycle.  Dagna and Vero and other young people who care about Africa, who love it as I do, are developing similar experiences. My advice is not to spend too much time with expats or African bureaucrats and fonctionnaires.

This blog is, to me, a journal on the evolution of my experience as both an environmentalists and a social do-gooder, a man trying to find the balance between being popular with NGOs and being persuasive. Good friends say the blog has made a difference in how history will describe globalization, and in tearing down the false construct of externalization as the primary driver of elective upgrade by consumers in emerging markets.

The terms in the tweet at top are ones I created or coined. There are other important ones I found in a state of disuse. Planned Obsolescence. Critical Mass of Users. Fuzzy Current. All terms I find in 1990s and 1980s development.  Surfacing books by Graham Mytton and Vance Packard.  I'll leave you with another shared when I was in a debate on Trump supporters, and the theory that they are victims of globalization.  Poppycock. They are victims of a western system developed to sell consumerism through consumer credit, which pushes "elective upgrades" to maximize economic production. The average American consumer has borrowed more and saved less, and surrounded themselves with "stuff" in the process.

Here is a list from 1998 New York Times Book Review, by Peter T. Kilborn, titled "Splurge:  Why Americans can't stop buying stuff".

Related Links
  • Robert Kuttner Reviews Juliet B. Schor's 'The Overworked American' (February 2, 1992)
  • Deborah Stead Reviews 'The Overspent American' (June 14, 1998)
  • Only Consume: An Interview With Juliet B. Schor (June 14, 1998)
  • First Chapter: 'The Overspent American'

  • The good news about Globalization is that it allows market growth without force-feeding OECD consumers like pate-line-geese.  We can certainly get better at how we deal with second-hand goods. Sometimes that's repairing them, sometimes it's "marshmallow test" deferring consumption another year, sometimes it's resisting the wave of purchasing impulse.  My contribution is to address hoarding - why there's a legit evolutionary Steven Pinker-esque reason that we do it. Why we keep stuff in our drawers in case someone we love or know might need it.  The solution is to modestly upgrade our lives, and then -very quickly- sell or donate the used stuff so that it doesn't waste away, and can meet someone else's elective-upgrade-needs.

    No one is going to remember the names of the ENGO's my critics believe I have denigrated and insulted, who provide the "sizzle" to the EScrap Conference steaks. Before blaming the "One Percent", we need to re-learn what we've forgotten about added value and retained value. The environment and social development both depend upon it. And any remedy which taxes or imprisons Tech Sector entrepreneurs like #freejoebenson must be recorded as historical incompetence, a modern colonial expression that our photojournalists are priests, and Africans must learn the missionary position of buying brand new stuff they cannot afford, mined from riverbeds and coral islands and rain forests, fueled with consumer debt that obliterates savings.

    When you cut your hair and get an MBA, it does not mean you sold out, any more than learning a foreign language means you've sold out. Economics is really interesting, and lazy environmentalists who label it all as bad and externalization are just too bad at math and too lazy to do secondary research. They are not heroes. They were false missionaries who got caught taking advantage of the pulpit we trusted them with.

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