This is actually quite tangent to the International School on Digital Transformation I attended last week here in Porto, the gist of most talks being that what applies to individuals — getting help is a good thing but positive change unvariably must come from within — also applies to communities. Having computers and cutting-edge technology rain down on impoverished communities is not only useless, it’s actually harmful. Despite what Bono may have people believe, you can’t just helicopter to a favela like some guy from the future and give away a few Apple surplus products. Even though The Diamond Age is perhaps my favourite piece of sci-fi literature, the whole premise that giving a very poor girl a leather-cased iPad 4 preloaded with the Young Lady Illustrated Primer app will make her a princess is just wrong. Community change comes from the development of sustainable models and practices, finding what you can do with what you have within.
Add these to Zizek’s arguments about why turbo-capitalist ‘charity’ is so harmful. Paying more for an yoghurt carrying a label saying they will give 1 cent to plant trees in the Amazon forest is a bit like paying off the 15th century Catholic Church whenever you sinned.
I also find it quite depressing the people willing to enter the capitalistic-indulgence routine are the ones who are always complaining about taxes, despite driving on public roads, having both sanitation and clear drinkable water in their homes, having access to very cheap education and (still) very cheap healthcare, and all kinds of entrepeneurship benefits. They’ll be happily ‘vanity-taxed’ on their coffee beans — feeling good about arguably giving some third world producers more money —, but God forbid paying IRS/IRC/IVA taxes that will be redistributed — for instance through unemployment benefits — to the “lazy bastards” they’ve just laid off so that they could afford that 300 horsepower Lexus hybrid. They’re like those people who go crazy if they wait for 10 minutes in a line at their local Registers Office, immediately comparing it to Soviet Bloc bureaucracies, but are more than willing to do the same without even questioning at their cable companies’ public helpdesk — you know, because the State is Evil but private companies aren ‘t.
Bring on the ‘soft apocalypse’! In the meantime, there are a few more interesting animated lectures here.