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General Interest

NOT GETTING IT QUITE RIGHT

With the best of intentions, we still screw up. We all want to build a better world, to live in peace, prosperity and brotherhood and leave our children a world where they can flourish. We may have different ideas of how to go about that, but any attempt to perform a good act is welcome. Or, rather, almost any attempt. Sometimes we put the cart before the horse.

There’s a country in Africa that was sent many thousands of computers. Great idea, no? Unfortunately, where the computers wound up, the people can’t read. Not only that, there was no electricity. But the people weren’t stupid, and still found a way to better their lives with the aid of modern computers.

How, you wonder? They did the next best thing, they broke them apart to sell the precious metals inside, earning money to feed their families. There’s a sizable “computer mine” there, a rubble-strewn garbage dump where prospectors specialize in retrieving and marketing the different components, with even the glass from the monitor screens and the sheet metal cases having a market value.

So, while education remains the surest path to escaping poverty, maybe someone should have thought to teach these people to read and to install power lines before sending them computers. You don’t teach astrophysics and philosophy in first grade, you sort of start with the ABCs and some basic numbers and build from there.

This is what the Peace Corps used to do, and they brought sacks of hardy grain seed labeled “U.S.A.” with them too, and taught people how to feed themselves. Food is pretty much the first thing children think about every morning, and helping the poor always starts there, then the reading and writing and the building and the computers and such. The Peace Corps had a step-by-step plan. You’re supposed to have a plan when you do big things.

Take Texas, for example, the Poster State for doing big things in a big way. Well, the flat, windy topography of much of Texas turns out to be ideal for wind farming, and now Texas is the largest producer of wind energy in America, if only there were enough power lines to deliver this energy from the wind turbines to consumers. Dang!

Who planned this? Or, rather,  failed to plan. It’s not like wind power is brand new technology. Ask the Dutch. Or the Phoenicians, for that matter. Wind power is as old as friggin’ civilization! The only difference is that today’s windmills need power lines, unless the Texans have up with some sort of transmitted power they’re not telling us about. Now would be a good time to let everyone know what’s the plan, Stan.

There you have two noble attempts to build a better world gone awry by poor planning. No wonder the corrupt and the power mad so often prevail. Now, if they could route some of that Texan electrical power over to Africa to light up some schools…

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