Progress, Pies, and Profit

In the 20th century, the Western World, through the IMF, World Vision, etc. have tried, repeatedly and with vigour, to “help” Africa in a more “progressive” way. That is, without getting our hands too dirty.

“We just need to give them the tools”.i Or more recently, “We just need to give them the apps,”ii the NGOs tell us. And most of us believe it because we want to improve the world. Just, y’know, “progressively” and as “cleanly”iii  as possible.

Despite our best intentions, nothing but derpage has ensued.iv Africa hasn’t benefitted from receiving airdropped shipments of “progress” and they never will. It’s not a matter of giving them “a little boost” to get over some imaginary statistical hurdle. Besides, the NGOs just want to be businesses , nothing more.

Still, if we’re dead set on “helping” Africa, texting $5 to the number on our screens isn’t going to cut the mustard any more than volunteering there will have a lasting impact on anything more than our guilty white consciences.v As soon as we’re done volunteering, exhausted from the heat, lack of showers, and irregular Facebook access, the Africans we sought to help will go back to their shitty lives digging up their shitty soil.vi

So if we’re still not cured of our delusions that we can “help” even if we want to, and volunteering and textavism are out, what’s left?

Crazy Idea #1: Adopt an African Childvii

Imagine adopting a child from Africaviii. You bring said child, who we can all agree would otherwise be sentenced to live and die under the oppressive regime of a US-backed despot/tribal masochist, back to the western world and you give them the chanceix at a better life. Of course, not only are you a “better”x parent than their biological ones, you have the added advantage of protecting little Kibe from their “corrosive”xi Africa homeland and bring them to the sweet protective womb of Western Civilization. You and your partner spend the next 30 years and untold resources to provide for that child, just as you would your “own” child. And how does all that turn out?

For the sake of argument, let’s say you somehow manage to “save” their African soul.xii You’ve expended an immense amount of yourself, participated in  legalized child trafficking, and helped one. single. African. On your own turf, no less. And even then it was a bitch to pull off.

Obviously, this doesn’t scale. Mano-a-mano isn’t the ticket, even if it works, which is debatable. So perhaps economies of scale can assist us in “helping” the many and variously broken peoples of the world. Hmm, let’s see if history has any such examples…

Crazy Idea #2: Colonialism

It has a bit of a bad rap in the “progressive” world today, but colonialism was effective in stabilizing the societies of the otherwise unruly parts of the world. Structure, discipline, and a measure of securityxiii were brought to peoples who previously (and thereafter) occupied themselves with in robbing, stealing, and raping. Though statistics before and after colonialism are a bit tough to come by, it’s hard to imagine that any of these social ills went up when the men with guns settled. Colonialism isn’t easy,xiv but it sorta works.

Oh, colonialism isn’t palatable because you’re “progressive”? “What about Bitcoin?”, you ask? This, of course, is where “the community” comes in.

Crazy Idea #3: Bitcoin

Andreas M. Antonopolous might be the most famous voice of “the community”, but I’ve already ragged on him more than he deserves and he’s far from the only one. To whit, this /r/bitcoin post by redacted:xv:

Today in the world approximately 1 billion people have access to banking, credit and international finance capabilities. Primarily the upper classes and the western nations. 6 and a half billion people on this planet have no connection to the world of money.

And…

They operate in cash based societies with very little access to any international resources. They don’t use banks.

What need have they of banks? They either have no savings, rely on P2P lending for short-term loans, use social credit, or all of the above. How futuristic of them!

But won’t the Internet change all that? I mean, look how much time we spend on Facebook and how much better are lives are in the “advanced” world!

2 billion of these people are already on the Internet. And with a simple application download, they can immediately become participants in an international economy using an international currency that can be transmitted anywhere with no fees and no government controls.

Because apps! Even for the billions of people who will soon leapfrog desktop computing by buying cheap smartphones, using bitcoin will not save these users from trusting centralized institutions. If they actually have savings with which to invest, so much that they need a bank to store it, whether it’s a shady local bank in rural Tanzania that could go under tomorrow or blockchain.info,xvi that person isn’t becoming their own bank no matter how we dice it – they’re in a position where they have to trust someone to store their money for them no matter what.

And they can connect to a world of international finance that is completely peer to peer. So Bitcoin is the money of the people.

The technical hurdles in simply securing a wallet and continual butthurt of those who fail to do so indicates otherwise.

At its core Bitcoin is simple mathematical rules that everyone agrees on with no controls. The possibility of bringing 6.5 billion into productive society by connecting them to the rest of the world is truly revolutionary.xvii

Revolutionary? Absolutely. Revolutionary for its power to connect the teeming masses? Not so much.xviii

It would appear that, upon closer inspection, clean progress is as hopelessly hopeful as it is impossible to implement. Social, political, and economic inequality have not and never will be resolved with appsxix, surrogate parenting, NGOs, or “the community”. So let’s let bygones be bygones and crazy ideas be crazy ideas.

Then how are we going to improve the world? Well, by expanding the pie.xxTo do so, follow these 4 steps:

Step 1: Learn what goes in a pie.xxi

Step 2: Get your hands dirty and make some fucking pie.

Step 3: Profit.

Step 4: Distribute in your own backyard, as you see fit.xxii

See? Improving the world is possible, it’s just a lot harder and messier than it looks.

So much for “easy as pie”.

— — —

  1. That is, loan them money they can never repay. []
  2. “The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Financial Services for the Poor program aims to play a catalytic role in broadening the reach of digital payment systems, particularly in poor and rural areas, and expanding the range of services available on these platforms.” via their website. Because it’s all about the platform, not the people. Ahem.  []
  3. Clean, progressive help, if I’m to characterize it a bit, is unobtrusive, objective, and respectful of native traditions, cultures, and ways of life. Basically, it’s like taking a “clean” shit in the toilet and hoping that it doesn’t dirty the water. []
  4. See the Millennium Villages Project getting butthurt by Nina Munk. Also see malaria nets being used as fishing nets. Also also see malaria’s protective effect on the Sardinian population against MS and Type I diabetes. []
  5. Not that having a guilty white conscience was your fault to begin with, it’s rather its maintenance that you’re responsible for. []
  6. I was born on top of a spewing oil derrick because my ancestors left Africa 51-39 kya agoand my more recent forefathers left Romania/Ukraine in the 20th century. The readers’ ancestral history may vary slightly, but suffice to say that our ancestors left for greener pastures. You aren’t reading this by accident any more than I fell down the stairs and wrote this by accident. []
  7. Haha, I suddenly had visions of Russell Brand singing. I swear I didn’t plan it like that. []
  8. To remind your work friends that you’re holier than thou, the adoptee should be as black as possible. In such cases, you can’t go “too black”. Some Dutch/Boer whitey will earn you exactly zero brownie (blackie?) points at Gymboree. []
  9. There are no guarantees that you won’t mess this kid up. All you’re giving them is a chance and there’s a non-zero probability that you’ll fail. No matter how much we beg Mother Nature and our elected officials for guarantees, there are none. []
  10. i.e. Richer. []
  11. i.e. Different from your own, and one that you understand zip-zero-zilch about. Oh you’ve been to Africa? Tell me all about your experience as a rich white tourist. How was the safari? Was Kilamanjaro as beautiful as they say? You know as well as I do that you’re unlikely to put yourself in a situation even moderately resembling non-Lion-King African culture. []
  12. Oh, but of course this can’t be a religious thing, just “the right thing to do” because “everyone deserves a chance”. Obviously. []
  13. See Rhodesia as pe Trilema []
  14. See Kipling’s poem entitled “White Man’s Burden“ []
  15. Perhaps this is low-hanging fruit, perhaps it’s a couple months old now, and perhaps it received 798 upvotes, more than anything else currently on the bitcoin subreddit front page. Perhaps many things. If this is my strawman of “the community”, so be it. My point: that a 21st century western world keyboard jockey hath conceived of an idea, the right to the fruits of this naked idea does not the rest of the world, at any point, have. This sounds obvious to the rest of the world, who surely laugh at the concept of anyone thinking otherwise, but it’s murkier inside the “progressive” swamp. []
  16. bc.info has about as many outages and security shortcoming as the shady local bank without the geographic ability to air noticeable grievances. []
  17. It’s true that, not so long ago, I held very similar beliefs to those that I presently decry and detest. How has my view come to change so much in so little time? By going to IRC Yeshiva and learning from the best. That is, not by accident. []
  18. And since when did Africans want to be part of “productive society” anymore than those sipping French Sidecars on the Côte d’Azur? I’m sure a few do, but hardly as a rule. As demonstrated by the number of westerners who dream of winning the lottery and retiring to a private island, not everyone here wants to be part of productive society either. []
  19. Apps are functionally equivalent to self-censorship in that the West uses both to define “progress”, that is, not doing certain things (non-apps) or not saying certain things (an ever-increasing list of verboten/politically-incorrect words). This muzzling is further facilitated by the removal of literature, and therefore reading and writing skills, from education systems. But 100 years ago, Canadian students studied Beowulf, today, they study Bridgett Jones’ Diary. This wouldn’t be a problem, except that we still teach kids the alphabet. []
  20.  23:41:49<mircea_popescu>: yes, well, basically economic activity can be divided in entrepreneurial (which expands the pie) and rent seeking (which redistributes the pie) []
  21. This particular recipe book can be found on the #bitcoin-assets logs. But you already knew that. []
  22. See Andrew Carnegie. Did you see him mucking about in Africa? []

3 thoughts on “Progress, Pies, and Profit

  1. […] to spread their measles to the rest of the world in the form of “development” or “progress.” So I had that brewin’ in my […]

  2. […] be well related. Incidentally, one of the major pillars of the fallacious theory of “progress” is exactly this. Back in 1700, a bunch of retarded kids that should never have lived died […]

  3. […] Violence, of course, isn’t just the drunkard husband causelessly beating the shit out of his poor wife and nor is it simply a matter of “insane” shooting rampages in churches, be those churches in Syria or USia. Violence isn’t that simple and it isn’t that black and white, much less white on black. […]

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