October 29, 2009

Richard's in Rwanda.

Post #1:
The completely ordinary, and the worldwide problems of economics, coexist here with the unimaginable. Will I be able imagine it after I've heard it? If so, there's the danger of it becoming ordinary: "Oh yes, you told me that story before." A defense mechanism to keep it at safe distance.

Meanwhile, there's fun!...

Fifteen more nights under a moquito net, in a shared hot room where no mosquitoes are seen. Playing with 5-year-old Gentil, who can count to 1,000 in English and taught me how to fold a paper boat and blow bubbles.
Post #2:
... Five-year-old Gentil is counting teabags in English before he gets ready for school; Costa is bouncing baby Queen on his lap...

The floors have been mopped and the front and back patios dusted, as on every morning. Yesterday my clothes were not only wash[ed] by hand but ironed, an experience most of them had never had before....

Over the past couple of days we've been to two different genocide memorials...

It's hard to imagine a nation that is more constructively aware of its problems or facing them more honestly and progressively.... To me it appears that if the average American were as aware of our nation's problems, and as committed to solving them, as the average Rwandan is for Rwanda, in a decade and a half our inner-city schools would be graduating masses of literate, ambitious, responsible adolescents, the problems of gang violence and drugs would disappear, our health care system would care for all Americans equally, and our government would mobilize a nationwide environmental cleanup and infrastructural upgrade. In other words, we would be the nation we ought to be. A much, much poorer nation than ours is accomplishing equivalent goals. We could even do it without the need for genocide memorials.

49 comments:

Paul Zrimsek said...

Amazing what you can get done when there are no pesky opposition parties getting in the way.

RLC and Tom Friedman-- separated at birth?

bagoh20 said...

Many of our "problems" are the price paid for not being Rwanda. I don't want to trade challenges.

Andrea said...

Is this guy actually saying the US is a basket case compared to Rwanda? I'm pretty sure they were "aware" of each other when they were chopping each other to pieces too.

Henry said...

Most progressives usually complain that the USA isn't more like one of the small European countries. This is the first I've heard that the USA isn't enough like Ruwanda.

I will say that my brother-in-law who spends part of each year in India has reported a similar mash-up of overwhelming poverty and incredible optimism. His relatives who live in a two-room concrete house have kids who win spelling bees at the local Catholic school.

It's profoundly naive to suggest that social progress is so easily attainable as Richard does, but I can understand that optimism is intoxicating.

Hoosier Daddy said...

in a decade and a half our inner-city schools would be graduating masses of literate, ambitious, responsible adolescents, the problems of gang violence and drugs would disappear, our health care system would care for all Americans equally, and our government would mobilize a nationwide environmental cleanup and infrastructural upgrade.

And we'll all be shitting Tiffany cufflinks and living happily ever after.

Hey, I bet we could graduate literate inner city schoolchildrens if they 1) stay in school and learn, 2) stop doing drugs 3) stop killing each other over being dissed 4) stop getting pregnant at 15.

It doesn't take a national effort to do that or end gangs, it takes an individual choice on the part of the damn kids and thier parents.

Maguro said...

Kinda presumptuous for a tourist who's been in country for a couple of days claim he knows what "the average Rwandan" is all about. I'm sure he doesn't have a clue.

Andrea said...

Every time a Westerner (at least one who gets published these days) goes to poor countries and is treated nicely he is bowled over and starts babbling about puppy dogs and rainbows. But really, unless you've landed yourself in the middle of a war in some place like Somalia, people are going to be polite. It's normal human behavior -- it doesn't mean that they've figured out the meaning to life.

Also, in these places being polite is a defense mechanism -- rude, grumpy people don't tend to live long. Optimism is too -- if you live in grinding, hopeless poverty you have to be happy, or else you'd commit suicide or murder. Things like pessimism and cultivating a rancid, unpleasant personality so you can be alone are luxuries only rich nations can afford.

ak said...

"in a decade and a half our inner-city schools would be graduating masses of literate, ambitious, responsible adolescents, the problems of gang violence and drugs would disappear"

Yep, if we all just concentrated really hard ...

Well, that and getting them new parents and wiping out forty years of an entrenched welfare mentality.

AllenS said...

In Rwanda, there's no such thing as affirmative action. That's helpful when trying to attain an education, that will result in an ability to read and write. Want to ax me another question?

traditionalguy said...

RLC is highlighting that people are happy when they are fed and raised in caring families in a safe place. It takes a political movement and a propaganda apparatus in the schools and Mass Media to make them "dissatisfied with the government" and convinced that they are being robbed by Rich people somewhere that need to be killed.Communist tyranny promoters arestill an evil enemy that we see calling themselves Environmental Warrors in our developed world.

Quayle said...

in a decade and a half our inner-city schools would be graduating masses of literate, ambitious, responsible adolescents, the problems of gang violence and drugs would disappear, our health care system would care for all Americans equally, and our government would mobilize a nationwide environmental cleanup and infrastructural upgrade.

I'm in - let's get going.

First step, making it a social expectation (with proper understanding and compassion) that unwed pregnancies are not acceptable.

Second step, making it a social expectation (with proper compassion, etc.) that the father is expected to stay in the home and love and help the children.

Now, this is going to take love, and it it going to take a lot of selflessness in the marriages to keep them strong.

And that is going to take a lot of humility and a lot of trust and a lot of sacrifice.

So, our churches are going to have to clean up and stop being profit centers or mere branches of the left wing, and are going to have to start being places of holiness and love.

Funny, I don't really see a role for Richard Dawkins in all this. His world is the world of the strong killing the weak. He lives in the world of Rwanda - where the herd is being strengthened.

David said...

"Yesterday my clothes were not only wash[ed] by hand but ironed, an experience most of them had never had before...."

So now we see why the marriage ended.

David said...

More seriously about Rwanda:

Today's Rwanda is very adept at showing off its steps towards reconciliation. The churches have been the leaders of this movement much more than the government. Rwanda is a largely Christian nation and the churches have great influence.

The government can be harsh and autocratic. A big issue is lack of property rights. The country has had no scheme of recording property ownership. Given the recent chaos, who owns what, or whether anyone owns anything, is a huge question. The government has forcibly resettled hundreds of thousands of people at considerable distance from their ancestral homes and has been severely criticized by Human Rights Watch and others for these policies.

The well promoted notion that "we are all Rwandans now" may be a Potemkin Village. The ethnic awareness is still there and the hatred that created such massive slaughter can not have gone away. The most savage of the killers have fled to The Congo, where they maintain small vicious armies in the anarchy of that country.

Africans are wonderful people, in my experience. But they can have a serenity that masks severe problems.

I hope Richard is right in his gushing optimism, but I have my doubts.

William said...

He is surrounded by people who chopped their neighbors to death with garden implements. I don't know anything about Rwanda or its people, but I'm guessing that the situation is not so sun dappled as he lets on.....Why is it that westerners who can see so much evil and intolerance in Christian evangelists can find so much solace and beauty in a santeria ceremony.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Why is it that westerners who can see so much evil and intolerance in Christian evangelists can find so much solace and beauty in a santeria ceremony.

For the same reason that a 'comedian' can piss on a picture of Jesus Christ and call it playful but drawing a cartoon of Mohammed is 'culturally insensitive' racist.

veni vidi vici said...

Gee whiz, he goes from one to another genocide memorial, so that he can draw a long face and indulge that uniquely white-liberal flavor of guilt and unworthiness, while embarrassingly flattering his hosts the rest of the time to complete the manic/depressive circle.

Is there anything more conventional and unremarkable than this sort of thinking from a white liberal?


wv: "mater" -- Richard's former status with the blog's hostess.

J said...

"It's hard to imagine a nation that is more constructively aware of its problems or facing them more honestly and progressively"

Well, except for the exterminating minority ethnic groups part. But Richard's right; ethnically homogenous populations do have a much easier time reaching consensus about stuff. And evidently they know how to blow bubbles, one of which Richard appears to live in.

Jeff with one 'f' said...

veni vidi vici FTW!

"in a decade and a half our inner-city schools would be graduating masses of literate, ambitious, responsible adolescents, the problems of gang violence and drugs would disappear"

He should be spending his tourism dollars in Camden or Newark instead of Rwanda if he really feels this way...

Sigivald said...

Nationwide environmental cleanup?

It's not 1970.

The national environment is actually pretty damned clean, it turns out, these past decades.

"The environment" isn't filthy anymore.

The reflexive belief that it is is founded on breathless exaggeration and reporting by people either with no perspective (quite common) or an interest in maintaining the belief that The Environment As Such Is In Crisis (less common but not uncommon).

For example, air quality in even the worst cities in the US is better than general urban air quality has been in the past 200 years - probably, in fact, in the past 2,000.

The level of cleanup left to do that would not be completely un-worthwhile (in terms of benefit per cost) is exceedingly minor in comparison.

I repeat, it's not 1970 anymore.

mariner said...

"Yesterday my clothes were not only wash[ed] by hand but ironed, an experience most of them had never had before...."

This guy's CLOTHES have experiences?!

chickenlittle said...

"in a decade and a half our inner-city schools would be graduating masses of literate, ambitious, responsible adolescents,.."

Just curious about RLC's precision regarding timeframe. Was it merely rhetorical, or was there some reckoning behind that number?

I repeat, it's not 1970 anymore.

Perhaps this is RLC's Peace Corps moment? :)

cathy said...

If this is true, then a country has to go to hell before it can turn out right. Is that what he thinks?

chickenlittle said...

OMG, I just realized that the initials for "Peace Corps" is PC.

Duh!

cubanbob said...

"in a decade and a half our inner-city schools would be graduating masses of literate, ambitious, responsible adolescents, the problems of gang violence and drugs would disappear"

The man has a point. We could be doing the same if we not were enabling and subsidizing our social pathologies through the affirmative action, PC welfare state. The man without intending to do so just made a great case for eliminating the bulk of Lyndon Johnson's Great Society programs.

sonicfrog said...

Denise Richard is in Rwanda? Or is that Keith?

bearbee said...

Quite a difference between governing a nation of 10 million vs 300 million.

re: healthcare, only 2% of Rwanda population is over 65.

O would be pleased.

avwh said...

"re: healthcare, only 2% of Rwanda population is over 65."

Funny how that works out. If you're a 3rd-world country AND allow a genocide, you don't have to worry about social security for your over-65 crowd, b/c there isn't any....

Patrick said...

lol. White fool meets Africa, take 1,456,544,334.

He'll get over it if he spends any time there.

LordSomber said...

Richard's in Rwanda...

"And Leon's getting larger!"

Dogwood said...

Playing with 5-year-old Gentil, who can count to 1,000 in English...

Someone has to keep track of the body count.

Synova said...

"Things like pessimism and cultivating a rancid, unpleasant personality so you can be alone are luxuries only rich nations can afford."

I think Andrea wins.

Because isn't this the truth!

And as for the idea that we are not *aware* of our problems... we WALLOW in them. It's the American national passtime.

David said...

avwh said...
"re: healthcare, only 2% of Rwanda population is over 65."

Funny how that works out. If you're a 3rd-world country AND allow a genocide, you don't have to worry about social security for your over-65 crowd, b/c there isn't any....

The percentage over 65 would be about the same if there had been no genocide.

amba said...

Is genocide what it takes for people to get serious?

chickenlittle said...

Is genocide what it takes for people to get serious?

Is it fair to say that witnessing the horrors and deprivations of real war lit fires under a previous generation of Americans?

Methadras said...

Another bemoaning diatribe on the condition of emulating rancid primitives in a modern age. When are these fools going to learn that it's this primitiveness that has mired these people into these quandaries to begin with, hmmm? Oh, want to apply multiculturalism or political correctness to the situation? Good luck considering that most of the world doesn't even know what either of these things are and frankly if presented with them would laugh in your face. Tribal mentalities don't allow for the types of wondrous western integration that is dreamt about. Fact is, most people around the world could care less about anyone outside of their immediate family, tribe, or larger community and no sooner kill you as an opposing ethnic group as look at you. Leftists live in a bizzaro world of farcical made up bullshit.

avwh said...

"The percentage over 65 would be about the same if there had been no genocide."

Actually, it's a mathematical certainty that today, the percentage over 65 is LARGER than it would be otherwise(b/c presumably the genocide killed mostly those under the age of 30, and shrunk the population that makes up the denominator).

But, over time, the older cohort will be SMALLER, because of wiping out half a generation or more through genocide.

Cedarford said...

"Yesterday my clothes were not only wash[ed] by hand but ironed, an experience most of them had never had before...."

Meade, please take notice. Discuss this with Althouse.

Penny said...

Richard says, "in a decade and a half our inner-city schools would be graduating masses of literate, ambitious, responsible adolescents,.."

And Cicklit, asks, "Just curious about RLC's precision regarding timeframe. Was it merely rhetorical, or was there some reckoning behind that number?"

My guess is that Richard meant 15 years, not 10.5. Perhaps it was his version of four score and seven.

Good writers consistently figure out ways to say something differently.

Synova said...

avwh, I suppose that someone has demographic numbers but I would think that in a genocide a whole lot of non-combatants are killed. Grandparents, mothers, children. Disease and hunger is not going to be kind to the elderly either.

I think that getting all romantic about having your clothes washed by hand is sort of nauseating. Actually.

Dogwood said...

I think that getting all romantic about having your clothes washed by hand is sort of nauseating. Actually.

Saw a lot of hand washing of clothes during a trip to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in 1991. Women squatting in the river with piles of laundry. Didn't look fun, romantic, or sanitary. Just depressing.

lucid said...

Yes, the US has so much to learn from Rwanda--health care, inter-group relations, democratic political practices, a traditionof free speech and civic comity, an infrastructure of laws that supports economic development, literacy rates, educational opportunities, etc., etc.

The inflow to Rwanda of immigrants from the US must be simply overwhelming the Rwandan luxury resort and hotel industry. No wonder so many people moved out of New York State last year. They must all be in Rwanda by now.

class-factotum said...

Yesterday my clothes were not only wash[ed] by hand

My clothes were washed by hand for the two years I was a Peace Corps volunteer (trying to take capitalism to the masses, thank you very much) and all I can say about that is after your jeans, socks, and underwear have been scrubbed on a plank for a few months, they become very soft. And threadbare. And rags.

Hand washing is not a good way to take care of your clothes. It is also not an efficient use of labor.

Penny said...

I only know Richard from his blog, so that's to say, I don't know him very well. There is something I see there that I like though. No matter where he is, no matter what he does, he can always find "the beauty".

Is he naive? You could call him that, but I wouldn't dream of it, because I know better.

Synova said...

Oh, I'm sure there is beauty in Rawanda and there is beauty in people.

What is a bit hard to take, though, is the idea that this found beauty must mean that the lives of the people is better than here. There is beauty here, too. It's just the ordinary boring sort that comes with fabulous living conditions.

Penny said...

"It's just the ordinary boring sort that comes with fabulous living conditions."

Actually that was part of my point about Richard, Synova. He doesn't appear to be bored by the "ordinary" American experience, and nor does he seem to take it for granted.

Intellectually I am certain he is well aware that the lives of Rwandans fall well below ours on any objective measure of "better". But I think he's introducing some key observations about how those who have so little can still live with joy and purpose in the face of all they never had or ever lost.

daubiere said...

wow, good call dumping this boatanchor, ann.

Dogwood said...

But I think he's introducing some key observations about how those who have so little can still live with joy and purpose in the face of all they never had or ever lost.

Those who have nothing find joy in life, those who have much find (seek) joy in stuff.

This trait of human nature is easy to see while traveling in the third world.

There was great beauty in Haiti right beside mind-numbing poverty.

traditionalguy said...

RLC's Blog is fascinating. It is hard for a competitive person to live up to the standards of sensitivity that he sets, but it is fun to try.

Synova said...

I donno, Penny. Maybe.

But the remarks about how all of our problems would be solved if only we could be as awesome as the Rawandans sort of implied a comparison was being made.

Seriously... the lady who came to give me pedicures once a week in the PI for a couple bucks was a wonderful, happy, lady. She was sending her daughter to a technical school of some sort and explained that she'd like our packing boxes to use as a ceiling to create an air-space at the top of their nipa hut to keep it cooler inside, not because they couldn't *afford* a cinder-block home with a corrugated tin roof, but because they chose to pay tuition instead.

It's uncomfortable for a lot of Americans to pay for personal services like house cleaning or having a woman come massage your feet for two dollars... but it's even harder to justify *not* buying the services offered when someone lives in a grass hut.

Still... perhaps a lesson could be learned here. It's illegal to be poor in the United States. Certainly no one could live in sub-standard housing voluntarily in order to use their money for tuition for their kids to a trade school.

Would it be more moral *not* to get a foot bath and your nails painted (or clothes washed) because you feel uncomfortable with a "servant"? I do know that it would be more immoral to simply *give* to someone who felt happy about her ability to send her child to school. The human need for efficacy or a feeling of efficacy is right up there underneath food, shelter and clothing.

Maybe that's the lesson to be learned.