News on the wires yesterday was that Nicholas Negroponte and the other pointy heads at MIT’s media lab have decided to release details of a $100 laptop so that kids in the Global South can own their own computer, and finally straddle the digital divide.
Kanye West isn’t a man of humble means. But when his contract is dropped by Pepsico for summarising the White House’s race relations policy in the aftermath of Katrina as “Bush doesn’t care about black people”, I feel perhaps that I ought to boycott Pepsi’s products even more than I do now. So I followed the link in an email about Cde West, to the Pepsi website: http://www.pepsico.com/company/brands.shtml Seems the page doesn’t exist anymore, or has been in some way removed. But check this.
Occasionally, living in South Africa, I pick up snippets of what the cultural life under apartheid was like, and the affirming myths that circulated in Durban. Like the one that Commodores’ front man Lionel Richie was a coloured man born in Cape Town who made it out, and made it big. Alas, Richie’s from Tuskegee, but the fact that he’s not from Cape Town (unlike Jonathan Butler) isn’t half as interesting as the fact that so many people wanted to believe that he might have been.
Writing about farmer suicides is fairly glum work, rendered yet more depressing by the array of factors volunteered to explain it which turn out, on closer examination, to boil down to the fact that farmers were generally unhappy. But the claim that people in the teeth of the US farm crisis were, in fact, killing themselves because they were listening to Country and Western music has brightened up my day a little. Chris did a fine literature review last year, when it was announced that the study that originally advanced this claim had topped the Ig Nobel awards. Jim Gundlach, one of the co-authors of the original article, suggested that the results may no longer hold true because “country music today is peppier”. Whee.
Today at the Nutrition Congress in Durban, Class Worrier’s blinding clairvoyant skills were again proved: a nice man from Mars, Inc told the world about how they’re helping make the world a better place through the Initiative for African Cocoa Communities. The language is of Increase “farm family incomes” and “Improve the health, safety and well-being of cocoa farmers and their families”. The substance of the programme is that farmers are told how, when cocoa prices are in long term decline, to squeeze more out of their land so that Mars can buy more of it from them. This was a job formerly undertaken by the state, which has recently collapsed in Cote d’Ivoire, thus preventing it from servicing Mars, Inc’s needs. Bravely, when there is no one else to pick up the tab, the company marches in, and makes good PR out of agricultural extension service necessity. Anyone who believes that this is anything other than naked self-interest is obviously from another planet. Or possibly works for Oxfam.