Saturday, March 27, 2010

Resource Curse

So a while back, I posted this.  I titled the post "connecting the dots" and connected them to a Slashdot post about feminism and agency.  What I should have done was connect a bit further to that nagging feeling I get whenever I experience how run down the native areas of Hawaii are.

The problem with living in paradise or having bribe-worthy boobs is the same: resource curse.  

Heck, this was my problem with Avatar as well.  The blue people weren't striving to build capital or learn more than their parents.  Their parents had come up with a functioning system and they were trying to conserve it, not build upon it.  Maintain a cultural and technological velocity of zero.

When you've got a culture living in harmony with it's environment and simply iterating the generations without significant development or expansion, you've got the ideal environment for a story.  Dances with Wolves, Avatar, Fiddler on the Roof, Tolkien's Shire.

What you also have is a recipe for getting flat out owned by the folks who aren't in harmony.  Dances with Wolves got it right and Avatar got it wrong.  Brother Iz and the Hawaiian independence folks need to heed the advice from Marlo in The Wire: "you want it to be one way.  But it's the other way."

In real life, the best case for the blue people would be leading tourist expeditions to the minor cultural sites that remained after the marines wiped out home tree and the surrounding environs.  Perhaps they might find decent pay working in resorts in the floating mountains.

It's easy to subscribe to the romantic vibe of knowing when you have enough, living in harmony, and simply coasting on the bounty that the universe has provided.  But the girl getting her papers written for boob pics is going to be another data point in the salary deficit between men and women.  The Hawaiian fantasizing about living off the land and the sea is going to be as screwed as the South East Asians were when the tsunami hit.  His great grandparents were as screwed as the Cherokee when the US decided that we wanted Hawaii to be ours instead of theirs.

If we're ever going to get off of oil, cure cancer (or mortality itself), or fight off the next meteor/ice age/whatever, we're going to need to strive, not stand still. 

The winning answer is education, creation, organization, engineering.  Cultures and individuals that don't value those things will fall at the hands of cultures that do, to natural disasters, or changing environments.  When a living can be had without those values, the stage is set for trouble.

Yes this is a Randian notion.  What do you want to do?  Fight about it?  We might want it to be one way, but it's the other way.

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