As a Muslim, I feel personally ashamed at what happened on September 11th, 2001. I know I shouldn’t be – I wasn’t (nor any Muslim I could possibly personally know) involved in that heinous act.
But Islam emphasizes unity. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Canadian Muslim, Arab Muslim, or a Bangladeshi Muslim. It makes me think: the 9/11 hijackers probably prayed in the direction of Mecca and fasted for Ramadan just like me.
Yet, the first thing that most Muslims around the world did was point out that the perpetrators of 9/11 don’t represent them or Islam. As if distancing ourselves ...
Have To Be Poor To Help The Poor?
If you follow me on Twitter, you already know I'm back in Bangladesh. When I'm Dhaka, I live with my maternal uncle and aunt. Lately, I've been noticing a trend.
Just a few days ago, when I came back home carrying a bunch of groceries, my uncle chastised me saying "you better not have used any donations to pay for those groceries!". In his mind, using donations - however small - for my own food, clothing, or anything that benefits me would be tantamount to stealing.
[caption id="attachment_3748" align="aligncenter" width="499" caption="Toilet paper, antibiotics, soap, and pajamas - not taking a salary from ...
An Open Letter to Invisible Children Supporters
Dear Supporters of Invisible Children,
A lot of you may be confused at all the criticism that Invisible Children (IC) has faced as of late. Perhaps you feel that this criticism is coming from people who fail to understand the mission and nature of IC. Alternatively, perhaps, you may feel that this criticism - while having some merit - has been unfairly blown out of proportion.
What I think needs to be understood is that there is no such thing as black and white. Invisible Children, as an organization, isn't some nefarious evil group robbing people of their money. But, at the ...
I was checking Dailybooth just now and found one of my friends Vondell had drawn this:
Shawn of the Uncultured Project is in the running for a slot at the 2010 World Economic Forum Meeting. If selected, he will have a chance speak to world leaders about the terrifically strong and largely untapped power the YouTube community has as a force of good.
In January of 2007, I withdrew from grad school at the University of Notre Dame and began an unemployed, unplanned, and “uncultured” journey to help the poor.
Almost exactly three years later, that journey has brought me to within grasp of being able to talk to world leaders about global poverty at one of the planet’s most important conferences. I can get there – but only with your help.
Out of 75 applications from around the world (and many more that didn’t make the deadline), I was selected as one of five potential candidates to go to Davos. The winner, is determined by you – because it’s your vote that determines the winner.
I won’t lie. I’m up against some brilliant people. I wish we could all go – because I’d love to meet them all and brainstorm. At the same time, I know that it’s not like global poverty can be solved with a one week trip to Switzerland.
But this could be big. It’s the biggest thing to ever happen in my life and it could be the biggest thing for the future of this project. So, if you’d like to help, here’s how you can do so:
Things you will need [REVISED as of Jan 11th, 2010]:
A YouTube or Google account. Signing up for either is free.UPDATE: You don’t need to signup for anything to vote.
An internet connection good enough to use YouTube.
The ability to get online every 24 hours until January 15th.
If Possible: Friends & family who might be interested in voting as well.
2. On the top half of the page, you will see something about the Davos Debates. It will have three tabs. Click on “vote”.
3. You will see five videos from the five candidates. Select my video called “A Message to Davos” – the thumbnail is my picture.
Videos Are Randomly Sorted and May Not Appeared In This Order
4. Once the video starts playing, click the green thumbs-up button. Wait a few seconds. Your vote has been placed.
When The Red Thumbs Down Turns Grey, Your Vote Has Been Cast.
5. You can vote again everyday.
It may seem that, with so many followers on Twitter and so many subscribers, this is all but guaranteed. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Without getting too academic, it boils down to public vs. private networks. My support network is very public. And, like every network, not everyone following me or subscribed will be reading my tweets, watching the videos, or reading this blog.
It’s very possible (and very likely) that many of these candidates have a group of friends, family, and colleagues who will be diligently voting. This could be close.
Hey Shawn, I saw your Davos video (of course) and the one blaring thing I noticed is that you did not mention what is UNIQUE about YOU. Lots of people work on ending poverty. You even listed websites who are doing it too.. but you didn’t say.. what is special about YOU.
You’ve gotta start using that as your leverage. Thats why I gave YOU money instead of them. That’s why we follow you. You’ve got a unique audience because of the unique way you work – which is also important.
Mention it in your next davos, and in any of the other videos you make that describe what you do. The thing about not using guilt, about showing your viewers where the money goes.. use that. use the unique viewers you have.. we are not middle aged charity people.
We’re nerdfighters and youtubers and we are powerful – use it!
The World Economic Forum wanted to tap into the power of YouTube in an attempt to become more transparent, more open, and more democratic. Unfortunately, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
The World Economic Forum – a gathering of influential people and world leaders in Davos, Switzerland – has garnered the reputation of being a bit of a closed door venue. It’s an invitation only event and isn’t open to the public. That is, until the World Economic Forum turned to YouTube.
Starting last year, the World Economic Forum opened it’s (virtual) doors by allowing anyone to submit their thoughts to Davos. It was a good idea, but their first start had a lot to be improved upon. I had written about it on this blog when it happened – I was really excited at the idea, but was disappointed with the original execution.
This year, it seemed that the World Economic Forum had learned from its first run and was coming back stronger than ever. Instead of just submitting videos that were to be spliced into a clip show, one lucky person was to be flown to Davos to interact with those attending. And best of all? The YouTube community would help pick the winner.
Unfortunately, I was left with an overwhelming sense of déjà vu and disappointment. Click the jump to find out why.
I really thought I was going to be witnessing history with this YouTube/Davos partnership. What I feel we got instead was a missed opportunity.
I was kind expecting – or at least hoping – that when YouTube partnered with the World Economic Forum at Davos, they would be doing the same kind of thing that YouTube did with the Presidential debates. At the CNN YouTube Debates, the Democratic and Republican Presidential candidates were asked questions submitted by the YouTube community. The candidates would listen to the question and then respond. CNN even flew a few of those YouTubers down to the debates so that they would have an opportunity to make a follow-up question or comment. Even if the debate didn’t move beyond canned responses – at least there was citizen interaction.
That I believe was what was missing with YouTube and the Davos Question.
First, since those submitting videos were asked to keep their videos under 3 minutes, I kind of assumed that meant there would be a 10 to 30 minute screening of the best videos for world leaders to see. What happened instead, was that a handful of videos were cut into a two minute montage sequence. As you can see here, half of that montage sequence was devoted to restating the original Davos Question (“What can we do in 2008?”, “Hello Davos!”, “Wow, that’s a big question. Big big question”, etc.,.). The remaining minute was just a quick laundry list of requests and ideas (lower poverty! more renewable energy! invest in kids!). What could have been the opportunity for powerful ideas and discussions to emerge ended up looking more like a wish list to Santa Claus.
Second, just like regular YouTube users submitted their answer to the Davos Question, world leaders, celebrities, businessmen, and future youth leaders were able to record what they’re take was on the question. But, for the most part, this was nothing new. Bono, of course, asked us to support the Millennium Development Goals. The executive director for UNICEF made a similar plea. There were a few surprises of course. It was good to see youth leaders like Whitney and Juan there with some good ideas. I was a bit surprised that most important issue the Director of the American Center for Disease Control chose to raise was “Exercise!”. What was absent, however, was any evidence of interaction with the community.
I was really hoping that the world leaders at Davos would be watching some of the videos and then commenting and responding. Ideally, it would have been nice if these leaders would have gone back to YouTube later to check and see what the response to their videos were. They called this “The Davos Conversation” but it didn’t feel much different than watching an interview on TV. There were a few exceptions, the US Director of Education decided to voice her agreement to a video by a YouTuber pleading for greater investment in children. And Sergey Brin, one of the founders of Google, decided to respond to a question raised by a YouTuber about Google’s potential to help in electronic voting.
If The Uncultured Project has taught me anything it’s that, if you are not satisfied with the way things are being done – you have to offer your own solution instead of critiquing others. This is where the World Social Forum can come in….
Why can’t the World Social Forum take the same technology (YouTube) and use it to the full potential the the folks at Davos did not?
I maybe in Bangladesh right now – but my mind’s on the World Economic Forum happening right now in Davos, Switzerland. For the first time in the forum’s existence, we really get to know more about the thoughts and views of those attending the World Economic Forum. This is because YouTube has teamed up with the folks at Davos. All of a sudden, Davos has helped turn Bono and Henry Kissinger into video bloggers. This is also the opportunity where people like you and me can get our voices heard at Davos. It’s called The Davos Conversation. It’s a huge step forward in democratizing one of the world’s most important forums.
One thing that surprised me is that I’m finding a lot of kindred spirits at Davos. Bono was there and, of course, he spoke in favor of the Millenium Development Goals that I’ve been talking about earlier. In fact, Bono writes the foreword of Dr. Sachs book “The End of Poverty”. The Executive Director of UNICEF was there and made a similar endorsement as well for the MDGs. But it’s not just celebrities and big wigs that were there making a difference – people from my generation were there too and were making their mark. Take Whitney and Juan for example:
Whitney makes a good point by pointing out that every year, Americans spend $20 billion dollars on ice cream. It only takes half of that to give a full education to every poor person on the face of this planet. It’s facts like this that actually made me a sociologist. My first ever class in sociology was at the University of Toronto. A professor there, by the name of Robert Brym, made a moving lecture which changed the course of my life forever. In a few charts and graphs and a few phrases – he impressed upon me two things: how easy it is to understand some of the world’s biggest problems and how simple it is to fix it…. if we really wanted to.
I also relate to Juan’s point about how we can’t expect our governments to solve all our problems. Politics is a nasty business. Too many politicians promise change but deliver the status quo. Do we simply elect the wrong people? Or is something about the nature of politics that makes it hard for true change to emerge? Don’t get me wrong – if governments could agree to fund the completion of the MDGs, that would be a surefire way to end poverty in our lifetime. It’s just that, change doesn’t come that often in politics. So we need a Plan B – a way to reach that goal through ordinary citizens like you and me.
It would also be nice to have a Plan C – but I have no idea what that would be…
What do I think will make the world a better place? Well, that’s what this whole project is about. I don’t have a 100% set-in-stone answer, but I’m trying to share as much of my journey finding that answer. One thing is certain, the more I let Dr. Jeffrey Sachs’s message sink in – the more I believe it to be true.
What will make the world a better place? Ending extreme global poverty.
1) Ending extreme poverty will keep us all healthier. Global pandemics incubate among the global poor before migrating to richer nations.
Don’t believe me? Well, as Dr. Sachs pointed out, recent studies into the origin of the AIDS virus suggests that it originated in Africa – years and years before it first appeared in America. But, no one cared. Why? Because Africans die – that’s seen as “normal” in this world as Dr. Sachs points out.
2) Ending poverty will help us fight terrorism. Terrorists recruit from the desperate and offer them a fictitious reward for sacrifices the leaders are too cowardly to make themselves.
When I went to the Cyclone Sidr Disaster Area, there was one thing I noticed most – everyone was in shock and everyone was vulnerable. Many had lost loved ones and were struggling to find the strength to carry on. They could be very vulnerable to a message from a radical extremist promising a better life if they just sacrifice themselves to a terrorist cause. Thankfully, Bangladesh isn’t as prone to Islamic Extremism as elsewhere in the world. But, as long as this extreme poverty (and with it extreme desperation) continue – terrorists will always have an easy recruiting base.
3) Ending poverty is critical to maintaining our personal identity as good natured human beings.
I decided to start this project because I couldn’t stand to look at myself in the mirror anymore. As I point out in my about page, everyday, 30,000 children die due to poverty and illnesses that can be easily treated. Am I doing enough? Over half the world – over 3,000,000,000 people – live on less than $2 a day. Am I doing enough? Each year, over 8,000,000 people die because they were simply too poor to stay alive. Am I doing enough? Before this project, all I was doing were just a few paltry donation here and there – usually around Christmas time.
I kind of envied others for not having these thoughts when they saw themselves in the mirror. I think a lot of us don’t think about these issues because we kind of assumed that the problem is so immense and so huge – it can’t possibly be solved and we are too small and insignificant to be a part of the movement towards that goal. But look at me – I’m running on small family donations and my 2006 tax return. It’s not a lot of money – but look how much I’ve been able to do! I’m just one person – currently unemployed. Imagine what we could all do if we tried?
Okay, so how this sounds all high and noble – but how do we get to that goal? It’s simple – we complete the eight Millennium Development Goals set by the United Nations and agreed upon by almost every country in the world. We’ve been laxing on our commitments to fund these development goals – but we always seem to find money for other things.
Why is this approach the best?
1) It can appeal to those who are either politically left or right leaning.
What if there was this terrorist cell working in Africa trying to develop a pathogen that would kill many Africans before spreading to Europe and America? It wouldn’t take much effort to get people on both the left and the right to unify and authorize millions and millions of dollars in spending to stop this from happening.
Why then, does the consensus break down when the threat is the same but the situation causing it is a little less dramatic? Because of the poor state of health in Africa, disease festers, mutates, and grows. Nature will create this pandemic on its own if we continue to neglect things – the only thing terrorists need to do is sit back and wait.
Supporting the MDGs isn’t a slippery slope to “one-world government”, global taxation, or the lessening of national sovereignty. It’s a logical, non-partisan, self-interest based course of action.
2) It is not a move towards socialism or communism, nor is it a refutation of market economies.
“Are we trying to prove a theory, or are we trying to save lives?” asked Dr. Sachs in regards to laissez-faire economics. Even if you believe that market economics will eventually benefit everyone – a lot of people can die before that benefit reaches them. The MDGs isn’t akin to starting a Soviet Russian-style command economy. This doesn’t involve telling people what to produce or how to work. Rather, it’s about opening up possibilities. Someone who isn’t fighting off deadly disease can focus on work and building a life. Someone who knows how to read and write has more job options than someone who is illiterate. Those who aren’t starving can aspire to earn a living that is more than just subsistence.
If people can earn a living – they’ll eventually want to live it up.
3) It doesn’t require drastic change or expenditure.
The amount of money required by any individual nation to contribute towards completing the MDGs is in the single digit percentages. In fact, as Dr. Sachs points out, if we stopped Pentagon funding for just ONE DAY – every man, woman, and child in Africa could be protected from Malaria for the next twenty year. Many Americans consider America to be a Christian nation. What if, every Christmas Day, the money that would normally be directed towards military expenditures gets redirected towards projects that reflect the spirit of Jesus and the message of the Bible?
I didn’t have time to make a separate video for the Davos Question on YouTube. But if you want the world leaders to be able to see Episode One of the Uncultured Project (which includes clips of ND 2006 Forum – used with permission) here’s how you can help make that happen. Go to this page and click on “view/vote”. Then there is a search for videos section. Search for unculturedproject – there is no space between “uncultured” and “project”. Episode one should appear – click it, and give it a thumbs up. Voting ends pretty soon actually – so don’t worry if you’ve read this after it’s too late to vote.