Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Monday, January 22, 2007

Without Borders Maybe, But Not Without Elitism

Alex McDonald (the president of “Engineers Without Borders” at WSU, an organization whose goal is to "improve quality of life through sustainable, environmental, and economically sound engineering projects, all the while developing an internationally responsible student body") wrote in today’s Daily Evergreen:
Of all the many misrepresentations made about PARD and other opponents of a Wal-Mart in Pullman, surely the one that is farthest off base is the ridiculous claim that Wal-Mart’s opponents are “elitists.”

I am the furthest thing from elite. I ride a used $40 bike everywhere I go in Pullman.
McDonald then goes on to spout the tiresome party line about Wal-Mart being run by millionaires who get rich off the backs of their employees blah blah blah.

I’ve got news for Alex. The most ridiculous misrepresentation about intellectual elitism is that it has anything to do with money. Just the opposite. This 2001 column from Gregory J. Hand completely nails those like McDonald:
Intellectual snobs have no money, or if they do, it is not something with which they use as a means of being snobby. In fact, intellectual snobs are often socialists or communists. This is shown by what they tend to support, which oftentimes necessitates despising money or at least pretending to do so, even if they, or their parents who are sometimes paying for the lifestyle, have a lot of it.

Indeed, it could be successfully argued that the distinguishing characteristic of an intellectual snob is an embracement of such 'progressive' causes and specific remedies to cure them that habitually requires an end to capitalism and the American way of life. Look at how leftist politicians, environmentalists, peaceniks, feminists, gay activists, homeless and animal rights advocates, and on and on, condescendingly sneer at anyone not wholeheartedly embracing their various agendas. If you cannot see their vision for a better global society, then you deserve the disdain that you get.

Where do these people come from? Visit a college campus today and see what is going on there (not most of the professors, who tend to be culture snobs, to be discussed next.) No, the faux intellectual snobs, while including some professors and graduate students, are the teenage and early twenty something undergraduate students. These are the ones who are so brilliant as to be enlightened (indoctrinated) by the liberal orthodoxy taught at most schools today, but ironically not intelligent enough to realize that with all these rights that are demanded come corresponding responsibilities.

To answer the question, yes, they are; and they are because of this supposed superior intellect that has given them an enlightenment that most dolts like you and I don't have, protesting for a variety of inane causes (Free Mumia! Save the suckerfish! Stop global warming!). It is unfortunate, but their grasp of the issues, despite their strenuous arguments to the contrary, is rudimentary at best. They have no realistic idea, beyond their utopian pipe dreams, of the ramifications of the policies that they advocate. It is difficult to rationalize with them, because they immediately snobbishly dismiss any opposing arguments as inferior ones coming from intellectually substandard people.
Clearly Mr. McDonald, a JUNIOR in Mechanical Engineering, has fully consumed the Kool-Aid offered by WSU brahmins such as TV Reed and Chuck Pezeshki (a Mechancial Engineering prof) and now considers himself an expert on economics, international trade, wages, prices, and labor relations. He talks about “they can decide for themselves where to shop” and yet by supporting PARD, he is taking away OUR right to decide where WE want to shop.

For examples of indoctrination, consider this article about EWB in the January 7, 2005 edition of WSU Today:
Consumer attitudes must change to achieve true sustainability, Taylor [assistant professor in the School for Architecture and Construction Management], said. “Where I’m from, the University of Oregon, nobody uses disposable plastic or Styrofoam,” he said. “And in Europe, for example, they don’t say, ‘paper or plastic?’ They say, ‘bring your own bags.’ We need to completely rethink the way we use things.”

Franz [associate professor in the Environmental Science and Regional Planning Program]said the future of sustainability lies in supporting businesses and industries that adopt the principles of conserving, reusing and restoring natural resources. The European Union has adopted a “green certification system” for identifying such goods and services, and the United States should follow suit, he said.
Alex, not only are the PARDners elitist, so are you. But next year, you and your $40 bike will leave Pullman and head back to Seattle, so who cares?

P.S. Here's how Hand describes cultural snobs, such as professors. It's too funny (and accurate) not to mention:
The most rapidly rising class of snobs are the cultural/society snobs. These are people who go to symphonies, operas, wine tastings, foreign films, coffee houses and various other stylish venues not because they necessarily enjoy it, but because they like to be seen at such events, and they enjoy bragging about going to those who did not attend. On the flip side they also get pained looks on their faces when discussing amusement parks, NASCAR, public beaches, Wal-mart, chain restaurants and any other place where Grubman's 'white trash' might be hanging out. How déclassé.

They tend to congregate either in San Francisco or LA on the West Coast or New York, DC or Boston on the East Coast, as anywhere not attached to an ocean is 'flyover country.' They love the words 'diversity' and 'culture,' and often praise both lovingly just because it makes them look more sophisticated to be discussing such things.
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April E. Coggins said...

I'm fairly certain that is the same young man who became very impassioned during the Wal-Mart hearings last January. He announced to the Wal-Mart attorney that after he graduates with such and such degree, "I will NEVER work for a company that does business with Wal-Mart!" And then he turned around and told the Wal-Mart supporters that we were "appalling!" He was quite the drama queen.

Paul E. Zimmerman said...

The organization McDonald heads up is behind the building of a hospital in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. In doing so, they're helping the government of Khartoum press their genocidal war in Darfur. Since the Sudanese government does not have to devote resources to such projects when outsiders are providing them, they are able to spend more on weaponry instead.

Meanwhile, in trying to see himself as some sort of moral crusader, McDonald chooses to bash a company that makes better the lives of its employees and customers.

In both cases, the effect of the actions undertaken are the opposite of the assumed effect: that the lives of people in general will be made better. Instead, both examples here lead to worse lives, and outright murder in the first example.

This is really only about McDonald's narcissistic vision of himself as some sort of savior, consequences be damned.

alexander said...

"The organization McDonald heads up is behind the building of a hospital in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan."

You sir, are a liar. It clearly says on my website that were are doing work in Nubia. "Nubia is in northern Sudan, away from the violence occuring in the West in Darfur and other regions in the South. However, resources are still very limited to the local populace." Specifically, the hospital extension is for a poor community in the far north of Sudan in a town called Abri that has nothing to do with violence propagated by Khartoum. EWB is trying to provide disadvantaged people with a fundamental human right - access to health care. How dare you say I am contributing to genocide. You should be ashamed of yourself.

alexander said...

Also, regarding Forbes comment, I have not been influenced by the liberal indoctrination of the school system. Indeed, I don't attend class enough for that to even remotely be the case, haha. Nor do I even consider myself liberal. Before you criticize my character, please take the time to get to know me. I would be more than glad to sit down over dinner and discuss politics or life in general if you wish. I am hardly a snob. And I dedicate my lifes work toward working with very inclusive organizations, such as EWB, where people of all backgrounds and beliefs work together to provide people the world over with access to a decent quality of life - which in turn improves the reputation of Americans around the world. My personal politics are also seperate from EWB, so please do not bring the two together. If I have ever brought them together in the past, I apologize, and that was not right. From now on though, please direct your criticisms at me, and me alone. Please leave EWB out of this.

Pullman Chamber Guy said...


Here's some free advice from an old fart to a young man:

1. If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. You don't write an inflammatory letter to the editor and expect not to get push back, even here in Pullman. You yourself made quite a few critical accusations against Wal-Mart and its supporters without getting to know them first.

2. When you are visibly affiliated with an organization, your public comments and behavior will always reflect back on that organization. It's not fair, but that's why leadership is such a responsibility. If you don't want EWB dragged into the Wal-Mart issue, I suggest you stay out of it. That's why many leaders in this town, both on campus and in town, keep their opinions about Wal-Mart to themselves. But please do not confuse this silence with opposition.

Paul E. Zimmerman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paul E. Zimmerman said...

There's a difference between being a liar and being mistaken, Alex. I had merely forgotten the detail as to the specific location of the hospital, but that doesn't detract from my main point. The area of the Sudan it is going to be constructed in is in the area controlled by Khartoum. It is in an area where they would otherwise have to spend their resources on civilian infrastructure.

The people in Nubia may be poor, and perhaps the hospital would help them, but the larger picture ought to be considered. How much better could Khartoum make that region were it not prosecuting genocide in Darfur? How much better will they not need to make that area thanks to you and yours? Resources not spent there can be spent elsewhere, like in a Kalashnikov factory.

Clearly, you're not out in the field with the Janjaweed pulling triggers, but it's naive of you to think that your actions there are not contributing. If you want to provide a disadvantaged people with a fundamental human right, do something about the obvious right that is being violated by Khartoum - help the people of Darfur with their self-defense.

In case no one told you, health care is a human product, made by people, and as an extension of the people who provide it, it cannot be anyone's right, so your attempt at making a justification of what you're doing is flawed. To think otherwise is to endorse slavery. Your case is clearly charity, but this goes back to the fundamental problem with your group's actions and does not excuse them - your charity supports a government bent on murder.

Therefore, I dare to say that you are contributing to genocide, because the fact of the matter is, you are. You're the one who should be ashamed.

alexander said...

To Pullman Chamber Guy:

When a person speaks their mind as an invidividual in the commons they speak for themselves - not the respective company that they work for. EWB is a non-partisan humanitarian organization. Therefore, when I speak as an individual, I speak for myself and not EWB. I did not place my EWB title at the bottom of that letter, and therefore EWB and all the other individuals associated with that organization should be left out of this dicussion. And as an individual citizen of the United States, I will speak my mind, it is my right. Freedom of speech - use it or lose it.

alexander said...


This is the last time I will reply to this discussion.

To say that I should or even could help with the self-defense of the people of Darfur at this moment is absurd. I am not a soldier nor a politician, and I am not willing to design war machines. And there is already a group on campus dedicated to community awareness regarding the genocide in Sudan - so as an engineer in a region currently devastated by war, there is not much I can do. I did vote for politicians, however, who I thought might be more sympathetic to the crisis in Darfur.

There are many people in this world without a decent quality of life. I am utilizing what skill I have as an engineer to help build communities around the world, and to rid this world of the social ill that is poverty.

You should understand that although genocide is occuring in Darfur, the Khartoum government neglects obervance of fundamental rights and civil development in other regions of Sudan. This neglect occurs for many reasons, one of which is tribal. The people in Abri, Sudan are not related to the Janjaweed or the people pulling the strings in Khartoum. The Sudanese government would do little if anything to develop that region whether or not they were funding a civil war.

The Sudanese government does not have an interest in developing the Nubian region for the Nubian people. However, that does not mean that Nubians do not deserve access to health care. So EWB is working with a local resident who was born in Abri, Sudan to see that his hometown finally receives a decent health clinic.

There is nothing wrong with that. For you to assert that EWB's work is akin to genocide is despicable, and I am sorry you feel that way. I only hope that you do your research before you speak, and perhaps with some reflection you will change your mind. And who knows, if you do, you are always welcome to help. We wont turn away a helping hand.

Paul E. Zimmerman said...

I'm well aware of the ethnic differences that split the Sudan, Alex, and that, as you said, Khartoum probably wouldn't work on that area even if there were not a war going on. But the fact of the matter remains that providing support in the regions controlled by Khartoum relieves them of having to address the problems themselves, at the same time removing incentives for the Nubian population to force Khartoum to address their situation. Khartoum is thus more free to wage war against civilians in Darfur, as well as continuing to ignore Nubia. When your project is finished there, Khartoum will be taking credit for it, too.

You may be an engineer and not a soldier, but you don't have to be a soldier to aid in the self-defense of the people of Darfur. If you deny your skills to the government of Khartoum and avoid relieving them of the duties of their internal civil burdens, they'll be a little less able to wage war. Withholding resources from an enemy often proves to be more effective at defeating them than direct combat. Check out this site: http://www.divestsudan.org/ - large organizations and global mega corporations are pulling their operations out of Sudan as a whole, of which Nubia is a part, and they’re doing it for the exact same reason I’m saying that EWB is wrong to be going in there. The evidence is not in your favor.

But you've decided to tell yourself, "I'm only an engineer," and so you'll act as one regardless of the broader consequences. They're real, and you're willfully ignoring them. For someone who likes to tell others that they need to "study more" before disagreeing with you, this is particularly damning on your part, as these consequences are obvious; this suggests that you had not realized them previously, making your insults toward the knowledge of others in this area particularly embarrassing for you, or it suggests that you know of these consequences of your activities, but that in the interest of maintaining your savior role, you don't care. I'll spare you the question of which is the case.

Either being the case, you now at least do know of the broader ramifications of aiding the government of the Sudan, and your final reaction in spite of this is to continue to deny it and run away from the conversation, with a few unsupported assertions of the moral correctness of what you're doing thrown out as parting shots. I'm not disappointed in this outcome though - I fully expected from the beginning that your ultimate reaction would be to stick your head in the sand. People often do this when they realize that their actions do not square with their purported morals, but who are then unwilling to change their actions because of the sense of personal glory they think to be attached to carrying out those actions.

I'll have to decline your invitation to lend a hand to EWB for now. If in the future the organization you're steering isn't giving material aid to governments that are committing genocide, then perhaps I'll be available.