On 28 May 2012, Kill Screen Mag–a gaming site–decided to run this verbal diarrhea written by one Josiah Harrist, an expat whitey scum who acts exactly the way you’d expect an expat whitey scum to act.
The biggest shock in coming back to America after a year teaching in Asia was when the plane touched down in central Texas. The wheels had barely connected with the asphalt when the cabin collectively breathed a sigh and everyone took out their smartphones and iPads. A chorus of tones, email notifications, and texts filled the cabin. I’m not in Laos anymore, was all I could think.
Ah, funny, because you know what I see in a plane touching down in Thailand? Smartphones being whipped out. Throughout the flight? People using tablets. Yes, including iPads. In fact, the sight of iPads in general isn’t exactly an uncommon thing walking around here. It’s strange, it’s almost as if we have a middle class or something.
Living in the Third World puts one back 30, 50, 1,000 years.
Wow, I didn’t realize we’d already invented the time machine.
When I was seven, our family lived in the middle of a slum in Java, Indonesia overlooking a wide vista of rice paddies and farms.
He neglects to mention that his piece-of-shit expat parents brought him there because they chose to; they were there by choice, out of free will, not under duress or necessity but probably due to a flagging self-esteem that needed some boosting by the ability to gloat over poverty as experienced by brown people. They raised their kid “in the middle of a slum” because they wanted to. At a guess, they were fucking missionaries, which as we all know are among some of the most disgusting slime on Earth.
Westerners don’t quite get this, but random shitty comments about THIRDWORLDIA!1!! crop up everywhere, often in places you least expect. For example, I was reading this review of a crappy romance and what do I see?
One of the only good things about this book was the full-text copy/paste of “Joseph Meets Cady” from the previous book. Kinda like one of those dead-virus vaccinations you get before travelling to a developing country.
If you think sexism is the background radiation of your life, try being from a developing nation on top of that and combine. Except you’ll find shitty comments about THIRDWORLDIA!1!! even among those who profess to be about social justice online, because most of those are from the first world and can’t look further than their noses. I’ve seen no real great outrage about Josiah Harrist’ shitpiece, whereas their other piece about sexism or something got plenty of attention. First-world feminists understand misogyny; first-worlders in general though? They don’t understand why Harrist’s turd is offensive. It flies right under the radar. Nobody remarks on it. Hooray.
Kuzhali Manickavel, whom I hear is a really rad writer, wrote “y u mad tho? cuz I aint even mad” which is about book fetishists and the paper-book vs ebook divide.
I’ve always been a little flabbergasted by the good folks who have very strong anti-ebook feelings, especially those who haven’t actually read one and on further investigation, one discovers that they aren’t really sure what an ebook is, they just know they reallyreally hate them and they suck. I know I’m being superracist here but it seems like these illustrious folk always say the same thing-‘One needs to be able to touch, smell, lick, and fornicate with certain parts of the book’s binding in order to experience the real and truly complete reading experience. Anything else is not reading. Also you can read the words on the pages if you want but this is not necessary.’Ok first, wow. Second, am I missing something with this booksmell thing? Because I feel like a lot of the books I have been unfortunate enough to smell somehow managed to be sour, bitter and kind of like musty ass and once I may have accidentally inhaled a small silverfish also. This may have been because most of these books were not second or third hand books but eleventy-twelvty hand books which spent a large amount of time on the pavement and people may have peed on them at some point also. Which led me to think, hay maybe this aspect of molesting your reading material as part of your reading experience is actually a privilege. I say this as someone who has often not been able to get my hands on “real” books, but I could access ebooks and podcasted books which were available even in my tiny corner of the world and often for totes free. I think that eating and rubbing a book all over your body may be one of many reading experiences. I don’t think it’s the only one, the real one, the true one, the authentic one, the original one, or the best one ever. Not all of us have the means to buy and do that to our books. Many of us may not want to do that also. I don’t think that means that we are not reading because we are not reading like you are.
Now this is going to be tricky, but let’s suspend the first-world knee-jerk reaction for a moment–yes, yes, your thing with class; yes, yes, your thing with Kindles being a middle-class thing: but be quiet, your thing with class in the west is actually irrelevant to this discussion, which is not about first-world access. In fact, the moment you spit out “Kindle” you’ve voided your credibility and relevance, because amazingly enough, the Kindle is neither the primary means by which people read ebooks worldwide… nor is it widely sold globally. Shut that mouth. This isn’t about you. I’m not sure why you are so entrenched in the idea that the Kindle/Nook is the only way anyone reads ebooks to start with anyway.
Let’s assume, for a moment, that we in Thirdworldia do some of us have access to electricity, computers, and the Internet. Yes, this is true! Why we even have plumbing and public transport, and phone booths and stuff. I know: as Manickavel says we’re supposed to all be swimming in raw sewage, but even that gets tedious after a while so we get out of the raw sewage and get on our electronic wonders and do our things and have Internet opinions. This is not to dismiss as irrelevant those without access to magic box devices things with the screens kind of like tee-vees and stuff. Rather, keep in mind that there exists a stratum where you can have access to the magic boxes and the world-wide-web but you don’t have access to physical foreign-language books (or even local-language books), because they’re too expensive, sometimes because they’re expensive and imported, which makes them very pricey indeed.
Ebooks can be pirated; physical books cannot. Even secondhand physical books don’t have the sheer distribution, and are often still pretty expensive. You, the first-worlder, may be about to open your mouth and bleat something stupid and self-serving about how piracy is evil, but shut your trap for a minute and recognize that your copyrights are irrelevant to us and that you shouldn’t expect the rest of the world to respect your petty, stupid copyrights when you respect nothing owned by the rest of the world and your government regularly strong-arms or bombs the rest of the world without consequences, so sorry about that, but expecting anyone outside the west to care about your book copyrights is naive. Keep in mind, also, that there exists vast institutions that enforce copyrights as a tool of imperialism; that these same institutions ensure that vast amounts of consumer spending flow out of our countries into yours but not the other way around. The publishing industry, or indeed any creative industry, in the west doesn’t generally serve our interests–we don’t need it, it doesn’t give us any money, it only drains cash from here to over there. And if your books are localized here, you’ll get the licensing fees anyway.
If you still demand that we give a shit about your copyrights at this point, consider that it’s downright sociopathic to do so. Yes, I buy books from authors I want to support, but in the grand scheme of things I don’t really care about the industry as a whole. Why should I? No, don’t say “basic human decency” because see the thing about imperialism and economic bullying and all the rest. When you learn basic human decency, you’ll be able to expect it from others. Not before.
So, back to the way we read ebooks! What’s cheaper than e-readers, laptops, netbooks, and desktops? Smartphones.
Here the westerner may break into the temptation of barking something unintelligible, as occidentals do. They believe everywhere in the world functions just like their country does, and so they’ll say: but smartphones are a sign of–hiss it!–privilege! Only the middle-class and the rich can afford it! It costs so much every month to keep one! YOU PRIVILEGED MIDDLE-CLASS ASSHOLE, YOU THINK EVERYONE IN THIRDWORLDIA CAN BURN MONEY LIKE YOU, HUH? WHAT ABOUT THE STARVING INFANTS!!!!!1!!!!!!!!!! and similarly incoherent testeria.
Fortunately, our cellular business model isn’t broken: here you buy a phone from anywhere, pay for that phone, and your carrier won’t force a data plan on you. You pay as much, or as little, as you need. This means there are phones as cheap as $88 (~70 EUR) with a full suite of functionalities–camera, media player, why indeed they often run Android (with complete access, licensed and not, to the Google Play Store). That’s right! These phones can handle ebooks. They’re also, well, phones. The ownership and use of cellphones have very long ago ceased to be a luxury reserved for the elite. Indeed, not everyone may afford this, but when you consider that you don’t need an actual computer and can cram all your information access into your phone, which costs under $90, you will find that the barrier to entry is much lower. A working-class Thai citizen can afford a phone like this (or secondhand which also means cheaper: ~$70).
She may not be using it to read ebooks, because those haven’t really caught on yet and there are book rentals, but she’ll have a very small computing device in hand with which she can do a bunch of things. And smartphones are desired, because people want to take pictures, use social networks, read news, check the weather, use chat clients. Keep in mind that I’m not suggesting every single person here can afford one and that all 65m of us each tote a smartphone, but you’d be surprised how many do. Official statistics list a whopping 18.3m (28%) of us with Internet access in 2009 and broke 20m in 2011 with the number being possibly as high as 25m (38%). Per month, the cost of having voice/text/limited data access can be as little as $13 a month, and if you drop the 3G access, even less because smartphone users can just use WiFi hotspots.
For the price of a secondhand smartphone, about 7-8 brand-new books can be purchased. That’s it. If we keep to English-language books? Maybe 12 secondhand ones.
Again, this isn’t the final word on the subject and I can’t claim to speak for anyone, only make observations. I promise, however, that people really do buy cheap smartphones, it’s not that they are starving and I’m making up some consumer habit that doesn’t exist. As said, most use their smartphones for activities other than reading. But the tool is there, and a cheap smartphone is a far more cost-efficient way to read than buying physical books, and to receive information in general. The cheap smartphone thing moreover holds true for other countries as well: the Philippines, India (yes working-class Indians can afford them, now shut the fuck up), Malaysia, Indonesia, and I believe parts of Africa. The middle class in those countries and mine just go for… uhm… iPads and flagship smartphones, yes devices that cost $400-700. That’s why in passenger cabins those are what you will see. In Asian hands. Not just in the hairy paws of the Aryan master.