Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Harvesting the Chinese

Yesterday I was reading an essay posted on Sojourners written by Wendell Berry, who by the way, has the best bio: “novelist, essayist, philosopher, poet and farmer”.

His purpose is actually to reflect on the way that being a farmer encourages a writer to consider how his or her writing will affect the surroundings. Will one’s writing be animated by a truthful mixture of realism and imagination or with untruthful but all-too-common rhetorical stereotypes? He discusses how a farmer’s language develops from the ground up, from a practical need to accurately describe his/her work and all things related, while much of our political and public language develops from the top down, from an abstract purpose (often to mislead), yielding impractical and confusing language that doesn’t accurately describe our actual world and is the medium in which stereotypes and generalizations are crafted.

A conclusion he comes to is that when one considers what the effect of writing will be on the surrounding environment and people, as farmer-writers tend to do, advocacy will be present in that writing. This phenomenon has manifested itself in his own work through an overarching “question of a how human economy might be conducted with reverence, and therefore with due respect and kindness toward everything involved”. He says that if such a thing ever existed it would be the “maturation of American culture”.

Fast-forward to 12 hours later when Oli is driving me to the train station in the morning and we’re listening to some NPR Morning Edition covering a story about an American man - let’s call him Ira Irreverence - who is outsourcing software tech support to China, where he pays programmers $500 a month to constantly check his software products for glitches. Now not just any Chinaman can be one of Ira’s crew; you have to go through a series of IQ and behavioral tests to prove yourself to be what Ira calls a “brainiac with personality”. Additionally, once you get the job, you have to work all day with an English teacher in the office prodding you to converse in English, which will pay off big for Ira when this call center goes live, because most Chinese programmers (of the 150,000 that graduate annually) don’t have a conversational level of English, the language of most IT clients. Anyway despite some initial setbacks, such as a client telling the Chinese police that Ira was an American spy, Ira is positive he will be a billionaire in the next few years because after all, he “was there first”… China that is.

PS - Way to go citizens of Virginia and New Jersey on filling those gubernatorial offices with democrats. Yee-ha.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Aw, you squatting out a baby isn't so bad. And the bathing as little as possible thing, that's me!! ~Cori