Empowering the Empoverished

by Handsome Matt

Hello all, I apologize that todays post is so late in coming: I had to volunteer today at a local high school. All in all a good day, but emotionally draining.

However, I do want to bring to your attention one small device that has the potential to change the world. In fact I feel that this device, if deployed and used effectively could bring about a new Renaissance in the near future. The developing world is locked in a cycle of poverty. This cycle is influenced not by a lack of power, food,  or basic services, but by a lack of education.

Knowledge is power. This adage is as true today as it ever has been. Yet, much of the world’s knowledge is locked away in abstract characters that require years of training to understand. Knowledge is stored today in writing. While knowledge is power, the key to using that power is knowing how to read and write.
Thomas Cahill suggests that the Irish are responsible for modern civilization for one simple reason: while the rest of Europe was embroiled in the Dark Ages, the Irish were preserving the knowledge of the ancient world by writing and rewriting it down. The greatest treasure in the monasteries of Ireland, England, and Scotland were their libraries. When Medieval Europe became stable enough to focus on the more “frivolous” ideas of reading and learning, they were able to advance by leaps and bounds because of the knowledge maintained by the Irish. To this day, Ireland boasts a near one hundred percent literacy rate, which is unmatched anywhere else in the world.

In Cambridge, Massachusetts, a small non-profit company has started producing a device that could revolutionize the developing world. Design that Matters has designed and built a solar powered, portable and rugged projector with a built in word library called the Kinkajou. What does this have to do with knowledge and the Dark Ages?

In the world some 776 million people do not know how to read according to UNESCO, that’s roughly one fifth of the World’s population. Many of these people are located in the developing world, and coincidentally, much of the worlds resources, endangered species, and dictatorships ALSO exist in the developing world. With knowledge comes power, freedom, and understanding. Tyranny cannot exist among a well educated population; Conservation and responsible land management cannot exist among an illiterate population. Education is the key to ending oppression, and preserving our natural world.

To put it more simply: If the world is to be saved, and humanity is to advance itself; the world must learn to read. Reading is the beginnings of understanding and knowledge.

With the Kinkajou, the developing world can learn to read. This opens up the vast storehouses of human thought and experience to portions of the world that are locked in a quasi-Dark Ages. And after the Dark Ages, came the Renaissance, whose effects are still being felt today.  Think about African farmers learning American techniques of agriculture, Brazilians reading the works of John Muir, or even oppressed Tibetans reading the Declaration of Independence? Humanity could in fact be standing on the brink of a global Renaissance. And the Kinkajou, with any luck, could be the key that unlocks that future.

Why do I advocate the need for reading before a Renaissance when it comes to the third world, when the European Renaissance was brought about by development and then furthered by reading? To put it simply, the knowledge locked away in books, will enable the developing world to produce food, free itself from oppression and move forward as intelligent and self determined nations.

Check It Yourself:

UNESCO on Education

The Kinkajou Projector

How The Irish Saved Civilization