Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Globalization and the Insanity of the Priviledged

About a month into my experience in Ghana, my laptop decides to die. Or rather, decides to go blind. The computer itself works fine, but the lcd screen no longer displays what is going on inside it's little head.

I use the poor thing as a jukebox, connected to little speakers, with iTunes on random. I turned it on with the last gasps of the screen, and keep it going by opening and closing it, awake with music, asleep without, maintaining a delicate balance.

I look into my options for a replacement, $700 for a PC laptop from a guy who knows a guy, or $2300 for a new MacBook from a store in Accra, and don't like either option. So, being the privileged white man that I am, I found an alternative. Jessie, my JHR colleague tells me of a woman who is coming to Ghana from Canada. Jessie's uncle's friend from Victoria, BC is arriving in Accra in two weeks and is willing to bring a laptop, with the proviso that it is paid for and compactly packed without boxes or accompaniments, and that it would be sent in her checked baggage.

Ordering an MacBook online looks easy, and promises delivery in just a few days. I decide to go ahead. My first attempt seems to go well, but after waiting for a confirmation email that does not come, I find out that the transaction has been cancelled. Perhaps it was the Canadian credit card used through an African IP address. My girlfriend Kate in Canada takes over and makes it all work. With only 7 business days until Jessie's Uncle's friend is to leave, I nervously track the shipment via FedEx's website.

The laptop is ready two days later, and ships out from Shanghai, China. Shanghai! There's no way it can make it to Jessie's Uncle's friend's house by the time she leaves, I think.

It then ships out to Anchorage, Alaska. That's near Victoria, BC, right?

Then to Memphis, Tennessee. Gulp. That's not near Victoria. That's closer to Elvis.

Then to Vancouver, BC and eventually to Victoria. Phewf.

Packed away in Jessie's uncle's friend's checked luggage it's off to Frankfurt, Germany and then Accra, Ghana.
The baggage arrives in one piece, on time, and in Jessie's Uncle's friend Judy's possession. From there it's sent via Judy's employer's company driver to Jessie at her place of employment, which is were I finally get to meet my new friend.

6 flights. 4 continents. 2 weeks. All to save a little money, and so I could have a Mac instead of a PC.

I email my good friend Marek, and he reminds me that it isn't just the laptop that's been globalized. It's also the packaging, raw materials and labour that have been mined, bought, sold, traded, shipped, processed, reprocessed, inspected, assembled and shipped again all over the globe in a frenzy that never stops.

The impact of my decision weighs heavily on my mind. Who am I that can make this frenzy dance to my tune? I think of the jet fuel required for my decision, the geopolitical impact of the elements required for fuel to be cheap enough to make the flights affordable enough to fly my package 6 time over.

As I write this blog post on my new computer, these things still weigh on me. The only consolation is the slick, clean design of my new machine and that beautiful new car smell of benzene that accompanies it.


Chris said...

Nononononononono, I'm going to pretend I didn't just read this... Mac laptops don't stop working when you're abroad. They just don't. They just can't.... right?

Kevin Hill said...

Don't worry too much, Chris.
It was a well used G3, circa 2001.
It was only a matter of time...