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'A plan and a dream'

This Kenyan man has no background in aviation or engineering. But he's always loved planes. And after spending months researching on the internet, he's trying to build one in his yard. The test flight is scheduled for next week.

James Fallows comments:

It is easy to think of people in poor countries as "people in poor countries," or the "third world masses," "the global poor," and so on. It is easy to do that from rich countries, and easy from the rich big-city enclaves of still-poor countries. It's also easy to do this while still granting in theory that, sure, all people everywhere have common dreams, and blah blah blah.

But in my experience -- mainly in Ghana and Kenya during the ’70s, in Southeast Asia in the 1980s, and in China these past few years -- there is a cumulatively very different and very powerful experience that comes from meeting person after person like the Kenyan aviator-aspirant. That is, people whose material circumstances and range of experience are vastly different from a typical person's in London or high-end Shanghai or San Francisco, and who objectively have nowhere near the same opportunities -- but who take their own life drama and possibilities just as seriously and can dream just as ambitiously. For instance, I am thinking of a man in his 70s in a village in western China whose consuming project is a handwritten history of life in his village, from his boyhood during the era of war in the late 1930s and 1940s, through the Great Leap Forward of the 1950s, to the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, and onward. He is someone who wears the same pants, shirt, and jacket virtually every day, because that's what he has. He is part of "the rural poor," but he has a plan and a dream.

By Ezra Klein  | October 14, 2010; 12:03 PM ET
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And you know something else, I think the internet may be really big here, because it allows people in the poorest countries to pursue their dreams to much greater effect.

I'm astounded more and more how you can learn virtually anything for free on the internet with often stunningly good quality of instruction. I have a library of advanced math and statistics books and I'm starting to find better explanations of some things on the net than in any of ten top books I have covering it.

A big thing we need is widespread, quality exams and proctoring, so that people anywhere can achieve degree from a top university over the net that's just as trusted and respected as the on-campus one, because of the difficulty of the exams and the fact that they're proctored by a trusted source, so people know the student really mastered the material as well as his scores indicate.

Posted by: RichardHSerlin | October 14, 2010 1:25 PM | Report abuse

I think this same sentiment is how conservatives, in large part, overcome the dichotomy between their leadership's wealth and power, and their constituent's lack thereof. This is done by appealing to the posibilities of bootstrapping a lower to middle-class existience to the life of the rich and famous, if only that pesky government wasn't standing in the way. This is far more appealing a solution to most than the incredibly hard work and dedication necessary to succeed in making a plan and following a dream. It even provides an out when your plan is poor and your dream isn't achieved... it wasn't you, it was the government.

Posted by: Jaycal | October 14, 2010 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Can we swap that guy for Obama's auntie?

Posted by: bgmma50 | October 14, 2010 2:14 PM | Report abuse

That Kenyan man knows that if he studies and works hard, one day he can become President of the United States!

(Kidding! Couldn't resist.)

Posted by: tomtildrum | October 14, 2010 5:59 PM | Report abuse

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