Category Archives: Youthful idealism

Leaving NYC

MarcyAve

The Subway stop I’ve waited at the most. Photo by Arikia Millikan

I moved to New York when I was 21 with two suitcases and a credit card. I had zero savings, zero checking, and didn’t know very many people in the city. I had a job lined up writing copy for exhibitions at the New York Hall of Science, but they called me the day before my flight to tell me that they’d just been notified they’d had a half million dollars of funding cut by the NY state government and couldn’t hire me after all. I had two choices: to get on the plane and figure it out, or stay in Ann Arbor, Michigan and figure it out.

In retrospect, there was only ever one option. I came here, clueless, nervous, broke, scared, but with a lust for life so great it propelled me past all the inhibitory emotions. I told myself from the very beginning that I would stay for five years. It was a seemingly arbitrary goal, but one that has never stopped making sense to me. Only after living here for five years, I told myself, could I say that I “made it” in New York City. But upon reaching five years, I would go, so as to not become jaded by the city. I didn’t have any ideas about how this would happen, but I had an image in my mind of the stereotypical New York spinster woman, hardened by success and embittered by all she’s seen. I decided this wouldn’t be me.

My first apartment was a second story walk-up on S. 4th street in Williamsburg with my very own fire escape outside of my bedroom window. Late at night, I would sit out there and smoke cigarettes while watching musicians move their instruments in and out of the practice space across the street. I wondered if I would ever be cool enough to hang out with them.

"I can't pay my rent but I'm fucking gorgeous." -Justin Tranter, Semi Precious Weapons. Photo by Arikia Millikan.

“I can’t pay my rent but I’m fucking gorgeous.” -Justin Tranter, Semi Precious Weapons. Photo by Arikia Millikan.

I had no idea what I was going to do for money or work, so I just began exploring. The guy I sublet the room from recommended a temp agency, so I decided to apply, but first I needed to make a copy of my passport. I was told I could do at a place called The Internet Garage.

For the first month I lived in NYC, I had no idea where I was going. I didn’t have a smartphone then (it was 2008 but I was poor), so I would look up my destination on Google Maps on my computer (a 4-year old Adveratec which needed to be kept on life support with an external keyboard, hard drive, and cooling pad) and write it down on paper or just try to remember the directions. When I would walk out of my apartment, sometimes I would walk the wrong way wind up making three more turns in that same direction so as to not get completely lost and go home, defeated. The first time I tried to find The Internet Garage, I went to South 5th instead of North 5th and wound up in a slightly sketchy area thinking maybe I wasn’t cut out for New York.

Me in the public gardens on S. 2nd Street, my first month in NYC. Photo by Jamie Killen

Me in the public gardens on S. 2nd Street, my first month in NYC. Photo by Jamie Killen

The next day I tried again, with my hand-written map, and I found the Internet Garage, right off of Bedford Avenue. I suddenly understood what Williamsburg was all about. It was a bunch of creative misfits fitting in amongst their peers for the first time in their lives. I asked the tattooed guy wearing a Yankees hat who helped me scan my passport behind the desk if I could work there. I told him I’d gone to school for engineering and was a fast learner. He arched an eyebrow at me and said most people who have worked there probably couldn’t do high school math, but if I really wanted to work there he’d think about it.

I applied with the temp agency and got hired at the world’s largest stock holding company, as a secretary. They told me I was to be an envelope-stuffing office monkey from 9-5 every day and must abide by their dress code by wearing corporate attire. I shuddered to think. The night before I was to go in for fingerprinting and processing in the financial district at 9am, I went out with my pseudonymous blog stalker and wound up getting wasted and staying up until 7am making out on a rooftop overlooking Manhattan.

My Hope Street roof in Williamsburg, before the luxury condos obscured the view.

My Hope Street roof in Williamsburg, before the luxury condos obscured the view.

I just looked up the actual email I sent to the agency when I woke up and realized I’d slept through the meeting, and it is pretty hilariously Arikia-ish:

Dear Camille,

I just woke up and realized that I missed my meeting. I don’t really know how it happened – I remember setting my alarm last night before I went to bed – but I have some idea as to why it happened. I don’t think I want to work at DTCC, and my subconscious mind made that happen. Actually, I don’t want to work at any corporation. I’m a writer and I want to write. I ‘m done doing meaningless work just because someone said so. That’s what a lot of college was, and I graduated.

So, please relay my apologies onto Michael and Jamie over at DTCC that I’m sorry for wasting their time. I suppose I’m sorry for wasting your time as well.

Best of luck to you,

Arikia

I didn’t know it at the time, but that was my real-life “Devil’s Advocate” scenario, and my decision set me on the trajectory that would fulfill all of my New York dreams.

The next day after my hangover subsided, I went to retrieve my passport, which I had forgotten in the scanner at the Internet Garage, and lo and behold, they hired me. For $8/hr, I got to blog my little heart out while I helped people use the Internet Garage’s ridiculously ’90s machines to get online. And I was happy. Some of my fondest New York memories were made in that place, and it provided all the fodder I needed to find my footing in the online media world.

Me in front of the Internet Garage.

Me in front of the Internet Garage.

With the Internet Garage as my base of operations, I became a fixture among the creative misfits, quickly becoming part of the barter system that propped up the struggling artist class in Williamsburg. If someone identified themselves as a Bedford Avenue vendor, I would give them prints and internet usage with a wink and a smile. To repay me, people invited me into their slivers of Williamsburg, and I got to experience it all. One night, some musicians I met at a bar invited me back to drink beers at the practice space across from my old apartment. I stayed up all night learning how to play piano.

In those days, I would sit on the rooftop of my Hope Street sublet and stare out at the Manhattan skyline for hours, wondering what paths I would take to make my way to the top of one of those skyscrapers. Last year, I would stare for hours out of the window of my office on the 19th floor of 4 Times Square, thinking about how I had managed to achieve my lifelong dream of working at Wired so soon, scared shitless about what that meant for the rest of my life. Had I peaked at 25?

My old office at Wired.

My old office at Wired.

Thinking about my five year quota now, with the deadline approaching July 8, it makes more sense to me than ever to leave. I won New York City. I did, I beat it. I came here with nothing, and I survived. I’m not any richer than I was when I came here, which to some, might not constitute winning. Before I started writing this blog post, I was being kind of mopey about just that — about the fact that five years later I am still struggling to pay my bills every month just like I did when I first moved here. But after reflecting on everything, I realized that what I gained in the past five years is impossible to buy: I made a name for myself.

Now, it’s time to leave. I am tired. The old rooftop where I used to perch is sealed off with fences and motion detectors, and the view is obscured by luxury condos anyways. The Internet Garage moved, and it will never be what it used to be. The way this city chews people up and spits them out is almost vulgar, and I am tired of watching it. I am tired of struggling to stay on top. I can feel my shell beginning to harden, and it’s not a good look for me. Plus the fact that I’ve sustained for so long makes me think I could be tossed into any environment and somehow figure stuff out and be OK. So, I’m going to try that, and hopefully find the same inspiration in new places that I once got from New York. I’m going to take my show on the road and keep looking for the things I didn’t find in New York: love, inner peace, financial success. I know that life may not ever be easy for me, I think I would die of boredom if it was, but right now I need to find environments that will nurture the skills I’ve been developing. I need room to breathe, as anyone who’s ever lived in New York knows, there’s not a whole lot of space here.

So, New Yorkers, you have three months and some change to squeeze the last of the New York hustle out of me, and I do intend to hustle. And then off into the world I will go, testing Frank Sinatra’s theory that if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. It’s been real.

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The rest of my life

Today someone remarked that I never write or talk about my future, I only document the past or analyze the present. It’s true. Fantasizing about the future only leads to disappointment when things don’t go according to plan, and the past and present can be disappointing enough. I got out of the habit of fantasizing about the future once I realized what brainwashing Disney was up to, and the only future scenarios I imagine are worst case ones out of practicality (ie: if we don’t fix X problem, Y horrible thing will happen). The person who made the initial observation told me that stance was unnecessarily negative, and said “if you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know how to get there?” So I agreed to indulge her and detail how I imagine the rest of my life will play out in my fantasy future. For Ellyn:

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My First Cyber Stalker

I was cyber stalked my freshman year of college.

It was 2004 and I’d just started engineering school at the University of Michigan. I’ve never been limited by social conventions in terms of who I befriend, and I would go out to parties, flirt with guys, and carry on. It was the first time in life I had a chance to date, since I wasn’t allowed to growing up with my mom, and it was the first time I had my own computer and free reign over the internet, since I wasn’t allowed to use it outside of school research all through high school. It was my first taste of freedom.

So when I walked into the first day of biomedical engineering class and saw Andy, my little heart went aflutter. He was everything I ever wanted in a guy. He had spiky black hair and facial hair and was wearing a t-shirt featuring some band I’d never heard of. And he spoke, the first day of class. He answered a question that our professor, the ever-intimidating inventor of the multi-channel MRI RF coil and the corresponding fast imaging SENSE algorithm, asked us all, and he got it right. I was in awe.

Then one day, I was smoking a cigarette after a chemistry exam, and I struck up a conversation with these two guys, bonding over the intensity of it all. We all lived on North Campus, where the university exiles the engineers to slave away in silence, so we rode the bus back together, discussing the exam. I had never taken a harder exam, but they weren’t even doubtful. They were perfect study buddies, I decided, and the deal was sealed when I ran into them smoking outside the cafeteria a few days later. From then on Billy, Aman and I were friends.

Much to my surprise did I discover that Aman shared a room with Andy, and Billy lived across the hall. It was the trifecta of intense boys. I would go over to do homework with Billy and Aman, or pretend to do homework and drink Johnny Walker and play video games instead. We got to be rivalrous comrades, especially when Kelley, an emerging feminist from Bangkok who listened to hardcore music and lived upstairs, was involved in the discussions. But Andy remained a mysterious wall. I would try to make conversation, and he would shy away from me in a polite but gruff manner and go off to study alone. For someone so manly-looking and smart, I was baffled to find he was a total introvert outside of class. Combined with how nervous and awkward I probably acted around him, Andy and I were always outside of the realm of meaningful communication.

Once we may have connected over politics though. He was a total lefty and was always watching the Daily Show with John Stewart. In November, we all gathered there to watch the election that sealed another four years of this country’s decline. We were all devastated after, Andy the most, I think. I remember him going on a rant afterwards about how the government would drill all of the oil out of Alaska leaving a big hole, then take all the minorities in the country, push them in, bury them, and put an American flag on top. This was more than I’d ever heard him say. I was in a state of repulsed shock as well, which probably enabled me to snap out of my Andy-fog and say something intelligent around him for a change. I went home and furiously wrote in my journal about all the signs I thought I could tell he might be giving me, and how in love with him I was.

The next day, I got an instant message from someone with the screen name HowCouldBushWin. It was the point in history when AIM was just about to cease being the go-to service for instant messaging, before g-talk came along. If you had your screenname posted on MySpace, you might occasionally get random IMs from lonely guys in their parents basements, who you could quickly weed out. But the facebook had just launched that summer, providing new access for college students curious about their peers.

HowCouldBushWin began chatting me up about the election, and what bullshit it was. I responded at first, waiting for them to reveal who they were. I asked, and they asked me back another question, changing the subject and engaging me. Drawing me into conversation. Whatever, I have to go, I typed, and went on with my plans that night.

That evening when I came back online, I had a message waiting. A link to a funny picture. I smiled and went to sleep.

The next day after class, another message. I replied, assuming it was one of my friends, Billy or Aman, or maybe both, assuming they would reveal their identity momentarily. But the conversation drew on and on. He flattered me with attention asking me endless questions and attempting to intellectually engage me. It was obviously someone who wanted to know me more, who was too shy to approach me in real life. Or maybe they did approach me, daily even, but wanted to know a different side of me. I liked the attention.

I tried to get him to tell me where he knew me from, but he would evade everything while comforting me at the same time. I could tell he was having fun as I made gambles about who it was. Really funny, Billy. Are we still studying later? He let me believe I’d solved the mystery as I went through the list of likely pranksters, but only momentarily. Then he’d taunt me while, at the same time, flattering me with more attention and assurance that I’d be happy when I found out.

This was stupid, I decided. I didn’t have time for it, I had to study. In what I hoped was a last ditch effort, I bargained with him that I would invite him to my birthday party if he would come and reveal himself. I went to my party that night hoping to meet the man of my dreams, who was smart and political and shy despite a tough exterior. And most of all, I was hoping it would be Andy.

Andy never came, and nobody ever revealed themselves to me. But the next afternoon as soon as I got online, an IM window popped up. It was HowCouldBushWin telling me how great I looked at the party last night. I told him he was lying, that he didn’t go, and that he was nobody I knew — that he was probably just some internet weirdo who found me on MySpace and didn’t even really know me.

Then how could I know what you were wearing last night?  he asked. It was like that scene in Scream where Drew Barrymore thinks the phone stalker is fucking around, but then he says he’s on her front porch and the screen pans out around her shocked face.

I told him to go away, that I was hoping it was someone who I wanted it to be, and it clearly wasn’t, so I was done with this game. No wait, I’ll tell you who I am, he pleaded. That’s what drove everything that happened subsequently. I needed to know. The promise of finding out if I just engaged in conversation for a little bit longer outweighed the logic telling me to sign off.

And I didn’t want to sign off. It was my internet. My playground and work space. I needed to be on there. But every time I signed on, he would message me, saying he was finally ready to tell me who he was.

Eventually he let a detail escape him that allowed me to conclude that he was in Engineering school with me. He told me he liked my Radiohead shirt, but it was a shirt I borrowed from my roommate and only wore to class once, no where else.

In lectures, I examined every male skeptically. I tried to concentrate while I was discretely surveying the room, watching to catch anyone who stared at me a bit too long or looked at me funny. HowCouldBushWin told me he was going to give me a signal in class that day, so I would know for sure. Of course, I never saw a signal, and I was left feeling frustrated and unnerved that someone was watching me and I had no idea who. Later, he told me he did it when he thought I was looking. It was right in front of my face, and I must not have seen him.

I blocked HowCouldBushWin. I’d had enough. Game over. I was able to feel relief for a night, thinking that I could start putting this behind me, accepting that I may never know.

The next night, HowDidBushWin messaged me.

HowDidBushWin: TALK TO ME AND I’LL TELL YOU WHO I AM

Me: ok

HowDidBushWin: SEE I KNEW I COULD GET YOU TO TALK TO ME

Me: who are you?

HowDidBushWin: IT DOESN’T COME THAT SIMPLE

The conversation went on for hours and involved me breaking down into desperation. Eventually I blocked that screen name too. He made more.

HowdBushyDoIt

Blocked.

Conan4Pres

Andy liked Conan. Was there any way? No. I had to ignore his bait. He was feeding me hope that he was the person I wanted him to be, because he wanted to be someone I wanted.

It wasn’t, but it had to be someone I knew. Was it the man trifecta’s guy groupie who I didn’t get along with? The acid head serial gamer next door who was always playing an MMORPG with massive headphones? Their other roommate, the famously cool midget who rode around campus on a scooter? The senior in CS downstairs who taught me the meaning of trolling and tried to get me into S&M porn? The super shy, geeky guy in my chemistry class who kept inviting me to participate in clubs and stuff but I never went? The guy I met at a Halloween party and had a moment with who now was trying to date me?

It could have been any of them. Or, it could have been a completely random person who I’d never even spoken with before, who found my screen name on the facebook. I had no way of knowing for sure. Meanwhile, my stalker did not relent.

icanmakemoreforu: You’ll be sad that you never know who I am

Blocked.

talktomearikia: Please. Come on, I’ll be nice.

Blocked.

pleasearikia: I’d give you what you wanted eventually.

pleasearikia: talk to me :(

pleasearikia: I’ll write you a haiku, about you, if you talk.

pleasearikia: I’ll do anything. Right now. One time offer. 5 mins.

pleasearikia: you’re making me crazy

pleasearikia: i’m spazzing out

pleasearikia: are you happy now?

I got sucked into the debate once again. He told me now after how inappropriate his messaging had been, he was afraid to tell me because I would hate him forever, whereas if he didn’t tell me, he might be able to still interact with me in person without me knowing. I tried to convince him otherwise, because I needed to know. But he didn’t give in, so I blocked him again.

My class attendance declined. I couldn’t concentrate, so there was no point.

By that time I’d told some of my friends about it. Some were concerned, and tried IMing the stalker themselves to pull his identity out of him. It didn’t work, and he just got mad at me. He began to become verbally abusive in his messages. Following it up with an apology, and please don’t block me again, I’ll tell you. I would try new tactics of interrogation with him. Everything I could think of. I offered to meet him anywhere. He entertained the idea but refused. So I blocked him again, but he would spawn back up with a new screen name the next day.

stalkerdearest: why did you ignore me and make me go through all those names?

He told me what kind of late night sandwich I would always order.

That’s when I went to the police. I printed out all the conversations I’d been saving since my Drew Barrymore moment, took them to campus security, and told them I was being harassed and to do something to make it stop. I think they thought it was funny. Since he hadn’t actually threatened to physically harm me, they couldn’t do anything. They certainly couldn’t track his IP, though they said it was because they didn’t know how, which I believed.

I couldn’t sign online without a new message box popping up. I was furious. I needed to be there. I needed to talk to my friends and to virtually study. I was becoming a nervous wreck. I hadn’t been to class in weeks because I would distract myself by going out drinking with friends, to escape my computer and my stalker.

My friends were worried. I stopped entertaining the idea of dating, because I was skeptical that anyone who wanted to get to know me was this person.

My stalker told me he would admit it was him if I asked him in person. So I confronted people who I thought it might be, which is of course a really offensive thing to be confronted with. “Am I cyber stalking you? Are you serious?” Desperate to cover all bases and resolve the mystery for good, I  asked Andy about it after class one day. I explained what had been going on. “That sucks,” he said sympathetically. Finally I blurted out that if it was him, he could tell me, because I understood why he would do that. He practically laughed in my face. No, of course it wasn’t him. Then I backpedaled by saying I thought it might be his roommate, the midget, and he got really pissed off that I would think that. That was me officially blowing it with him. It was probably the most embarrassment I’d ever felt in my life at the time.

I went home to another message from a new user on my screen.

The stalker wanted to make a deal. If I told him who I thought he was, he would tell me who he was. I wouldn’t. You’re just being stubborn because you’re afraid of being wrong, he accused.

Blocked.

onemorestubborn

Blocked.

In the end he made 18 total screen names and I blocked them all. I changed the settings on my AIM account so that nobody who wasn’t pre-approved on my list could contact me. I felt defeated. I hated it that I had to sacrifice potential approaches from decent human beings and close myself off online because some lame guy couldn’t control his impulses online.

I eventually ended up dropping out of engineering school and matriculating to the Literature, Science & Arts college. It wasn’t just because of the stalker, but that happened so early in my college career that it set the tone for my whole experience there, and the tone of my GPA. I was in the 20% female minority there, surrounded by guys who were always giving me unwanted attention. I was skeptical of them all. Then I got it from one of my professors too, and I just decided that engineering wasn’t where I wanted to be. I didn’t want to be in an environment where the few women were objectified by the sex-starved majority of men. And all that locking myself away studying wasn’t really my thing anyway. I’m a social animal.

I never found out who it was, but I still idly run the possibilities in my head sometimes, coming up with nothing again every time.

It was like being mentally raped. It marred the start of my college experience. I bounced back, obviously. Because that’s what I do. But even now, when someone contacts me anonymously and carries the joke on for longer than a minute, I start to panic.

That’s why when someone messaged me anonymously four days ago by posting this via formspring, I felt like Julie in I Know What You Did Last Summer when she got that note. Mine read:

I think you were in love with me, but never admitted it for obvious reasons – the first being that I had a girlfriend. But, I’m single now.

I initially got the same hopeful excitement that I did with my first college stalker. I wanted badly for it to be someone who I did fall in love with. I’ve been lonely lately, and I’ve encountered some people along my post-college journey that I’ve been holding out hope for. At the same time I worried it would be another stalker who would never admit his identity, especially after a few exchanges that were unsuccessful in figuring it out. I decided I wasn’t going to make the same mistake in confronting people who I thought it was. I entertained this person’s anonymous messages strategically for four days. I was going to smoke this person out by being smarter this time.

And I did. And it turned out to be a really sick joke.

I hope who did that realizes how hurtful what they did was to me, and that anyone else who may be reading this thinks twice about engaging in anonymous stalking behaviors.

Information scarcity in Haiti

When I visited my family in Haiti this summer, I was culture shocked. Culture-floored even. It was like being on another planet. And it was hard to live there, despite my dad’s efforts to pamper me.

The food was good but did a number on my stomach. I dealt. The weather was excruciatingly hot and I got sun exposure that made me puke my guts out. Whatevs. At my sister’s high school graduation I experienced dehydration that made me want to cry. Meh. Every day I was swarmed by mosquitoes, accumulating about 200 bites at one point. It’s the food chain. One of them probably gave me Dengue fever. If it was that, it was a mild case — could’ve been worse.

But the thing that made me really uncomfortable, that made me throw up my hands and exclaim “How do you live like this???” was the lack of Internet, and thus the lack of information and communication.

If you know me, that won’t come as much of a surprise. But hear me out, because this is not entirely a bratty complaint coming from a privileged American.

My family has three computers. They have what looks like a standard broadband modem and a wireless router. My sister is used to getting online and chatting with her friends via MSN messenger and checking email and stuff. But, she is also used to going without it. She doesn’t depend on the Internet, just like she doesn’t depend on electricity. To many Americans, myself included, these things are necessities, but to them they are luxuries.

Even though they have the hardware for high-speed computing, Haiti’s infrastructure is the limiting factor. You’ve likely heard discussions of bandwidth allotment, and how some Internet Service Providers in the U.S. have been limiting the bandwidth that individuals and networks are allowed. Bandwidth essentially determines the speed you are able to do things online, and refers to the rate of transfer of information “packets”. People who download movies are considered “bandwidth hogs” because, since they are doing something that consumes a lot of the available bandwidth, there is less available for others, making their computing processes slower. One of the reasons why you have to wait for a YouTube video to buffer before you can watch the whole thing seamlessly is low bandwidth. If you think low bandwidth is a problem anywhere in the US, you should see it in Haiti. If you want to watch a one-minute YouTube video, you have to pause it and wait for it to load for ten minutes. Sites like Netflix, Blip.fm, Hulu>> Don’t even try it. Want better transfer rates? Too bad. There’s only one commercial ISP in the country.

In addition to the low bandwidth another factor limiting computing is the lack of electricity. A tropical storm knocked the grid power out during the first week of my stay this summer, leaving individuals to rely on gas-powered generators and inverters to power their home appliances. With gas being pretty expensive before, and really expensive in the aftermath of the earthquakes, getting online is not a priority or possibility for most. It prompted a few humorous, “Daaaad, can you run the generators? I need to check my emaaaailll” moments this summer, to which my sister would smile and shake her head and my dad would say, “Yeah sure, I’ll get right on that,” and go back to reading the newspaper.

Us Americans, we leave lights on when we’re not home or in a room. We leave appliances plugged in when we’re not using them. We waste electricity in all kinds of ways. In Haiti, you don’t. Our electricity consumption is tallied into a bill that is delivered to us at the end of the month, and any wastefulness catches up with us then. But in Haiti, you have to calculate how much gas is in the generator and how much power is in the inverters to figure out if you’ll have enough time to finish an email, or a movie, or charge a cell phone. I always make it a point to turn the lights out when I leave my apartment now.

There’s also the matter of Web services in Haiti. The fourth day I was there, we heard via radio that there was a riot downtown at the funeral of a Bishop for reasons I still don’t understand. The UN was there and the report said that four people were shot. This of course, sounded very startling to me, so I went online to try to find out what was happening.

I soon learned there is no Google News Haiti. In fact, the Google services you can access in Haiti are severely limited compared to what they are in the states. The prioritization of search is completely different and it assumes your preferred language is French. In the U.S. when there is a shooting, you can’t not hear about it through every medium possible. But I couldn’t find any information about the downtown shooting whatsoever. So I asked my sister, “WTF, why can’t I find out what’s happening, where are all the journalists?”

“I dunno. I guess they’re too busy running,” she replied nonchalantly.

I checked online almost every day but I never found an explanation of what had happened.  My sister shrugged off the shootings with a “meh” attitude. My dad actually laughed at my reaction. He went upstairs, came back down with four guns and said “Are you still scared? Here, take one of these, let’s go downtown and find out what’s happening!” I was not amused.

But I guess that’s part of living in Haiti — being content with not knowing. But that contentment could be a dangerous thing. I am a firm believer that knowledge is power, and would venture that one of the reasons why rampant corruption has existed in Haitian government is because most people don’t have access to knowledge of what exactly they’re up to. The government there isn’t checked by the media the way that it is in the United States, and even if it was, it might not matter because the information gathered would only reach those in the top 5 percent of Haiti’s income distribution graph — the people who are in the position to influence political decisions anyway.

This might be me being idealistic, but maybe if, in the process of rebuilding Haiti, there is as much of an effort to get people wired as there is to get them water, the segregational constructs that allowed previous corrupt regimes to keep the masses in poverty will no longer be able to stand.