That One Thing

There are perfect travelers.

Alex Guyton is one

Alex Guyton is one

People who cross borders and languages in a way that makes you angry. Alex taught in Sardinia for a month on what I think was two semesters of Italian and used the thousand Euros to travel the Continent and the UK for four months. She was a family cook in Germany and a goatherd in Switzerland. She missed crew and snuck into the employees-only bit of the boathouse in Florence, and when they found her she ended up with an appointment to scull under the Ponte Vecchio. Which cut short her impromptu rendezvous with a beautiful Australian who had to catch a train for the Himalayas in the morning.

Then there are graceful travelers. Here am I.

Bottom left

This might have something to do with it

 

Airport waits don’t bother us and we’d let the TSA stare at our tackle for free if it gave the sweaty masses an excuse to stumble through the security line faster. Strange food and strange people and strange languages don’t put us off; we feel more or less at home wherever. Which might be, in my case, because I’ve got no real home.

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Let’s Talk about Third Goal

From the room again today, although very soon I’ll have a porch that’s every bit as hot as the one in DC, and come summer, much, much hotter.

For now, this

For now, this

I mentioned the Peace Corps’ second and third goals in passing in my last post, but I’d like to look at them in depth this time. They are strangely difficult to find on the Internet, considering how prominent they are in training and in PC culture in general (talking about something as 2nd or 3rd goal is readily understood even before our myriad acronyms become second nature). In any case, here they are:

2. To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
3. To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of all Americans.

The number one reason we ought to pay attention to two and three is that we’ve really got them handled. They’re in our wheelhouse. Goal one, which concerns sending trained men and women to meet the needs of the developing world and to improve the quality of life of the people of hour host country, it’s important. Very much so. It consumes the vast majority of our two years on site, and when we’re evaluating our performance as volunteers against our country plan, it provides the tangible criteria that we use.

But you know and we know and everybody knows and nobody’s even pretending anymore that the best way to run an international development organization is with a bunch of two-year volunteers, the majority of whom come without a wealth of experience in the field. That’s not to say that everyone’s a history major like me (although some folks might argue, myself first, that having gone to the School of Foreign Service merits something). In fact, I’m the only non-scientist/statistician/engineer/professional educator here, and they only took me because my counterpart was looking specifically for somebody with my work history.

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Levantine Speculation

Anyone who’s following my Twitter, which Twitter informs me is ‘nobody,’ will know that all summer Maya and I have been having brief cynical discussion about current events, and there’s an idea that’s come up a few times now: Lebanon, conflict in. Maya put together a tight piece on the refugee population in that country (about one-third of the entire population, combination Palestinian and Syrian) and how they’re treated natives somewhere between inhospitably and with outright hostility, and that, since the populations are going to be there awhile (the Palestinians have been since the 1940s), the only sane thing to do would be to bring them into the socioeconomic fold of the Lebnen proper.

Thanks, David Roberts

Which, as I understand, looks like this

Her suggestion makes even more sense when you consider that unassimilated Palestinian refugees played a not-insignificant role in the Israeli invasion and subsequent civil war in the 1970s. Radicalized refugees got involved with Lebanese internal conflicts and made war on the Maronite Phalange, which yadda yadda simplification helped bring the Syrians in to ‘restore order,’ different refugees began launching attacks across the border into Israel, Israel invaded up to Beirut, dabbled in genocide under Sharon at Sabra and Chatila, more simplification, boom Civil War.

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Private Myth and Public Virtue

Here’s the first of my extraneous essay postings. It’s a bit I did last fall that my betters at the Corporate Action Network didn’t like. I think it’s okay.

Cinncinnatus abandons the plow for the dictatorship of Rome

Cinncinnatus abandons the plow for the dictatorship of Rome

The whole ‘you didn’t build that’ kerfuffle may go down as the dumbest argument in this election cycle — yes you built your business, no you didn’t build all of America’s infrastructure, go read the speech, there’s literally nothing to disagree with — but it brings up an excellent point about responsibility and debt to society.

Phony individualism is ingrained in the American psyche, carved there by the mythification of frontier life and men like Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett. But Lewis and Clark were supported by an expedition and the modern American has been buoyed his entire life by a vast confluence of state and society. Any given American CEO may be an exceptional man or woman, but transplant either of them at birth to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and it’s a fair bet that their prospects will have narrowed somewhat. The discrepancy is due to the state — a system of infrastructure and public goods supported by taxes that are by a developed standard mild — and to the society, which values hard work, which put those men and women on top of their firms because of their merits and not their family or guns, and which supplied every employee under them at their companies, every exceptionally productive person that lets them make the kind of money that they do.

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