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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The Old Lie

This is another one of those days when I was too insomniac the night before and too lazy the morning after to catch the sun. So while I’ve missed out on toasting myself, my time on the deck has been agreeably shady today. If anyone’s wondering why I keep updating you on the state of the deck, its because I hope that wherever I end up writing in Mexico will be a little more visually interesting, and the pictures will give you a better sense of my day-to-day.

This deck

Today I’m on the deck

I’m going to talk about saying goodbye again, but this time it’s about saying goodbye to places. You know, trying to give yourself a big send-off, really trying to live up to the last few days, see everyone and everything that makes a place your home. I’m bad at that too. For one, anyone who’s been to one of my parties knows how well they go. Ditto for bar nights, excursions, and outings. What’s more, with half the people that mean home to me out of the picture, it’s hard to really hold a get-together to say goodbye. With Gebeily, Martinez, Guyton, Rice, Lujan, and God knows how many others off in parts unknown, a farewell in DC can’t be complete.

I don’t have the cash, the fortitude, or the partying acumen to make my way to enough cool bars and clubs and venues to have a last real go-round in the city either. It’s never been my bag, as much as I would have liked it to be. But the real reason that wouldn’t work is that DC isn’t really my home. Not the whole city, anyway. Love or hate the fact of it, but since my folks left Detroit and Akron and moved to China, Georgetown is the only home I’ve got. Not the neighborhood, the school. And the last time it still had any chance of being home to me was graduation weekend, when the mass of familiar faces was making its final appearance. I find myself taking long unnecessary walks, constantly panning and scanning, ogling campus like the open-mouthed summer program kids and trying to catch a whiff of what the last four years smelled like.

And taking really bad photos

And taking really bad photos

Georgetown now is full of naïve and unbearable high school students that make you hate them and wish for just a second that you could be that dumb and that excited just to be here again. But you can’t, and they aren’t us, and their Georgetown isn’t mine, and my shot at saying goodbye is long gone.

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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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