Sunday, March 12

Real World Fairy Tales

I took a 12-hour break writing this latest entry. While writing earlier this morning, I came across a roadblock and could not for the life of me think of a decent conclusion. I ran some errands, and read one of my books on globalization, all in the hopes of getting past this obstacle. However, a friend mentioned I should not worry about reaching a conclusion because some situations in life do not always have clear and tidy endings. Initially the idea seemed like unadulterated insanity (I do not mean it as harshly as it is written), but since our conversation the idea has grown on me. Maybe I cannot conclude an idea in my head now, but perhaps I will later or with the help of someone else’s ideas.

The next paragraph is a bit of a departure from the first…I am warning you now.

In 1990, the United Nations published the Millennium Declaration, a “compact among nations” in an attempt to advance development by, in part, halving poverty and world hunger by 2015. I will not spend time throwing out statistics, you can read all about it in the UNDP’s 2003 Human Development Report (Unless you’re really interested…don’t bother). Making a long story short, progress towards these Millennium Goals has been negligible and in many parts of the world, the number of people living under a dollar per day and without access to clean drinking water has increased (Sub-Saharan Africa being the worst). Now I do have a point and am not writing in an attempt to pull on people’s heartstrings or raise awareness towards those who are appallingly worse off than we are here in this country.

In the pursuit of my Masters, I am taking a development course and we spend hours reading the flowery language of international politicians and bureaucrats. Yet the more I read, the more frustrated I become with the failure of these development policies the UN and other development agencies have created. When rich nations stumble across a new idea for development there is usually a 10-15 year time lag before the ineptitude of the policies really sinks in. Many of the policies so strictly adhered to in the seventies and eighties by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have only recently been acknowledged as incompetent, and extremely detrimental to many of the nations they were forced upon, affecting billions of lives. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am no development expert, but I feel like these international organizations would be better suited to taking a scholarly or research-based approach towards development. Research poverty and brainstorm policy by living in a developing nation versus reading statistics in your comfy DC office about a country you hardly knew existed. Very little work is done on the ground actually examining the root causes of poverty. Most of the work occurs in towering glass and steel buildings in New York or Washington DC, in furnished offices with leather chairs. Yes, many strides have been made. The eradication of smallpox in 1980, and the dramatically increasing incomes of people in Southeast Asia throughout the nineties are examples. At the same time, poverty is skyrocketing in Sub-Saharan Africa and population growth rates are so high, more and more people are being born into abject poverty. It is a twisted paradox. Hold conferences and proclaim to the world you want to make a difference yet successfully manage to screw things up even more.

Now I will admit I can be a tad cynical at times. I spoke with my professor last week regarding this whole paradox and to my surprise he felt the exact same way while he was an economics student. He related to me how disillusioned he was with the international community especially considering he was a student at a time when the Millennium Goals did not exist and efforts at poverty reduction were a bit of a joke. In his mind, these conferences and reports were more of a way for the rich nation’s big shots to get together, write these reports and then pat each other on the back for all the hard work. As one might expect, politics plays an enormous role in preventing the policies in these reports from becoming a reality.

All of this got me thinking, is the eradication of poverty or ending world hunger even a remote possibility? All of the numbers tell a story of how easy it could be to improve the lives the billions of people yet nothing ever happens. And can this be applied to our lives? We hold our own “conferences” and invent our own utopia. Real world fairy tales to help us feel better about our own existence, justified by our ability to now say: “Well at least we’re trying to do something about it.” However, instead of working towards this perfect place, we spend our lives simmering in a dystopia, damned to mediocrity by the bureaucracy of our mind.

While on this contemplative streak, I am brought to another point. I have had countless discussions with people about how the world needs to relax and stop being so judgmental. We should not stress about what we have no control over and will not try to take control of. However, I find that when I stop worrying so much about the stupid things I argue about with other people, something else equally as dim-witted invades my consciousness. As soon as you feel you have reached a turning point, something comes out of your mouth contradicting everything you’ve just said. Like riding a carousel, I get off the horse and move to the tiger and then to the elephant, but I am still going in circles. May I please get off?

Monday, March 6


Another idea was provided complimentary passage to the Island of Misfit Blogs tonight. For a brief moment I had a great rhythm and idea flow taking me into the dark world of human interaction in the form of relationships. A very difficult topic to tackle well and, understandably, one I failed to convert into written form (for now at least). However, dumping the entry got me thinking about some of my earlier “Misfit Blogs”. I pulled one out from underneath the cobwebs and was planning on pasting it below this paragraph. It was a raw, uncut prequel to my Out of Context entry, though only by coincidence. As I was about to press the publish button, I had second thoughts and decided against its publication. Some of my writing is a little too uncut and inappropriate for viewing in a public forum. A number of these blogs could be polished for the Internet, but others should remain unseen. I am in the process of writing my next entry, which should be ready within a few days.

Wednesday, March 1

Are You Listening to Me?!?!

Some have described me as opinionated: ask me a question and I will have an immediate response. Normally we are not talking about an Ann Coulter or Al Franken response, one typically tilted viciously in one direction or another (though it has been known to happen before). Occasionally, my opinion is merely indifference or zealous moderation. I loathe the politicos on Capitol Hill; puppets whose opinions rarely oppose the party line with little regard to their constituencies or the welfare of the country. I also struggle to understand right-wing evangelicals and leftist quacks clinging so tightly to their special interests they convince themselves of the righteousness of their own opinions and the illegitimacy of any who disagree. Progressive? Following the path of Christ? Open-minded? Should I answer any of these questions or simply respond with nauseating sarcasm or perhaps with the irony of everything I have just said.

I spent the past weekend skiing in Northern Michigan, which up until a week ago had no snow and fifty degree weather. Now a pleasant two feet of soft powder covers the slopes, perfect for skiing. And great skiing it was. On the first day I practiced my own techniques since two rookies had traveled with the group. I showed them the ropes along with tips on how to avoid killing themselves, an experience far removed and gentler than the first time I ever went tumbling down a snowy mountain in Canada. Getting even further off my main point, I borrowed my brother’s snowboarding helmet for the first time and, amazingly, there was a dramatic transformation in my attitude. Normally I have been a little hesitant of the more difficult slopes (black diamonds), but now I was rocketing down every hill I could find, never passing up the opportunity to ski glades and terrain parks. It felt good to see a significant improvement in my skiing.

The second night we were there, the group played a game titled Hear Me Out! The premise of this game is to move your piece across a board by trying to guess what other people are thinking or by giving your opinion on Rorschach pictures and hypothetical situations. At first I thought this game would be a riot and a great incentive to consume alcohol. I quickly realized this game was most certainly not created for people like me. When you give an opinion on a hypothetical situation or try to interpret a picture, the remaining players are required to give you the thumbs up or down on your interpretation. Now unfortunately, it is not a requirement to provide a justification for which thumb you gave. And when I got booed, I started to get a tad bit frustrated.

I think this frustration was caused by two primary factors: my over-the-top competitive spirit (I cannot stand losing to people in general, but especially those I feel are not as qualified or up to my level of skill…I am not inferring my friends are worse than I, in fact, the opposite is more likely), and having to be subjected to opinions without competent justification.

During my tenure in D.C., I was unwillingly forced into a disagreement with one of my co-workers on a political issue. According to my co-worker, I was unable to present a valid argument because I was on the “wrong” side of the issue. When I tried to get a word in, he would cut me off while making whining noises like a child. I finally told him to bugger off and left the room in a fit of rage. I love engaging in meaningful discourse, but why must people resort to ignorant name-calling and petty insults as a means of defending their point of view? If you cannot support your opinion in an intelligent and thoughtful manner, then shut the hell up (or in the case of many television pundits, get louder and more belligerent).

I feel as though I am just ending my thought in an awkward place yet I have nothing meaningful to add as a conclusion to this piece. Instead I will end with this excuse not to write further.