Welcome to my home

Welcome to my home

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Conrad Meets Paris, Patraeus, and CNN...OMG!!!

FORWARD: I realize that some of this stuff is now outdated… a bit, but I just got to a computer and didn’t feel like changing anything. So, deal with it. When it was written, it was topical, so now it’s just like a time machine.

Living abroad has its difficulties. I can’t precisely communicate my thoughts in this language yet, meaning, I can only communicate through approximations. I don’t have the immediate comfort and support of my close friends and family. My joys, like my disappointments, are things I must deal with in solitude. I now live in a place that only has running water for about two hours every two or three days (yeah, I get it, the implication here is that I probably smell, as showers and laundry are luxuries). And, I wasn’t home when one of my best friends died.

But, living abroad also has its benefits. Sure, you can insert things here like gaining a global perspective, understanding a new culture, or meeting different types of people, and you would be correct. These are all pluses, so to speak, of living abroad. But, thus far, the biggest benefit to living in a culture, more or less, completely dissimilar to my own, is a better understanding of my native culture. If you have read Joseph Conrad, my situation is vaguely similar. Joe wrote books that examined the British Empire (usually not too favorably). But, one of the reasons his insight was so significant, was that he was able to write about Britain from an outsider’s perspective, while everyone in Great Britain thought he was a grand ol’, tea lovin’, Brit. In reality, he was polish. (He took a new name when he moved to England so that he could blend in/get published, kind of like George Eliot pretending to be a man, or me pretending to be intelligent.)

However, unlike Joey, I am not pretending to be a U.S. citizen to gain readership and/or credibility (trust me, I was born and bred a freedom lover). And, unlike bro-seph, my intentions here are not to criticize the United States, although early November might afford me that opportunity, and I do in fact lightly critique certain aspects of the culture later…stay tuned America. But, like Jo-Co, I am privileged enough to have the unique experience of being both inside of and outside of the same culture simultaneously. Oh to live and breath a paradox…(don’t try to understand, it’s too deep, like an ocean trench, I get it because I’m intelligent and I’ll tell you that anytime you want (or don’t want) me to…like right now. I’m smart. And a paradox. A smart paradox? Maybe it’s a paradox that I am and I am smart…) More or less, this has been a classic Scott Moore circumlocution, but, to summarize, living overseas has given me an opportunity to see my culture in a new light, a light that I believe to be more focused, while at the same time, less filtered?

Although I have neither interactions with Americans or access to the internet where I live (the irony here is that this is published on the internet, but let’s not get hung up on that…we’ll just put it in our box of paradoxes (and subsequent rhymes) and forget about it until time brings about its decay…like nuclear waste in the American South West), I am still able to learn about my own culture simply by not being in it. At this point, I could begin to expound on grand conceptions of global communities and international humanity and blah blah blah. Go read Mitch Albom if you want to hear about that…and waste $15 on a book. If you’ve been reading my stuff for a while, you know that’s not the cut of my jig. Plus, we all know I’m not anywhere close to being one of the five people you’ll meet in heaven. At this point, I’m still crossing my fingers for an admissions ticket. But…I do want to touch on a few things on my mind about the good ol’ U.S. of A.

1—Paris says the Cold War is HOT!!!
Ok, so Paris Hilton didn’t really say that. In fact, she probably doesn’t even know what the Cold War was…or should I say IS. (Dramatic music should be playing in your minds right now. I’m thinking Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana.) That’s right folks. Things with the Russians (or as Charlton Heston would call them, damn dirty apes…sorry Allison/Russia fans) are heating up. Here’s the way I see it:

—Fade in—
Georgia: Take off Russia. South Ossetia’s our turf.
Russia: Take off Georgia. Stalin designed this system…kind of, and it kicks ass and we’re keepin’ it.
Georgia: Whatever. We’ll just declare war.
Russia: Well, we won’t declare war, but we will bomb the hell out of you.
(IRONY BREAK!!! Russia doesn’t declare war, but does lots of damage to Georgia. Georgia does declare war, but just gets damaged. Hmm…)
USA: Go Georgia!
Russia: Ugh. These guys again. Go away USA.
E.U.: Go Georgia!
Russia: What is with these people?!
Georgia: G-funk step to this I dare ya!
Olympics: Hey, what’s going on back there? Do I have to pull this car over?
Georgia + Russia: Nothing mom…
USA: Hey Poland, you’re lookin’ good. How’s about lettin’ me put some missile defenses in your neighborhood
Poland: Hey yourself there cutie. Stop on by.
Russia: Whoa, whoa, whoa, I thought we were cool Poland.
Poland: Oh…uh, hey. See the thing is…
Russia: But what about Warsaw? And those summers on the Black Sea? Was that nothing to you?
Poland: I found a new man.
Russia: Whatever. Hey Syria. You wanna piss off my parents?
Syria: Hells yeah baby.
Georgia: Hey. Wait. This was supposed to be about me.
South Ossetia: Can’t you all just leave me alone?
Georgia + Russia: Who are you again?
USA: (Texan giggle)
Russia: What’s so funny?
USA: Now we get to finish what we started…but this time it’s nuclear baby.

Sound familiar? Just as soon as we seem to be making significant headway towards pulling out of an insane “finish what we started” mission in Iraq, we are once again, laying plans (or so it seems) to finish what we started. What, do we have a quota that constantly needs to be sated? I realize that they’re only missile “defense” systems, not actually aimed at anyone, just there for the protection of the heartland. And don’t get me wrong, I’m all about protecting the heartland. But still, this sends a message to a very scary, very smart, and very freedom-hating Putin (let’s be honest, he’s never going to not be in charge over in his neck of the woods). So let me be the first to overreact and welcome in the newest Hollywood blockbuster, Cold War Part Deux, tagline—This we finish what Sputnik started. Speaking of Iraq, that leads me to point deux.

2—War and Peace, together at last, Tolstoy please don’t sue me.
General Patraeus said something in an interview about leaving Iraq on CNN the other day (I do get CNN World Wide here, so take that for what it’s worth) that caught my attention. “Our biggest mission is to make things sustainable, and the easiest way for me to see how to do this is to follow advice given to me by General Casey, and ‘walk a mile in their shoes’.” Ok, so maybe he’s not a masterful rhetorician, but I take this to mean that as he is making efforts to withdraw from Iraq, he is at least trying to look at things, not as an American, but as an Iraqi citizen. By doing so, I believe he hopes to see problems that will face them (remember, it’s their country…), and in this way, preemptively strike them (nice right?) as a way to make the progress made thus far sustainable, not just set the scene for destruction in the vacuum created by the exodus of American troops (think balance of power disaster, Europe, post Dubaya Dubaya One).

And, like any rational person, I can’t think that this is a bad strategy. Way to go. But, go ahead and ask me, hey Scott, why is this seemingly mundane comment (and although heartfelt, it was mundane) so interesting to you? Well, I sure am glad you asked. You see, there are a few things that the Peace Corps stresses in every aspect of its operation, and perhaps the biggest point (and one spelled out by JFK himself in the original conception of the Peace Corps) is that all jobs undertaken by volunteers should be sustainable upon the departure of the volunteer. In other words, what good is done by someone who makes changes, if said changes can’t be maintained and independently progress on their own once the person leaves? But, the Peace Corps does this through what they call “grass roots efforts”, meaning that they work from the very bottom up. As for Iraq, it was pretty much a top down operation of shocking and awing the party in power out of power. And, what the hell, let’s throw in a little bit of statue toppling and spider-hole news breaks to kick it up a notch. I’m not saying one way is right, and one way is wrong. I’m not saying one way is good and the other way is bad. I just think it’s interesting that both methods have such similar end goals and dissimilar means…only in America, eh?

3—Putting the CNNicism back in the news where it belongs
So my final comment on what I see about American culture comes from my only source of direct exposure to American culture, CNN. I wish I had the technical savvy to make this whole section appear on a crawl bar or something, but I don’t, so use your imaginations. I was watching CNN the other morning while I ate my runny boiled eggs and bread breakfast and there were two things that I saw that I really feel describe America today. The first came in the form of a plug for a segment on party convention coverage. Now normally, I would love to paraphrase to put my own twist on things, but I feel that a direct quote is absurd enough. “You can count on CNN to bring you two full weeks of Olympic sized coverage of these conventions.” Please stop reading, go back, and read that quote again. Ok, welcome back. First let me say, THANK GOD. How could I ever hope to know what the hell is going on in the elections of the free world (I told you I was a freedom-lover) unless CNN was to cover the conventions with “Olympic sized coverage”. Really? Is this really what the media intends to spin our elections into? I, for one, am happy to know that the elections are no longer seen by mass media as political debate, commentary, and reform, but rather as a large scale sporting event. Sure the presidential election only happens once every four years, but can’t the similarities stop there? Nope, let’s make it into a mini-series, no, a made-for-tv-drama, no, a grand ol’ oprey show if you will…I swear, if they make me stay tuned to see who shot JR I’m going to freak out. I’m still waiting to see who shot JFK.

The second gripe I have with American culture, as reported on, and documented for all eternity, by CNN, ring master of afore mentioned circus spectacular, was a feature piece on ‘Barack Obama’s vice-presidential selection’. Naturally, I assumed that with a headline like that, the topic would be about Barack Obama’s vice-presidential selection. What the hell was I thinking? The entire thing was about Obama’s intention to announce his v.p. running mate, drum roll please, via text message. WHAT?! What the hell has this world come to where the candidates are now making major political announcements via text message? The next thing you know, we’ll see the state of the union address written out on the crawler in Time’s Square with nothing more than emoticons and crappy acronyms like: Sustainability, now, in Iraq makes me lmao…which means laugh my ass off…but more importantly, it’s an anagram for lamo. That’s right. I said it. Lamo. Shame on you CNN. Shame on you Barack. Shame on you text messaging. Shame on me for ranting.

Also, to go on the record, I have lost the hair bet…my new site is too hot for a natural sock hat in August.


Alli said...

A finely-nuanced and accurate analysis of the situation stemming from the war in Georgia, Scott. Well done.

My biggest gripe at the moment is that if Georgia remains on the State Department's Travel Not Advised list, I won't be able to hit it up in December.

I understand where you're at with the language thing. It will be hard, but it will pass, and soon you'll be able to say what you want to say, when you want to say it. It will probably seem like it's taking longer than it ought to, but it'll come.

Looking forward to the next entry, whenever it may be. Have you started teaching teachers yet?

Ashley said...

I really wish you could get that play published. I thoroughly enjoyed their interaction. Also, that photo of you and the pup is quite adorable. Haven't heard from you in a while and it's killing me!! I know internet access is difficult, but any chance for a phone call?? Man, I totally sound like a needy girl. Not that that's totally off-par from usual me. Are you at your placement now?? How is everyone handling things over there currently? Hope that you are still safe. Miss you.