Saturday, November 08, 2008

Bleeding Heart

I have linked the title to a NY Times photo-journal taken by a photographer who has been to Iraq repeatedly throughout the war. There is an audio interview with him and one other journalist talking about the changes he has seen over the last five years and the perspective of hitting the ground for the first time there. I am about to start working on a paper on the effect(iveness) - or lack thereof- of economic sanctions using Iraq and Palestine as two case studies. I have not done any of the research yet really, so I'll let you know what I find out. But this was interesting.

On the other side, I went to a lecture with Nick Danziger, a photo-journalist and travel writer, on Thursday night. Quite possibly the best extraneous lecture I've been to all semester. He is not an academic (not that academics aren't riveting at times). I had thought I was going to hear him speak on his exhibit that is up right now at the Teck Gallery at school, and instead he was talking about Afghanistan- he has been travelling there regularly since 1984, lots of stories. A few friends and I were commenting yesterday about how sometimes it is necessary to step out of academia for it to remain relevant. Not that being in academia isn't a good thing or that we should not pursue higher (and higher) education, but just that going from high-school to undergrad, to grad school and on to the phd without having the life experience, in my opinion, will leave a lack in your perspective, especially in a discipline such as development. Considering the history of one after another theories of macro-economic plans to save the world designed in Washington, London- or perhaps more particularly a cozy lodge in the countryside near these cities- which have all fallen flat, I think it is safe to say that if our head knowledge isn't tempered with comparisons of what we have seen in the world and what we know to be true by observation there, then it will be found wanting.

The point of this diatribe is that Danziger's experiences in Central Asia and other places have given him a perspective that few would have, a knowledge of the afghan people that is not quite what your average Times, Post, or Sun view would be. He chose to live through the soviet bombing of Harat with local Afghans. Not with the UN contingent- which may or may not have actually been there, come to think of it. There is something of great weight and importance to the story of purposely choosing to lie down during a war beside a people who did not have any choice in the matter.

I have sort of been going through a funny stage, and I am quite at peace with it, where I come home from school and watch the news, and find myself in tears. I get made fun of for being so emotional (cough, ahem, you know who you are), but on the other hand, I think that if this sort of thing didn't effect me, I would seriously question myself. On the one hand, we are sitting in a classroom on West Hastings discussing in a very matter of fact way what failed states need more: democratic civil society or strong economic institutions, . We discuss examples like Botswana and Somalia; Comparisons of Bihar to Kerala in India. At the end of the day, if I come home after thinking about the DRC all day and then see the a group of people who have set up their own make-shift refugee camp in a field and watch UN trucks go back and forth each day to some other place without ever stopping, how can I not care?

Perhaps I am just over-emotional and I'm just a girl who hasn't had enough sleep. Maybe this doesn't really count, because I am not walking through the mountains with them (now) and it's all just talk. I don't mean to be trite, or assume that I know how it feels. I cry because I only know enough to wish those going through this didn't know how it feels. Now maybe one or two more people have clicked the links and will think about what is going on, and eventually if we all cry enough, someone will stand up, tell us to stop our blubbering and work through this, piece by piece.

What else can we do?

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Alfa and Beto ride again!

While all I could find on the news seemed to be the Election that Wouldn't End, I also saw this tucked away and am, instantly, thrilled. Click the title of my post for the full article from the NY Times ("but what papers do you read? can you name one for us?" ah, it just doesn't get old).

I think I have mentioned this here before, but in the past I have considered a wide-range of possible careers (UN ambassador to Uganda, South East Asian rice farmer, Prime minister, back-up dancing for Chayanne to name a few). I think that when this guy retires, I will offer to be his protege. Who doesn't want to carry books to read with neighbours, travelling around on donkeys named "alfa" and "beto"??

They draw an interesting parallel/connection with Garcia Marquez- whom I also love- that is slightly humbling eh? What is awesome- latent- leadership out there on donkeys and not on Facebook in Belzberg library at the moment... I just wonder how guys like this are still living on $350/mo and yet others much less passionate are running mncs, countries, universities and news stations. Not that I am saying that our leaders are all dispassionate and soulless jerks. What I am saying is that I want more of these guys in the world. And less me's (as a representative member of mass-academia) sitting on facebook all afternoon.

Uh, but without the internet, how would I have even known and how would I have told you? Isn't it ironic. I'm off to read a book.