Saturday, June 26, 2010

Posits on International Relations Theory and the Global Polity: whither stupid titles that vaguely reference moving toward a new understanding

Yesterday, after four lovely days in a secluded cove cabin up the Sunshine Coast with some friends (read: deliciously away from all technology), I returned to find that I had missed both the beginning and the deadline for the second round of an application process I am in with a UN job. When I explained the situation, they gave me an extension but to my dismay the essay questions were largely on topics of international relations theory that weren't my particular cup of tea. Luckily, I am nothing if not skilled in speed-writing essays on subjects on which I have only vague assumptions. By the end of lunch I had turned myself into Vancouver's leading authority on cosmopolitanism, peace building and which way forward for multilateral relations in an age of colliding discontent over divergent governance structures (and you thought I was just being modest about my speed-BS-writing, uh I mean speed-essay writing). I am not sure Vancouver hitherto realized the gaping vacuum it previously had without such a leading expert, but now that I have reached such a height, I think we have all arrived at a very good place philosophically, dialogically, grammatically...

Every so often though, when dwelling too long and too hard on International Relations - particularly when considering global systems and international "solutions," I have a thought. Yes, it's a dangerous acquisition, to be sure.

I can't help but thinking how funny we must all look to God. I have this vision of him sitting on a big, antarctic snow bank, his crampons and thick boots dangling over the edge, with a funny grin on his weather-whipped face. He's looking down on us at the edge of the ice floe, all us penguins waddling around and chatting sociably. We waddle over to one and then another and then two more over there and busily inform one another of our very inventive plans and ideas on how to manage the ice. And he can hear it all, it is just the sound of "mer mer marrrr, mar. Mar mar... mermermer merrrrr mar!"

What funny creatures we are. Mar mar. Waddle, waddle... occasional "weeeeee!" as we jump into the water, pause, heads up and shake quickly with a startled look on our little beaks. Who knew it was that cold?! That wasn't what we were expecting AT ALL.

It's not that we shouldn't discuss these things. Of course we should - we were created to waddle and swim and murmur. But we do tend, rather oddly, to think our ice floe is the only thing in the world and man, have we got it set up well. I can't help but think just how much is beyond our ice floe - our vision of comprehension. In our globalized world we are bombarded with options and visions of ice floes thousands of miles away from us, in Mumbai or Iraq or Switzerland. Ice floes in Cape Town seem to be very exciting these days, despite the tepid water and distinct lack of ice for most of their penguins. But while we have so much knowledge (or maybe a better term is 'awareness' - I wouldn't say we are all necessarily knowledgeable), it is almost too much to fathom, let alone manage. Which cause should I take up? Climate Change? Darfur? Human rights abuses? Oh blast, now there is some trouble in Kyrgyzstan - is it the Uzbeks who are being chased or the other way around? I can barely spell the country name... And where should I travel next?? - That's another pressing issue. The world is my oyster (I am told), but it still requires an awful lot of money and energy.

Back to the penguins. Even if we know about the other floes and penguins, and even if we - in a rather strange turn of events - decide we care about them, how funny it is that we pretend to be able to make decisions that will benefit them, as opposed to resulting in a very sordid menagerie of negative externalities (oh that's a doozy of a phrase!). I don't want to be Negative Nelly here at all, that's not my goal. I just think we should realize that we are all just penguins, that's all I have. Swim well, murmur kindly, remember to look up at the one the snow bank. Other than that, I've got no further moral lesson or "way forward toward a more consistent trajectory" or some other concluding remark. Just some reflective murrrrmurings.