I’ll be joining the “badvocacy” discussion soon, writing about the problem of selecting local interlocutors in international human rights advocacy. If only letting people in developing and war-torn countries “speak for themselves” were a simple undertaking free of bias and politics.
One the hardest things to admit is loneliness. To admit being lonely is to admit that, while people might care about you, your relationships aren’t strong or deep enough to overcome your loneliness. Thus, to admit being lonely, I believe, is to fess up to a failure. Human beings are not built for solitude, but that’s what I’ve found in this city over the past year. I’ve had twelve months of living with my loud internal monologue and far less human interaction than I am accustomed to. It’s been hard, very hard. Harder than anything I’ve dealt with since I was a kid. During winter 2008, I transitioned from a close-knit, cause-driven community of IO employees abroad to the rowdy camaraderie of a small, badly under-resourced field office in a decrepit American city no one cares about. Almost exactly a year ago, I left that office, went back to school, and took a research fellowship. Since then, I’ve spent more time alone than during any other period in my life. But I am not made for this kind of life. And I need to leave this place. I have overstayed, and it’s time to go.
Yes, I’m being self-indulgent and emo. That’s what blogs are for.
Some days, I wish I could lay claim to radical politics, reject instead of revel in small victories in struggles for justice because they didn’t bring down The System, dream of revolution and the end of all inequality.
But, I can’t, and I never have. Since I’ve been politically aware, I’ve always been something of a pragmatic idealist, with a strong focus on institutions. (I was an immensely boring, nerdy teenager.) Largely, this comes from having spent many years of my life in a place where the rule of law was much weaker than it should have been, and where I saw firsthand the insidious effects weak state institutions have on the lives of ordinary people, and especially the most vulnerable.
So, I believe in good governance, and work for better governance. I believe governments must and can respect, protect and fulfill the rights of people within their borders, and that the eternal problem of resource scarcity is a specious argument not to do so. I believe that reducing inequality requires both top-down and bottom-up efforts. I believe in the rule of law and in political accountability. I believe that culture is malleable, and I have seen it bend to progress. I believe in the power of education, but I recognize that changing attitudes does not happen instantaneously, and that some changes can only begin with intervention and enforcement. I believe in liberal democracy. I prefer rule by liberal elites to rule by illiberal populists. My vision of a gender equal world is the Battlestar Galactica vision — men and women aspiring to and achieving the same heights of greatness, but also the same proportions of evil, with neither gender assigned specific social roles. I believe that the most effective social movements are organic and mass-mobilizing, but I am not willing to leave minority rights to majority whims. War offends me, but I’m not a pacifist. Violence repels me, but I’ve used it to defend myself. I’m not poetic, nor romantic, and my grand dreams for a better world are rather bland. If I signed on to a manifesto, it would likely be written in legalese and bureaucratese. It would have clauses and footnotes.
I’ve been thinking about these things recently, because I’ve been involved in heated discussions on facebook about policy issues ranging from Afghanistan to healthcare, and I’ve been the crazy hippie pie-in-the-sky leftwinger in some of these, and the civilian-blood-drinking rightwing militarist in others. (The former variety of ad hominem attack gives me way too much credit.)
In the end, I like to think of myself as a technocrat with a soul.
I have noticed that the phrase “what goes around comes around” has entered the lexicon in Bosnia, because my Bosnian friends have been using it in their gmail messages, facebook statuses, and as their religious affiliations on facebook.
Even with no other context, it seems fitting.
It is already getting cool here, and I’ve gone the past few nights without sweating. Perhaps this summer was unusually short, or perhaps it felt that way simply because the seasons pass more quickly once one reaches a certain age. I didn’t get to swim this year; the closest I got was running around in a bikini in a friend’s back yard.
UNAMA’s Kai Eide says Afghanistan’s stable provinces also need aid.
From Afghanistan Conflict Monitor/IRIN:
Development aid should be targeted at stable provinces in central Afghanistan where projects can be more successful and effective than in conflict zones, says the UN. ‘We focus too much on conflict provinces and we spend enormous amounts of money there and it does not have much impact because of the conflict,’ said the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Afghanistan, Kai Eide, during a recent visit to Bamyan Province. More than 60 multilateral donors have spent about US$36 billion on development, reconstruction and humanitarian projects in Afghanistan since 2002, according to the Ministry of Finance (MoF). While there is a lack of reliable statistics on aid expenditure, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) says there has been a major disparity in aid spending across the country. Kabul, for instance, has received almost 20 percent of the development funding while the provinces of Daikundi, Faran and Sar-e-Pol have together received less than 1 percent, UNAMA officials told IRIN. Kabul is not considered an insecure and poppy-producing province but the southern Helmand Province has been both insecure and the top opium poppy-producing province in the country.
Eric Holder disappoints me in more ways than I care to count. Ugh.