Dumb Things on My Mind

Tonight I watched “Born into Brothels”, an Oscar Award-winning documentary about a woman who goes to live in the red light district of Calcutta and begins teaching the children of the brothel community photography. She gives them all cameras and eventually takes their work to Manhattan to raise money to send them to school. Navigating the Indian bureaucratic process, she eventually gets them places in various schools. At that point, family and their own desires choose what comes next.

The movie was shown as part of a four-movie series this semester in our Foreign Service program, covering the topic of children. I missed the first movie, Invisible Children, about child soldiers. I saw part of the second one, Favela Rising, about a movement in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro to get kids out of the drug wars and into music. I guess the theme was for international development students and how they can approach local methods of inspiring communities. The movies are cool but my classmates are kind of daft… They critique the directors of the film for not taking “holistic” approaches. And they call themselves “development practitioners”. That kind of ticks me off.

Our school program’s director is running the series, and he’s an extremely cool guy. His speech at orientation was about how this program should not only give us the skills to do our jobs, but should also test us to see what our moral limits are, since the sorts of jobs we’ll be doing will constantly demand from us a moral toll. How much will we be willing to compromise ourselves on in order to represent someone else’s position?

He’s teaching a course next semester on exactly that sort of stuff…for example, what is the moral argument for and/or against Yahoo! and Google somewhat sponsoring state censorship in China if they’re at least opening that country to the bigger idea? I might take the course, if I have time… Pre-registration is next week and I will probably spend this weekend deciding since I’m so swamped with work right now.

I already met the director of entrepreneurial programs in our school and he’s extremely energetic, kooky, and eccentric. I sat in on a seminar given by an MSFS alumnus who is now working on Global Integrity, a not-for-profit that assembles local experts and has them quantify corruption in their government. The director’s class is a new class on entrepreneurial programs, and all the students are required to build business plans and can bounce their ideas off the other students. The class sort of serves as an early incubator of ideas and it’s right up my fucking alley. So I’ve decided what I’m going to concentrate on while here at Georgetown. The idea I’ve been working on can now be hashed out while I’m at school, and that is really fucking cool. Social entrepreneurship, yep. That’s for me.

I wrote a paper on Saturday and a paper today. I have a trade midterm tomorrow. Plus terrorism readings for this week’s int’l relations theory class. And a book on Resurrecting Empire, a book about how the US is blundering its way into the same errors the Brits and other colonialists did. I love this book because it’s brutal towards what the US is doing. So far we’ve been covering pretty lame globalization books but this one is the first meaty one with some zazz. And you know I love zazz. Okay, okay, so the Genghis Khan book and Ecological Imperialism were pretty good, too… And Inhuman Bondage was interesting for its coverage of Frederick Douglass.

Anyway, here’s some things on my mind lately:

End of American hegemony. What is the likelihood that states will secede from the union? Some are economically powerful to exist on their own — and some could end up joining Canada? It’s a longshot now, but what if conditions in the US continued to diverge from the UN/Europe worldview? I don’t hear many people gaming out the scenario of a disintegration of major blocs of the country. I’ve already talked about how I believe a lot of the actual worth and value in the US is being generated out of very liberal areas in coastal regions…SF, NYC, LA. If the US were to lose these cities, it would lose massive parts of its dominance in finance, business, culture, art, whatever. The economic collapse that everyone is expecting will hit the US is overplayed — if the US gets hurt, so will the rest of the world, so that’s not likely to upset the balance of power very much, given the US’s providential geography and access to resources.

Fiji. I miss riding on the public open-air buses in Fiji. I only did it a few times, but I was the only American on it and was surrounded by Fijian women in their flowery dresses and Hindu women in their finest shalwar chamises as the rickety bus barreled down sometimes bumpy roads past lush green scenery. I thought of this as I saw the children in “Born into Brothels” screaming out the windows of their taxis as they drove together to the zoo.

Cold weather. It’s been really cold in Georgetown the last few days… 40 degrees! It makes me not miss sitting in a HMMWV in the middle of the desert in Al-Anbar, unable to keep warm because I was pulling guard all night and because your feet always get cold inside your boots…tingling spiky icyness. No blankets, no cover, just a cold, hard, metal machine and you. The worst is the dreaded last plunge in temperature at 4AM. All the warmth in the world is sucked into the ground and it’s just soul-crunching. Yeah, I don’t miss that. Or waking up at 6AM to go running in the flimsy Army exercise uniform. Okay, I sort of miss that.

Suits and ties. I bought two more suits and they’re really bold. Pinstriped black on one and two striped colors on a dark brownish one. Very impressive. No holding back. A man in a suit exhibits power, right? At least when tailored right and worn right. Anyway. Why is the coolest part of the tie the fabric underneath on the inside? The patterns identify the maker of the tie, but often the patterns are better than the visible pattern on the front. Is there a way to combine the two?

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