Thursday, 5 February 2009

operation gothic serpent

i'm trying to get images of Mogadishu in 1993 out of my head. it's not working. why do i do this to myself? why do i watch war movies? especially ones based on real events? ESPECIALLY ones about real events that i REMEMBER? i'm a sociopolitical masochist.

it's like i want the stress-headache that follows watching a two and a half hour movie about a military operation that, a) was a complete cock-up, b) was completely preventable, c) was part of the beginning of the end of post-Cold-War American multilateralism (fuck you Blogger, multilateralism IS a word!!!) and d) was the single biggest reason the United States never even entertained the possibility of thinking of maybe intervening in Rwanda in 1994, and e) ends in lost of people dying (which i knew long before turning DVD player on). oh, and which resulted in Presidential Directive #25 which is my second-most-hated government document in history (and yes, i mean ALL of history). [don't fret, at some point i'm sure i'll go on a rant about my first-most-hated government document...]

honestly, i'm not going to go off on my Rwanda rant -believe me, you REALLY don't want me to- but it still bugs the hell out of me that i can't just watch a movie without thinking about all of the context and the 16 years of civil war since the Battle of Mogadishu. or the fact that wikipedia has to index "Battle of Mogadishu" by date, because there is more than one.

i feel a strange kind of guilt that i am not doing something to more actively address these issues. ('address these issues' being my idiotic euphemism for 'save the world') i want to. seriously. i'm not kidding when i say i want to re-write the UNHCR's operating manual. i actually think i could -with time and some experience- overhaul the way refugee and IDP camps are administrated so that they actually MAKE SENSE and don't become a one-stop militia-recruitment site for rebel armies comprised primarily of kidnapped, brainwashed child-soldiers. and i really DO want to reform the DPKO, because Chapter 6 missions are a disaster waiting to happen and the results of bureaucratic cock-ups are just too well-documented to ignore. see, again, Rwanda.

i feel badly that i can't force myself into stomach ulcers and stress-induced hemorrhoids in order to save humanity. frankly, i've been there. i tried that. i found that most of the people who were doing it had ulterior motives or something to prove. i just want to save people's lives. i just want them to be in a position to bitch and complain about their government because a) they have the political freedom to do so, b) they aren't too busy fighting for their lives or their next meal, and c) they HAVE a government [i'm not saying it has to be a big-ole-Western-style-liberal-democracy] about which to complain.

i'm not entirely sure how i'm going to do that without an IR degree, a law degree and advanced paramedical training, but then, most of the people WITH those things aren't entirely sure how to do it either. so really, the 40,000$ piece of paper that says i've studied this stuff (which, incidentally, i don't have yet) won't even begin to explain how much i care about this stuff and have paid attention to it all for longer than is probably psychologically healthy - even if it makes me want to cry.

it does make me want to cry. it gives me migraines. it turns my back into a dangerously tense slab of concrete about as dense, impenetrable and volatile as the Berlin Wall. which is surprisingly bearable when you have a boyfriend who you can cajole into providing endless back-rubs, and surprisingly painful when you don't. and i don't anymore.

i'm not saying that my lack of relationship is to blame for my inability to continue studying IR -i think it has more to do with my interests in the field consisting of genocide, refugee and IDP studies and the fact that reading about those things for 90% of your week would make ANY normal person nuts- but it sure as hell doesn't help that i have no one to talk me down off my idealistic ledge at the end of the day. i don't think i realized how much i depended on my ex-boyfriends.

i suppose i'm a serial monogamist: i spent found and a half of the six years between my 19th and 25th birthdays in a series of long term relationships. i have now been single for about 16 months; which is actually the longest time i have ever been continuously single since i started dating. i'm actually surprisingly happy being single (woohoo! being selfish!) but i'd become quite dependent on others to remind me to stay sane. because i need the reminder.

my last relationship ended for a lot of reasons, but one of them was my ex's hypocrisy. he was constantly on my case to take care of myself (because i have an autoimmune disorder that, of all cruel ironies, essentially makes me allergic to the cold), yet he was the one in surgery two weeks after his twenty-third birthday because he'd stressed himself into unabating sickness. that was part of my wake up call. he was so passionate, and so dedicated, and so in love with his work -i'm not just saying that, he really REALLY loves it- but it was making him sick. literally. not the best plan to have your voice-of-reason be someone who puts their country's national interests above his health. i can't do that.

a friend of mine once told me that her grandparents always put each other above everything. even above their children. reason being, if their relationship was healthy, everything else would fall into place. if that core relationship wasn't healthy, nothing else could be either. i'm not suggesting we all become self-interested, but there is some value in taking care of oneself. there is some value in making sure we're healthy so that we can do what we can to help others.

which is why i think it's somehow ironic that Western countries try to take the lead in solving the world's problems. there are enough issues to deal with at home. i'm not saying that we (as states) shouldn't look out for one another, i'm saying that sometimes the easiest way to help the world is to set a good example and to become the kind of country we're constantly trying to convince the rest of the world to be. i say become because we're not. none of us. not Canada or the United States or Britain or any other signatory of NATO.

just as the United States has this delusional image of itself as a bastion of freedom and democracy (EXCUSE ME?? Guantanamo Bay????), Canada has this delusion of itself as The World's Peacekeeper. we're not. not by a long shot. reality check time!!! the biggest contributor of troops to UN Peacekeeping Operations? Pakistan. seriously. they have over eleven thousand personnel on peacekeeping missions (11,135 as of Dec. 31,08). Canada has 179. total. we're #49 of the list of contributors. that's 179 out of 91,712 UN Peacekeeping personnel. i can't even bring myself to calculate what dismal fraction of a percentage that is. and we're supposed to be the 'country of peacekeepers'? bullshit. our national self-image is utter bullshit. most Western self-perception is. like the following. (you really MUST click on the link to understand) this is sick. it's tragically ironic, almost Sophoclean in the magnitude of its axiomatic paradox. which is an entirely different headache.

in the end though, it's all one big headache. a big headache derived from the fact that someone, somewhere is dying for no good reason because i haven't got enough energy left to do something about it.

my mother wanted to die saving someone's life.
she didn't.

i want to die saving the world.
but i probably won't.


Jessclub7 said...

One of the few interesting things we did on my aforementioned ill-fated postgrad law debacle, was going to the Hague to see the Slobodan Milosevic ICTY tribunal. It was interesting in a vouyeuristic, slightly creepy, horrifying way.

The course I was on is only offered at 10 universities in the UK and entry is ridiculously competitive and convoluted. Human rights law and international law were both options whereas commercial and business law were both compulsory. European law was also optional which seems fairly short sighted to me as the EU/ECJ is a major legislator in the UK now.

Oh, and one of the guys on my couse could not point out Africa on a map. Jackass.

Probably to do with the fact that the history taught in the UK can be categorised as Roman, Greek, Victorian, Hitler.

Only post-16, when school and the subject are optional, do you even touch on the fact that Britain and its Empire pretty much destroyed the world and you learn about Ireland, the 'Sramble For Africa' and all that - even then in a cock eyed, one sided way.

Ignorance is bliss, I guess.

Jessclub7 said...

I have totally misspelled voyeuristic.

I am an ignoramus.

ali said...

As not funny as it is -- my roomie and I just spent a good five minutes laughing (it might have had something to do with the extreme lack of sleep we have -- where almost anything can be funny) about naming a missle "Peacekeeper." Honestly, it might be one of the kings of oxymorons. Kind of like the jumbo shirmp... it just doesn't make sense... it's really sad.

@jess - Ignorance really is bliss. So much so that I wish I could just be ignorant about some stuff -- everything would be easier that way huh? Unfortunately, I just can't bring myself to do that -- so I guess I'm just stuck in "non-bliss" for now. Oh well.

Jessclub7 said...

My favourite oxymoron is adult male.

Or maybe that's just a moron!

ali said...

@jess -- Oh. Wow. That one is just... Wow. I don't even have anything to say. Incredible. Consider me giving you a virtual "high five!"

mer said...

that maybe be one of the small blessings of having grown up in Ottawa: it is a city stuck between two cultures. on the one side you have the victorious English, and on the other you have the bitter, ever-unappeased French. when you're in French immersion, your profs are Francophone, which means you learn history in French, which means you learn loser's-history. i'm not trying to demean the French, i'm pointing out how learning *their* history actually results in the ability to question a textbook.

i supposed i doesn't hurt that my country also allowed a provincial referendum in Quebec when I was 12 in order to determine whether or not to let Quebec separate. (for those of you who've never heard of this - the 'let's stay part of Canada' side won by about 1%. 49.42% to 50.58% - no joke.)

so canada doesn't do 'victor's justice' or, by extension, 'victor's history. so we have no real national pride in that sense. but then we also have a bit of a complex... although everyone learns by age 8 that the one and only time Canada invaded the US (we did, seriously), we pretty much invaded, burnt down the white house and came home for a beer.

@ jess - you also misspelled 'scramble' FYI :P

@ ali - i'm pretty sure 'Sophoclean in the magnitude of its axiomatic paradox' is the most bloody pretentious thing i've written in months. oxymoronic works to. and i laughed out loud too, not because it was funny but because it was SO sad that if i hadn't laughed i might have actually cried.

JK said...

Africa is my true passion in life, though I feel a silly saying that since it groups together so many cultures and countries. I started college thinking I would major in History and focus on Tudor England and ended up falling in love with African History and minoring in African Studies (particularly focusing on West Africa/the Mano River region). I want to work in sustainable development, which is part of the reason I ended up in DC. I'll avoid going into further rambling and overtaking your comments section, but I do identify with a lot of what you've written here. The frustration and anger and overwhelming sense of despair at a lot of situations can eat at you, which is why there have to be other things to focus on.

mer said...

@JK - i kind of like when you guys take over my comments section :)

what happened to you with Africa is what happened to my with the Middle East. I'm in love. I want SO BADLY to learn Arabic. At some point the fact that I am very white and very blonde will be an issue, but hopefully by then I will be able to negotiate my way out of a hostage situation or something...

also, i haven't heard from my friend in DC so I'm going to need the name of a good hostel(if you know of one).

JK said...

@ mer - I'm looking into taking some arabic classes on the side right now! I took a semester of it in college, but it was my last semester and I had, uh, very little focus.

I will definitely look into the hostels around here and check with friends to see if they know of anything!

Jessclub7 said...

Spelling has never been my forte!