Friday, October 27, 2006

Off to Lebanon and Turkey

On Monday, I'm going to Beirut again, the first time I will be there after the war. The last time I was in Lebanon, I fell in love with the country. It is a beautiful, multi-faceted, and culturally rich place, where the modern and the ancient, the scars of war and the beauty of reconstruction, come together with an intoxicating grace. Of course there is a dark side to all of that, but, as in every other case, the dark side, the negative space of place, is what makes the beauty of Lebanon so poignant.

While I'm there, I will be writing a proposal, so I probably won't get to do the sitting in cafes writing that I love, but I will get to see my two good friends, who improbably share the same name. There is nothing like a dinner in a restaurant in an exotic city, sharing wine with friends who I haven't seen in a while. I just love the catching-up-sharing-nostalgia that happens.

After Lebanon, I'm making my first trip ever to Turkey. Our regional meeting is in Istanbul. Really, who can argue with that? I have to admit, I'm most excited about the shopping and the food.

Friday, October 06, 2006

End of the Brain Vacation

Yesterday, I was finally feeling a little pensive again. I haven’t felt that way for a while, which is why you haven’t seen any blogs up here for a while. I think that it is fall. Fall makes me feel smart and New-Englandish and philosophical.

A couple of questions came to mind yesterday, along with an overwhelming urge to have an intellectual conversation over beers with the Professor and my friend, E. The first one, inspired by my frustration with the stubborn refusal of so many Americans to think outside of their own little worlds, was, is the voluntary ignorance of a large proportion of the population necessary for the maintenance of a large state such as the US? After trying to think of reasonable comparisons to see if I could test the theory (China, no, India, no, Russia, almost-but-not-quite, Brazil, no), I decided that it wasn’t so. I mused about it for a while, imagining the chaos that would happen if everyone started having an opinion about everything this country’s leadership did, and scaring myself. After actually implementing the intellectual conversation plan at Bertha’s, I brought the question up with E, and she succinctly and confidently (she’s like that) stated that no, large states like the US encourage the development of voluntary ignorance, because it becomes increasingly less important for people to know or care about what happens outside their country. I had to agree – for many people living in the US, the most foreign thing that will ever happen to them in their lives is a shirt made in Indonesia they buy at Walmart or a New Yorker’s car breaking down on I-70 on their way to LA.

The second thing on my mind was how we’ve managed to create this political elite that runs the country with little or no practical experience of life outside politics. I’m not going to go on and on about this now, but basically I was asking myself if it was a good thing or not. It certainly frees everyone else up to do what they really want to do, but it prevents our political leadership from being truly representative, and also from having an understanding of what life outside the political circles is really like. Not sure how I feel about it.

Anyway, that’s all for now. Hopefully this means my brain is back from vacation.