Friday, November 19, 2010

There is No Hope for Us

It seems like every step mankind makes towards progress: emancipation, universal suffrage, the designated hitter; it takes another step backwards. Even within the last few decades we've seen ethnic cleansing, unnecessary wars, and the continuation of repressive regimes that deny equal rights to their citizens. It begs the question as to whether humans are in any way evolving into more mature and peaceful beings; or if we are destined to retain our darker habits, like seeking dominance through violence and social stratification, and watching reality television.

Sometime in June this year, after the Israel/Gaza flotilla episode, I visited the Holocaust memorial in Berlin. I wish I'd done more to capture the worst of what I saw. On it's own, Hagen Daas trash and spectators casually walking on the pillars don't seem like apathy to the slaughter of so many people. But there were better ways to make this point that I failed to capture. I didn't take a picture of the guys laughing and drinking beers. They were the first scene of disrespect I encountered, so I didn't think to take a picture because I didn't realize I was in for a full day of it. Video would have been better for these teenagers at the bottom here. They were jumping from one side to the other, using the memorial as a high-risk jungle gym. Video would have also done more justice to the girls with the bright umbrella up top were laughing it up like they were on a modeling shoot. And video of the overweight Arab looking guys walking behind them, these guys made a point to jump up on all the pillars they passed and then looked around to make sure people saw they were doing it. That's what made me think of the flotilla episode because I racially profiled their disrespect to mean they were unhappy with Israel policy and used this minor desecration of the Holocaust memorial to make their point instead of channeling their anger in a more productive fashion. Nonetheless, it made me realize how we're all fucked. Every last one of us.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Weddings/Celebrations, or How I Really Hope l Don't Die Alone

I'm in the midst of wedding planning with the future-ex. We have gone through 18 different decisions and it looks like we've come all the way around and settled on number four. We've only been doing this back and forth, settling on a decision, telling people about it and then reversing ourselves for three months. It's really really exciting stuff.

We had initially planned a destination wedding, since we're already in Europe and it would be easy on us. But then my buddies Mark (pictured right) and Amy (not pictured but way out of his league) had their wedding in Greece and it was too incredible. The food, the company, the villa where we all stayed, the small restaurant with a patio where they had their wedding at sunset, it really was some of the most amazing time I've spent on this earth. (Only slightly behind the times I get stuck watching an entire season of a TV show or playing Civ 4 until 3 in the morning.) I don't want to spend too much time gushing over how great their wedding was because of the proper gender roles for males in the United States and all. But the point is it made me and the little lady realize that we shouldn't do a destination wedding. We could never pull it off. Their friends and family were all pretty wonderful and got along so well. And our families, well, they wouldn't, to a possibly disastrous degree.

So we're going for a get-in get-out, four hour, hope-no-one-we-love-does-anything-too-embarrassing type of wedding. The other good aspect of a four hour wedding is that it'll help us avoid thinking too hard about how we've let our friendships slide because we really never see or talk to these people anymore and how we're terribly, terribly alone in this world so this marriage better work out or we better have really caring children.

Anyways, we're going to keep it down to about 40 people so please don't be too upset if you're not invited. If there's one thing this wedding process has taught me is that I can't believe how many weddings I thought I would've been invited to but justifiably wasn't. Completely reasonable choices there everybody. We really don't know each other well enough to blow that kind of money on food and drinks. So I'm sorry I sent those letter bombs. In hindsight, that may have been an overreaction.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Season 2 of The Wire Could Help Us Win in Afghanistan

The second season of The Wire gets a bad rap from everybody I know. While it's not the best season (4 clearly is), it's under appreciated. My friends don't like it because it's not the gangster shoot-'em-up of the other seasons. This misses the point. The second season went to a dying-but-once-proud industry, the stevedores at the docks, in a dying-but-once-proud city. That enabled The Wire to make the show more than a look at the inner-city problems and focus on the dysfunctions of Baltimore as a whole; a city with a civil service that doesn't genuinely care about helping the public and a public that has few genuine employment opportunities for it's lower educated. The only hope they have to improve their economic lot is to steal stuff off of boats or get involved in the drug trade.

This is the closest to a news article that I could find on what's going on with Army supplies in Afghanistan. But that article, like me, doesn't precisely get to my point. The goods that those trucks we're carrying on their way to Afghanistan went through the ports at Karachi. And a lot of the goods going through Karachi are connexes carrying Soldiers' personal gear. These connexes are getting pinched at an alarming rate. At the claims conference I just went to, we were given instructions on how to prepare Soldiers for recovering the value of their lost items, because it's almost a guarantee that a good percentage of Soldiers will have their stuff stolen.

So this is where the second season of The Wire comes in. If only the Taliban, warlords, or sticky-fingered Pakistani dockworkers could watch some pirated DVDs of season 2, they could see that they're not much different from the lower-educated working poor of the United States. We also have people who were born and raised where the opportunity to succeed was stunted because of poor socioeconomic conditions that were then exasperated by a corrupt and inefficient government. We too have people seeking to improve their lot by stealing from cargo containers or selling drugs. And once our enemies see this, maybe they'll empathize with us. Maybe this empathy will move them away from killing us, and allow our Soldiers to establish a more peaceful regime; a regime that doesn't tolerate terrorists and has more rights for females, even if that regime isn't much more democratic and is ridiculously corrupt.

At the very least, here's hoping that season 2 of The Wire becomes better appreciated. God knows with the laptops, flat-screen televisions, and DVDs that have been stolen from our connexes, our enemies have the opportunity to watch it.