Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

Assault on Mount Soda

I've been in Texas since friday (and will return monday afternoon,which might or might not be today). It's been a good trip -- the primary reasonfor the trip has been to visit with family, and we (my Dad and I) have certainlydone a lot of that. We're staying in a La Quinta that'sright by my grandmother's retirement home, and about 20 minutes from my UncleMark and that part of the family. My Uncle David and his part of the familycame down on friday evening. I haven't seen some of them for a very long time,and it's also been nice being exposed again to Texas culture and to this partof my family. In some ways, it helps me remember who I am, why I have some ofthe quirks that I do, and makes me feel a lot better about some aspects ofmyself that I've been wondering about. I've been doubting myself a bit overthe last few years, and I now am thinking that a lot of that has been silly. Myfamily down here includes a lot of people who are actually a lot like me invarious respects. I like being around them too. We haven't talked much onpolitics, but I still suspect that I may be the most liberal of the bunch.

It really feels like this could be home. I guess I need to add that to thelist of places I might want to settle, as I've been thinking about that.I don't know if the Qatar thing will happen -- there are some snags anddifficulties, and while part of me is quite intent that this is the right timeand these are the right specifics, I need to both learn more in some aspects,and find out if some other things can be made to work in others. I never thoughtI'd settle in Qatar though -- that's just a possibility for a few years that'scurrently centre in my mind. For living, I think I'd be happy in the followingplaces..

Austin, Texas - I really like the culture, the weather, and having all this family around.Amsterdam, Netherlands - I like how liberal the culture is, how healthy society is (with all the bike arrangements), and that it's in Europe (and thus has access to a lot of other countries). The food is good, European culture is really cool, and the language is nicely close to German, which might make reaching fluency not impossibleBerlin, Germany - Haven't seen it yet, but have friends there and have heard good things about it.Tel Aviv, Israel - Also have heard good things about it, and have friends there.Portland, Oregon, USA - The city is beautiful, clean, rainy, and has a nice laid-back atmosphere. It has great public transit, and an intellectual feelSydney, Australia - I've heard good things about it, but haven't seen it yet.

As time goes on and I see more places, I may find other places in which I maylike to settle.

Anyhow, as for the title, in the hotel, there's an obscenely secure pop machinedown the hall, with three separate, heavy duty locks and an electronic securitysystem, in addition to the normal lock built into the machine.

One of my friends asks an interesting question:For those activists among us, can one justify a focus on domestic politics,cultural issues, etc., to the exclusion of trying to do something aboutplaces like Lagos? (noting that there are even worse-off places in the world)Why or why not?

I've been thinking about it, and I'm not sure. One of the problems I can see isthat I intuitively want to say, "Yes, we should focus on domestic stuff too",but at least part of that is because of selfishness and because I don't careenough about them. That bothers me, because I certainly do care, and probablymore than most people do, I just don't care as much, and that doesn't fit withmy ideals. To approach the issue, let's toss a bunch of ideas into the air, andsee what looks good.."We lack the means to make lasting changes to the third world""Some domestic politics are tied to foreign policy""Focusing on all areas where we can better humanity leads us to the most sum betterment of humanity""Working on local policy helps satisfy needs in people that lead them to be more willing to finance human betterment outside their community"

I find the second to be particularly interesting. In particular, laws relatingto business/economy and politics in a first world country drastically shape howaid is offered to the third world. For example, the reconstruction of Iraq wasinefficient and exploitive, because local labour was not used in order tomaximally benefit american contract firms (which were partly paid with oilmoney from the new country), and because economic structures were created that,through making it inefficient to change or by creating obligation/ownershiprights akin to cellphone plan contract lock-in. Laws that would limit businessintegration with government, or limit corporate waste and corruption in generalhelp decide if help is honest help or a devil's bargain.

The first question is interesting -- can we make a lasting change to Lagos?How would we do so? If I were able, I would like to have the chance to forcea regime change, removing old privilege, enforcing openness, and seeing whatcould become of society with those reforms. But then again, I'd like to seea similar programme in place in the United States. Barring that, I'm not surehow Lagos could be helped from an outside perspective.


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