Saturday, January 29, 2011

On Civilization

I was thinking the other day about the word "civilization." It has this kind of grandeur, this connotation of advancement and intelligence.

And then I was thinking about all the great civilizations, of Greece, of Rome, of the Mayans, Aztecs, Chinese empire, of the Egyptians. Of Britain, the U.S. And it occurred to me.

What's so civil about civilization?

All of those so-called civilizations are founded upon a premise of power. Of warfare, weaponry, and the ability to kill and oppress those weaker than you. I guess... well, it doesn't seem all that civil to me.

And so now I'm thinking, is this really civilization? Is what we are living in right now really the best we can get? And if so, I think I'd rather live a backward life than in a "civilized" life. At least then, I wouldn't be contributing to the problems that I see around me, that I study, every day.

We call ourselves 'civil' because we think we're smart. Well, tell me this - when did risking the survival of every species on Earth through climate change get considered to be smart? When did creating a weapon that could blow entire provinces to smithereens get considered smart? When did selfish, independent pursuit of money get considered smart?

Ew. I feel like having a shower. Those things are just... well, uncivilized!

At the end of your life, when you're on your dying bed, and someone asks you why life was valuable to you, what are you going to say? That you owned the nicest car, that you made the most money, that you killed a few soldiers in war? NO! Of course not! You're going to tell them that you loved, that you made the most out of the relationships you had, that the time you spent on Earth was to make a difference. Or, at least, that's what I hope to say.

There's certainly got to be something that "civilization" is missing. Of course, maybe civilization should simply not be considered "civil"ization at all. It's just... well, it's just what it is.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

On Recognizing our Stupidity

I've been thinking about how very useless everything I'm learning is. Which is just great, considering I'm in my third year of my degree. Yep. Just lovely.

International Relations is this lovely little bubble of criticism and analysis. And as was so kindly iterated to me, it is the only subject where people "study places they've never been and people they've never met." And you know what?! HE'S RIGHT! I am just some stupid over-critical individual who is analyzing an entire country and an entire people without ever having visited the country myself or met the people face-to-face, let alone even through some illegitimate social networking site.

Who am I to say that such and such would be a good idea, or that so and so is a crazy baboon for having done this or that? WHO AM I? NO ONE. That's who. And I certainly hope that thought remains with me - only through humility and a realization of my stupidity can I possibly do anything. If I actually want to help those unknown people in that unknown place, I will most certainly not be doing it by writing an 80-page paper, nor will I do it by bringing my own ideas to a place I've never even been.

Anywho, this mind set - the one where the West is like "we're so much richer, we have no civil conflict, we're employed, blah-blibbity-blah-blah-blah" - is totally STUPID. And that's why the IMF, the World Bank, the aid agencies, the NGOs, etc., etc. are all screw-ups, and why all these IR criticism exist.

As good old Soloman said, Pride comes before a fall. Let's never forget to recognize our own stupidity.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

On discovering oneself

I think there are periods in one's life when you change. Something about the way you see the world is tweaked ever so slightly, something about your faith in humanity, something about the way you see yourself. And it causes you to change.

It's during these periods of change, however, that life seems the hardest. Because whilst you are trying to figure out who you are and how this discovery is changing you, you also have to go on with your life, simultaneously trying to seem like the same person as before. Of course, maybe that's simply because you are. But you're not quite the same you as you were.

It's strange how people change. How certain contexts bring out certain things in people. Of course, it's good at the same time, as it brings out those parts of people that you perhaps never thought existed. Sometimes for the good, sometimes for the bad.

What a thing change is. The human race is so resistant to it. We push against it so hard, even if it's for our best. Even if it makes us ten times the person we were before. And yet, at the time, it's the scariest thing in the universe. It's the unknown. We like having everything in front of us. To know exactly what we are doing in the next five minutes, in the next hour, in the next day, in the next year. We're always planning, but when something comes flying in and lands in front of us, we freak out cause it doesn't follow the master plan.

I guess that the most a person can do is simply trust God. Because I have a feeling he knew this would happen, and he knows how to work it out all for our good. So whilst change is rough, especially in rediscovering oneself, I think the best we can do is wait it out, accept that such changes have happened, and move on. God has a plan, and he'll work it out. We've simply got to have some faith and trust that he knows best.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

On Thinking Before Speaking

I've realized something about myself that I need to fix asap.

I speak before I think fully about what I'm saying. You see, I often have these enormous dreams and ambitions and hopes, etc., etc. and I'm like, bang! I want to do this, and I'm going to! but then I rethink what I've just said, or that particular ambition, and see the flaws. But at that point, I've already mentioned it to people, and it's just a tad embarassing, because they just roll their eyes at me and are like, "Silly Rachel. You are just a tad bit crazy. But ambitious." And then I sigh.

What I really really need to work on is simply breathing. In, and slowly out. Huuuuhhhh, Whoooooooo.... Lovely. Perhaps a few seconds of delayed response would be good in my case. Whether or not it looks like I take a long time to process things, I would a least look a bit more intelligent than when I spit something out without fully considering the implications.

Alas, my big mouth is more likely to get me into trouble than anything else. Decisions are just so difficult to make when it comes to big life choices. I suppose that in my consideration of every possible option, that I go a bit overboard and am like, "bam! I'm going to Uganda!" without considering the fact that I still need to pay for university, my sister's wedding is in a few months, and my research will be read by two people - me and my supervisor. Wo hoo.

Perhaps this can be my third New Year's Resolution - to think before I speak. And maybe think for a really long time. But, in the end, a delayed, wise answer that is delayed is better than a quick, stupid one.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

If only my friends could fit into my suitcase

Leaving home after Christmas holidays was harder than usual this year. You never really realize how much your family means to you until you leave them for four months and arrive home to hugs every day, delicious meals every day, a mom who does your laundry for you (still amazes me!), a sister who sings you songs in the middle of the night when you get scared :) , a dad who offers boy advice without getting awkward, and a brother who dances and jives with you into the New Year. When I went to say goodbye to them before leaving for the airport, it took all the strength I had not to break down and start crying - which is not very usual for me. But I guess it shows how much they really mean to me, and how much I really do love having them around.

And then there's the amazing friends I have. They're irreplaceable. Not that anyone can be replaced, as we're all unique creations of God, but they're just... well, I'm sure you understand. I have these two friends who are amazing listeners. They just sit there and take in everything you have to say, and then respond once you've said everything you need to. It's incredible. May not seem like it, but if you think really really hard, how many times are you really able to say everything you want to say, like EVERYTHING, that makes you're point perfectly clear? These guys just wait it out. And I'm like "WOW. Maybe I should shut up more." And then I have this amazing friend who just lights up everytime I see her, and whilst I did not get much time to see her face-to-face, I felt like our conversations were real, and that was more than many a conversation I've had with people I've spent a whole day with. And then there's my more adventuresome friend, who has to deal quite often with my lack of a sense of direction. It's quite sad really. I spent one hour trying to find a house that should have taken no more than 20 minutes to get too. :S If I ever had a compass in my head to point out where to go, I think it exploded a while ago. Alas, he was such a lovely help in getting places. And is quite the politically-engaged person too, so I love having a spirited debate about social issues with him too. Hm. And of course, there were the friends I never really got to see - I apologize for that!

Funny how things change with distance.