A Departmental Departure

This past week has seen me partake in a Model UN styled forum in the form of something called the Model IBSA (India, Brazil, South Africa) youth plenary something-or-other. To add insult to injury, I was a chairperson, which meant no acidic judgment nor any manner of partisan contributions. Purely sober and productive contributions towards working group agenda priorities, free education for all, unicorns on every street corner, and rainbows, world peace and such for all citizens of the world to enjoy. Heh…
Seriously though, the MIBSA was a new experience for yours truly at any rate. Organised primarily by IR postgrads in our department – something which we never did during honours, I suspect due to excessive workloads in tutoring and marking and other admin bullshit – and designed towards creating some sort of agenda of meaningful or pertinent points for the IBSA youth summit next year.

It was rather interesting doing something slightly debate-related, yet not at all similar. I suspect this format of argumentation to be far less confrontational, but likewise a lot less thought-provoking. MIBSA was a lot more akin to my diplomacy and negotiations simulation in 2006, where we the concerned nations involved attempted to discuss Iran’s controversial nuclear programme. We were Iran and I’d managed to get the USA to export it’s arms and whatnot to Iran in exchange for a pause in Uranium enrichment, thereby effectively breaking the entire thing away from the confines of reality and moving it towards the realm of absurd meta-existential retardation, but MIBSA was far more grounded in sober appreciations of co-operation initiatives. While I maintain that providing education for ALL children to the 9th grade to be supremely naive and ambitious, some interesting points were raised and at the very least the entire exercise got IR students thinking a little bit about issues. I don’t think I can quite overestimate how deficient this entire world is in terms of THINKING about issues, rather than ‘feeling’ about it. I have this theory that emotions get in the way of at least 75% of all decent ideology, and should thus be done away with. But then, I’m a horrid cynic so what do I know, eh :p

The three day event culminated in a formal dinner thing, which in turn culminated in a strangely-unique scenario in which I witnessed many of my fellow students, staff members and suchlike jamming hard to what another IR postgrad referred to as “Afro-house”. It was… different, and certainly a new experience to me. I’m of course far more accustomed to moshing my ass off to Deftones, Slipknot, In flames and such, or even -in polite company- shuffling feet to generic hiphoprnbhousendeofndeofntsntsladygaga stuff which seems to catch everyone’s attention all of five minutes before the next generic tween hit crashes into our audiosphere. Still, it proved interesting and unique, and I’m glad for the experience. Perhaps when the IBSA Defense Initiative should come to light I’ll be invited as a delegate. Then again, perhaps only in an alternate reality…

Song of the day: Nirvana – Heart-Shaped Box

Written by admin in: Africa,Political |

Western Capers and COIN

I’ve been to Cape Town for the first time since I was a wee lad. Mostly back when I was an anklebiter we went to the beach and I was terrorised by my “Cape Town Granny”. My earliest memory of her being the popping of my balloon, literally, because I brought it with me to the dinner table. It haunts me to this day! Now, however, Cape Town and the surrounds were experienced more from the lens of what kind of naval bases exist there and what wine is best to drink.

Cape Town is far more stratified into racial groupings than any other part of SA that I’ve been too. A bit like Minas Tirith in the sense that there are loose concentric areas of socio-economic classes. Close in and around the universities, hospitals and city centre exist the rich white folks, further out are the coloured areas which can best be described as petit-Bourgeoisie, lower-middle class and so on, and then on the outsides, waaaaay the hell out where nobody can see them, you have the black townships, just as the government of old liked it. Only it’s been 15 years and the city is now controlled by what is meant to be a progressive liberal party represent the opposition to the ANC. But enough of this stuff! My brother has a far better reflection on this than I can be arsed to repeat. More importantly, I feel it’s important to mention that riding the train in Cape Town is fucking weird. The first time up to Simonstown saw my brother and I slap bang in the middle of some manner of Christian praise sesson. I was quite hungover and the shrill screeching of preacher man and his congregation hurt me in more than the obvious ways! On the way back, this teenager – a bit simple – literally went through the entire train, every single carriage, hugging everybody who would let him. It was endearing even though smelly, but the endearment faded swiftly after he started nagging me for cigarettes I didn’t have. Still, there are some nice views from the train, if you can ignore the crazies.train

More importantly Cape Town was a refreshing trip into wine country. Given that our wine is on par with the best French vigneron on the market (and substantially cheaper!), it was a pleasure to run around tasting and trying. One particularly great experience was hairing down a dusty dirt road for a goodly distance, whereupon we stumbled onto this tiny vineyard with some particularly awesome wines, for stupidly cheap prices to boot. I suspect running around the wine routes in the Western Cape is very similar to treasure hunts for children; only they’re alcoholic, and you never find money, and there’s no real map. But otherwise they’re precisely the same!

Back in Johannesburg, I just attended (today in fact!) a seminar at the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria. Ignoring the 3 hours plus I spent navigating the highway to and from (thank you rolling construction projects -.-), the seminar itself was fantastic; providing a fresh and well-voiced policy foundation for Counter-insurgency strategy (“COIN” for short) aimed at middling states. It’s always great to hear experts from military, academia and so on talking with authority on such rad war-things. Any forum where one can say “Indigenous Forces” and not be laughed at or shunned is OK in my books. As a plus, the lunch the ISS offered afterwards was quite nice as well. It made the rage-filled journey back slightly more tolerable. After all, hooting, screaming and fist-shaking at fellow motorists is always done best on a full stomach.

Literature wise John has been reading some Alexandr Solzhenitsyn (One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich), which I have to say was extremely fascinating to read. I certainly intend to read more of his stuff. Likewise I’ve started chipping away at Tolstoy’s War and Peace. This time round I’m finding it far easier to read. Perhaps because the last time I tried I was still but a teenager. With some political training in me, combined with a considerably better historical understanding of the context, it’s now far richer reading. I think I need more Hemingway though. The Russians are so awfully depressing sometimes!

In sum then, the past month or so has been flooded with wine, war, whimsy, writing and general activity which can be summed up as “smacktastic”. Excepting the week I spent marking undergrad essays. That part I would gladly forget…

Song of the day (courtesy of my brother and I’s illustrious host, Claire, whose illustriousness is exceeded only by her lack of a blog of her own. Thus no link. Sorry):

Written by admin in: Africa,Books,Political | Tags: , ,

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