Life 2.1

Assuming the return from Sarufutsu is life 2.0, it’s fair enough to say that 2010 for me shall be life 2.1! Holidays aside, John has found meaningful work (at a trade organisation nogal) and is promptly attempting to learn as much as humanly possible in the process.

The period from when I graduated from honours back in 2006 and February 2010 post-thesis hand-in has been… interesting, to say the least. One thing is certain though, trying to get even a second glance employment-wise in this field is a real bitch. Here’s what I’ve learned:

  1. Honours isn’t enough: Nor is a Bachelors. If you want to do something meaningful in this field you need a Masters. Minimum. Anything less and your lack of knowledge is likely going to cause far more harm than good in whatever you do, assuming anyone would even give you an interview. If all you want to do is man a Human Resources desk, then sure, stop right here :-p
  2. Don’t be academically-lazy: So often students thing that doing the bare minimum of readings, the absolute least number of pages required in an essay, and treading the line between vague interest and indifference is enough to hack it. It’s not. Plain and simple. If you want to actually be involved in this field as a career you’d better bloody well be prepared to read a shitload. Books people, not just extracts and the front/back page of the Sowetan.
  3. Become an Expert: Find a goddamned specialisation. I know exactly one person my age who is intelligent enough to be a generalist. For the rest of us numpties, it’s crucial to find a specific area of expertise which interests you and then get FUCKING GOOD at it.
  4. Make Friends/Enemies: Don’t leave right after a lecture or seminar. Don’t just cruise through classes. Speak to your lecturers. Ask questions in class. Challenge idiotic arguments. Create debate. If nobody notices you, you’re not going to be getting anywhere.
  5. NagNagNagNagNagNagNag: Nobody’s going to phone you offering a fantastic career at the UN wiping the bums of Somali children. Send applications and phone calls everywhere. As I’ve told some friends, I’ve sent uot over 200 applications in total from 2006-2010, and received maybe 10% replies, of which the majority are “thanks but no thanks” emails. Harass everybody and anybody until someone gives up and employs you 🙂
  6. Be prepared to sacrifice years of your life: I went to Japan, and then spent many months having my brain turn slowly to mush. God only knows what folks do there if they spend several years teaching kids how to pronounce basic English words to keep their brains functioning. At any rate, the experience itself os good not only for personal development, but also in creating a niche skillset which can be exploited later on (as I only just recently discovered). Taking time off from studies can easily be perceived as a waste of time, but it can yield good results if you’re doing something useful. Backpacking across the world sleeping with dirty French people, while entertaining, probably wouldn’t help much in developing your skills in anything other than penicillin application.

On the plus side, from what I’ve seen speaking to folks at the top of the field of International Relations, it seems to be an imminently fulfilling experience, filled with shitloads of travel, interactions with presidents, and the ability to sleep at night know they’re making important historical events happen. Also, it can pay very well, depending on the occupation. So that’s encouraging. I’d entered into Political Science and Philosophy fully expecting to be amazed if I could simply feed myself. It would appear that, should I ever ascend to directorship, that would be more than matched. Hell, even if it wouldn’t, it still looks like a damned good way to spend one’s life in.

Now, in this the year of the Tiger, I have just a couple of goals which I need to do in order to call it a good expenditure of my life:

  1. Get Published in a Proper Academic-ish Journal
  2. Learn the business of private organisations in International Relations
  3. Start a wine collection

Easier said than done, especially #3, but we shall see how it all goes!

Song of the day: Killswitch Engage – My Curse

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

Inspecting My Naval

A Three-Way Approach to Modern War

2009 has so far proven to be the year in which I start meeting and speaking to people working and writing in the field of strategic studies. This recently resulted in my wrangling and cajoling a free ticket to the Maritime Security Africa symposium held in Cape Town. Given the relatively huge price for delegates, being able to attend was a rare opportunity to see who the practitioners in the field are, and how they go about their business.

Aside from being easily the youngest person there, the three day conference gave me a better understanding of the sheer contrast between academic and military approaches to the field. The first day essentially held speakers from the Navy, Raytheon (military tech company) and government. From this lot came the pointy end of security in Africa; the advocacy of what’s needed and how much it might cost. Furthermore, these admirals and captains all stressed the relatively passive nature of our defense force. Ironically, it was the American Vice Admiral Moeller (advisor to AFRICOM’s chief) who dealt principally with the importance of uplifting African maritime capabilty to the point where it can take a role in counter-piracy operations in both the Gulf of Aden and the Gulf of Guinea. Our local guys were rather subdued and reluctant to acknowledge this responsibility.

The second day saw mostly professors and doctors of politics, international relations and such take to the podium and discuss the notion of what our security policy should look like and why, together with the emerging threats such as terrorism and whatnot. Most importantly was how the SA Navy’s response to the need for a counter-piracy mission was that sending a frigate to fight pirates is contrary to “ubuntu” and other generic copout responses. Considering the brass from which this statement was issued from, it’s rather disturbing to note the difference in mindset between the sailors and the thinkers. For one thing, where was ubuntu while Somalia was ripping itself apart in the 90’s? Back then it was fine and dandy to let the Pakistanis and Americans do all the legwork. Indeed, when piracy has become such a problem, how can the SA Navy now invoke this tired old canard in order to shirk any manner of responsibility. African solutions for African problems my left nut! Lastly, when one considers that it was originally the World Food Programme who requested we send a vessel to escort them, the excuse that we can’t be seen to be fighting fellow Africans becomes especially useless. After all, escorting a WFP humanitarian mission is completely in accordance with any country’s jus ad bellum, and our taking part would, at the least, free up an existing one to take a more active counter-piracy role. The entire dissonance in thinking within the Navy after this conference is frustratingly myopic. That being said, several academics’ presentations were themselves terribly shallow and didn’t contribute overly much to the conference as a whole. I could have thought of several excellent folks at Wits alone, as well as perhaps at the ISS, who would have been able to contribute far better. Esentially I left realising how different the academics think to the admirals, and likewise how very terribly young I am in contrast to this lot.

Nonetheless, the conference was a fantastic opportunity to gain more information for my own thesis, as well as gain a far more intimate understanding of the functions and processes behind the Navy. Likewise, the sponsors were sure to festoon upon us branded bags and stationery, as well as feed us terribly well, so the whole thing was quite freaking awesome!

Cape Town itself wasn’t so bad either, although I did see precious little of it. Each day saw me coming back full of resolve to copy my notes onto electronic format, but then collapsing in an exhausted heap after so much as checking my email! Likewise, after two days of stunning weather, the entire peninsula was engulfed in seriously horrid wind, storms and cold. Springtime my ass!

Music of the day: A Perfect Circle – The Noose


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

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