On Being Unique and Speshul

My brother pointed out several times over the past year and a bit that a good portion of facebook updates and photos are geared towards sheer self-indulgent “look at me!” moments. Put simply, everybody wants everyone to acknowledge how special and unique they are… by doing the exact same things as everybody else.

The prime example of this is the self-portrait “yay we went to the restaurant and were all scene-y” photos uploaded ad infinitum. The easiest tell of this amateur attention whore is the arm extended above in the photos, as if they’re beckoning some sort of bird of prey to swoop down and peck our their eyeballs. If you do this and upload a gazillion photos every Monday after your trips out, I’m judging you -.- Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing too horrid about being sociable. Just because I’m a recluse living in a high-tech cave occassionally scratching my belly doesn’t mean you shouldn’t got out. I just don’t want to see 1000 photos of you in the exact same pose, arm extended with pouty lips which became fashionable god-knows-when. The pouty lips is transgender, by the way, lest I be accused of chauvinism.

Then there are the trendy-but-obscure status updates; the kind of things which make the perpetrator, on the face of it, seem ‘edgy’ and hip and shit. “Harold Bobbit is turning awesome into fashion!” or “sadness is the new happiness”, and so on. They’re non-sensical, but so left-field as to be positively trendy. GOD YOU ARE SO FUCKING SPECIAL! Like a blossom, in a field of blooms.

Outside of this, I continually find it remarkable how people in their interactions with one another will continously try to explain to great detail some extraordinary characteristic of theirs, or how X trip or Y party was so off the chain because “I just like being crazy, tee hee hee”, in an attempt, subconscious or otherwise, to make the listener(s) think they are truly special and zany and crazy and worthy of exception. I find this remarkable because, for fuck’s sake, we are not special. I’ve written on this before on this site, but damnit it needs to be repeated. Nobody is a fucking snowflake. We’re all copying something or somethings no matter how unconventional you might think you are being.

Unless you’re the next Churchill, Freddy Mercury or Nelson Bloody Mandela, you are not going to make a huge impact on the world, and you are certainly not going to impress anyone by doing the same “special” things your friends do every other night (if Facebook is any indication). Come to think of it, those aforementioned “special” people were arguably so because of a sequence of circumstances in their favour more than some sort of divine grace. Churchill was a raving alcoholic who was a horrid peace-time statesmen, but just happened to have the right mojo, or rather the anti-Chamberlainness, to lead Britain during the war. If Queen had continued until irrelevance, much like Nirvana, would we really have idolised him so much? If Mandela hadn’t spent decades in jail and escaped imprisonment, would he be the icon he is today? I’m sceptical.

This leads me to the other kind of “I’m a speshul unique blossom”, is in one’s personal ‘experiences’. I seem have been getting into arguments left right and centre the past couple of months, and I’m not sure if that was always the case and I’m just more aware of it now, or whether I’m just being particularly curmudgeonly recently. Nonetheless, often I encounter people telling me of their own experiences much like a Pokemon trainer would unleash Pikachu and claim to have the ‘trump card’ simply because I don’t have the same experiences/pokemon. What utter bullshit. Nobody has truly unique experiences anymore. At least, nobody who doesn’t drop shitloads of acid, so playing up anectdotal experience as some sort of magical trump card that beats any kinda of intellectual, philosophical, legal or other understanding of an issue or event isn’t any more valid than the other. Put simply, very few people are truly smarter, nicer, kinder or less annoying than everybody else, so stop pretending like you are!

Finally, it’s always interesting to note gossip about people or a person who is ‘nasty’ or an ‘asshole’ or less wonderful than all the other unique and beautiful flowers in this world. I say ‘interesting’, because it’s fast becoming clear to me that, although we all generally think that we as individuals are never as annoying as Harold Bobbit, and we never can fathom how they aren’t aware of their annoying-ness, we never realise that maybe, juuuust maybe, we’re as annoying at the next meatbag down the line. Very few people are genuinely nice all of the time, and most of those turn out to be pedophiles anyway, so ragging on one particular person or persons for being a douche is really kinda ironic.

Of course, not that this would ever stop me from being nasty to someone else. That’s far too much self-medication. Likewise, this is all just based on me. And I’m one-of-a-kind. So There!

Song of the day: The Deftones – 976 Evil

Written by admin in: Africa,Pop Culture | Tags: , ,

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

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