Invigilate THIS!

This weekend, I took (and – knock on wood – probably passed) my first two proper exams as an Oxford student.  Oxford exams are more than just tests, though; they’re an experience – and to be prepared, you definitely have to do more than just study.

The House of Pain.

First up, there’s the attire.  At some point, Cambridge students voted to allow themselves to wear normal clothes during exams; Oxford students opted to continue to require “sub fusc” dress.  For the uninitiated, sub fusc entails a black suit, white shirt, white bow tie, and academic gown.  We are required to carry our mortarboard with us – even though we aren’t allowed to actually wear it – and apparently you risk a fine if you aren’t wearing dark-enough socks (fortunately for me, they don’t have to match).  I had my doubts about how serious the rules on dress were until this morning, when I saw one of my professors rushing to the store to buy the black ribbon women are required to wear around their neck: apparently, even the examiner isn’t let in to give an exam if not dressed properly.

Bleeding the red ink.

On a lighter note, true academic dress isn’t complete unless it includes a carnation.  The tradition is that you wear a white carnation for your first exam, pink for your second, and red for your last one.  My housemate told me the flowers get darker over the days because they bleed the red ink off your page.  Perhaps more directly functional, your flower also lets people outside of the examination building know if you are due to be sprayed with champagne and silly string.

All Oxford exams are held inside “Examination Schools.”  It’s an imposing place, and it kind of boggles my mind to think of how much accumulated suffering there is inside its walls.  I couldn’t even make it through the list of Exam Schools rules – it was too long – but I did gather that the only objects we’re allowed to bring in are pens and our ID in a clear plastic bag, ready for inspection.  It’s one of the few buildings on campus that doesn’t allow tourists inside, which only builds up its mystique.

Sexy in Sub Fusc

All of these rules, I was told, are enforced by the “invigilators.”  Some friends from the commonwealth have assured me that this is a perfectly common term for “proctors” in some parts of the world.  For me, though, “invigilator” summoned an image of people dressed in Star Wars stormtrooper costumes wielding cattle prods.

After all this build up, when Monday morning came, I half expected to sit down at my assigned desk and open up my exam booklet, only to find that our test was on Transfiguration and Charms.  Or perhaps, the assigned time for the start of our exam would come, and the invigilator would shout “Surprise!” and announce that it was all a huge sham: Oxford students don’t take exams, but – much the same as with Santa Claus – we couldn’t spoil the secret for the next generation of students.  It would, at the very least, explain why we aren’t allowed to take cameras inside.

Posing with French tourists (note the charred exam script)

In the end, though, we really did take our exams – on History and Economics – and while our invigilator did look unnerving like Minerva McGonagall, she was armed not with a cattle prod but only a disapproving gaze (I make a lot of distractions).  Once in the room, “amusing” gave way to “senselessly bureaucratic,” as we were read a rote list of instructions and then sat, patiently and aimlessly, for five minutes until the clock struck 9:30 exactly.  It was announced that we were allowed – at most – one bathroom break, and that if we became ill during the exam and had to leave, we needed to go immediately to the doctor to get a note proving that we really were sick, otherwise we would fail.  Aside from a clock that ominously marked each minute passed with an exaggerated “thunk,” there was nothing to the experience that didn’t bring me straight back to 4th grade Stanford 9 testing.*

Farewell, economics.

180 minutes and 27 handwritten pages later, I bolted, without even bothering to listen to another litany of instructions from our invigilator.  I left my second exam – economics – a full hour early (you aren’t allowed to leave in the last thirty minutes of the exam, and there was no way I was risking losing another full hour of my life), and passed the time waiting for my classmates by setting fire to my exam paper by the front entrance.  I even got to take photos with a few tourists, which almost made me feel like I had a Mohawk again.

My sense is that, for most of the people in my degree, exams were reasonably miserable.  While I wouldn’t exactly call my examination experience a barrel of laughs, it’s hard for me not to appreciate the artful balance Oxford has struck between somber traditionalism and comedic absurdity.  This place, it strikes me, is a gigantic inside joke, and I’m finding I have way more fun if I play along.

*Minus “Rick’s Wait.”  Does anyone get that?

Zero Sum Development

Man-hater.

It’s a weird paradox of academia that sometimes you are too busy studying something to actually spend any time learning about it.  One of the joys of having a six week break from my Development Studies program has been that I’ve had a little time to actually think about development. The result is this bit of inchoate and incoherent theorizing that has been stewing in my brain for the past half-year.  This is long, but since I don’t feel like writing a proper term paper (or maybe it’s dissertation?), this is not nearly long enough to full tease out or justify my ideas.  Read at your peril – on reflection, it’s really drivel.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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While I was in Barcelona, I finally got around to reading Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s Half the Sky, which was easily one of the biggest popular books on development published in the last year (admittedly, a low bar).  Kristof’s columns in the New York Time get bashed a lot for over-simplifying complex issues, but I found the book to be surprisingly nuanced and even-handed.  That said, the main theme of Half the Sky can be summed up pretty succinctly: women are good.  Kristoff and WuDunn’s central message is that the key to defeating global poverty lies in empowering women, particularly through micro-finance and education.

Here’s the thing, though: to those of us in the academic development studies community, women are so five years ago.  Empowering women was an exciting idea in the ‘90s, but since then, the academy’s enthusiasm for development centered on women has ebbed.  It has already been shown that micro-lending creates huge inequalities within low-income communities, that high repayment rates are often only sustained through recourse to traditional (and usurious) village lenders, and that micro-finance, for whatever reason, doesn’t seem to work nearly as well in Africa as in South Asia.  (Even the New York Times jumped on the microfinance-critique bandwagon a week or two ago).

As for education… well, here’s an anecdote: when a speaker came to our department and claimed that increasing levels of education were going to drastically reduce global poverty, my micro-economics professor hung his head off his desk and started muttering to himself, “This is all wrong.  It’s all wrong.”  I can speak from my own experience in Uganda to say that our traditional metrics of providing education—putting more children’s butts in chairs for more years—does not translate into success in places were economic opportunity is non-existent.  There were no shortage of masters degrees in Uganda, and yet still people with masters degrees were desperate to be paid $5 a day to read surveys.

One of the biggest critiques of the popular development community’s newfound enthusiasm for women, though, is also the most obvious: empowering women often means disempowering men.  Many of the abuses documented in Half the Sky—forced marriages, domestic violence, prostitution, female infanticide—involve males exercising control over female bodies and female lives.  It’s practically inevitable, then, that rectifying these abuses requires taking away privileges that men, on some level, have previously enjoyed.  And while in developing countries these fathers, brothers, and sons might be patriarchs with respect to women, they are often otherwise politically, socially, and economically marginalized, so it seems counterproductive to make things worse for them.

The goal of development, in its most simplified and idealized form, has always been to make everyone better off.  Women-centric development strategies fail in this respect, because these strategies often have clear winners and losers.  They are, in short, zero sum, a label that might as well be the kiss of death in the development world.

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I was struck a few months ago by a column written by Paul Krugman, in which he bluntly stated that China’s monstrous economic growth has been inextricably bound up with rising unemployment in the U.S.  His argument was persuasive, but disconcerting: China—perhaps the greatest success story of poverty reduction in modern history—has done well by creating poverty in specific sectors of the U.S., particularly inner cities and manufacturing centers like Detroit.  And it got me wondering—can there be such a thing as positive-sum development?

Thirty years ago, “development” was defined as “economic growth.”  Since the possibilities for economic growth seemed limitless, so too did the possibilities for development.  As long as development is equivalent to GDP, then it seems like we needn’t rob Peter to develop Paul—ecological constraints aside, there is seemingly limitless potential for technological advancement and greater productivity.  By all account, even most people in sub-Saharan Africa have access to more material crap than the average American did a century ago.  All in all, a growth-centered definition of development is an optimistic one.

At some point in time, though, we realized that development was not, in fact, captured by GDP.  Instead, as economists like Amartya Sen points out, “development” entails a broad array of individual capabilities and freedoms: access to knowledge, freedom of cultural expression, control over one’s workplace, a voice in government affairs, etc.  To get rid of jargon, development is, in actuality, power over ones own life.

As soon as we adopt this definition of development, though, it seems to me inevitable that we have to accept that development is inevitably going to be zero sum.  If a woman in the developing world is given access to family planning and gets to decide when (or if) to have kids, then by definition someone else—often a father or husband—isn’t.  The same applies for almost any dimension or scale.  Peasants and workers can only have control over their economic situation when employers, elites, and western consumers give up cheap labor and the right to dictate working conditions.  And third world countries are only truly sovereign when international financial institutions give up their prerogative to dictate their economic policy or Western countries stop treating them like military playgrounds.  What I’ve realized in the last six months is that helping people is really, really hard, because development is—by definition—simply not a game that everyone can win.

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I suppose these ideas could come off as incredibly pessimistic (or maybe just banal and obvious?), but I don’t quite see it that way.  People can be simultaneously empowered and disempowered in various spheres of their life.  The third-world men who are the villains in Kristof’s narratives, for example, many very well deserve to lose much of their power over their household.  At the same time, though, we should acknowledge that at the root of their violence towards women is their profound economic and political disenfranchisement, which deserves redress in its own right.

This, of course, is all very abstract, and says nothing about how development actually happens. I do think, though, that there is something valuable about accepting that development inevitably has both winners and losers.  Rather than perpetually wringing our hands, we should accept this, figure out who we want to help and harm, and move on.  And before we talk about all the privileges we’re going to grant those desperate, needy people in the Third World, we should first look inward and think about the privileges we are willing to give up to make it happen.

Some aimless reminiscing

Reunions with fellow marching-bandies are inevitably the catalyst for endless reminiscing, and Bagdis’ recent provided opportunities aplenty.  We were skyping with a friend back at Princeton—who, dare say, I predate—and, as usual, I started subjecting her to tales from my orange-plaid glory days (I think being forced to listen to stories from alumni is something of a Princeton Band right-of-passage).  Talking about it inspired me to write some of these moments down—before I completely forget them—and, of course, to take stock of the way I view my own life-history nearly one year after graduation.

To be fair, as band road trips go, our visit to Dartmouth in 2007 was pretty legendary.  The Dartmouth Band at the time was at a membership low, and so the four Drillmasters—Lucas, Concepcion, Justin, and I—went home with some tangential friends-of-friends of the band president.  They took us into what was unequivocally the most disgusting dorm room I’ve ever seen, pushed a mountain of pizza boxes and loose papers off their tiny futon onto the last remaining clear spot of the floor, and fled out the door to a frat party.  As soon as the door closed, we all looked at each other and burst out laughing at the absurdity of our accommodations.  After snapping a few pictures for posterity, we grabbed our bags and walked out the door.

Somehow, we wound up wandering Dartmouth’s frat row, until we realized that at the end of a row of Animal House-lookalikes was the University President’s house.  We spent a few minutes cavorting on the lawn before ringing the doorbell and running off.  I don’t quite remember how it happened, but we definitely wound up sleeping on a fraternity tap-room floor.  While we slept, Dan Jaffe managed to get himself arrested for drinking from a hip flask in an on-campus party.

It’s been too long for me to remember what happened on Saturday, except for a few snippets.  I was almost decapitated by a flying pumpkin after ding-dong-ditching a frat house during the 8:00 a.m. march around.  I passed an hour between field rehearsal and kick-off by trying to build a bonfire in a highway median, until President Greg got mad at me.  During half-time, I opted not to participate in the formations and instead systematically dismember the plastic pumpkin—on which I broke my foot at the beginning of the season—with one of my crutches.  At some point, RW slide-tackled the Dartmouth drum major.  I obviously have no clue who won the game (on the one hand, Princeton lost most of the games I watched… on the other hand, Dartmouth is terrible…), but I do know that before we got back onto the bus, I tried to take the “set the conductor on fire” tradition to a new level and chased Matt Rich around with a hairspray flamethrower.

A few days ago, I tried to cheer up a housemate-in-distress by showing her some pictures of my “youth” in Flagstaff: of river trips with barely contained bonfires (are you sensing a theme?), joke cult rituals after cross country meets, anarchy pancakes and punk rock shows, homemade potato guns and rocket powered sleds.  The pictures did the trick—watching me almost blow myself up 100 times over definitely provided momentary distraction for my housemate—but also sent me into a paroxysm of nostalgia.

I look at these pictures and see a past of creativity and chaos that is beyond recreating: all I’m left with stories that I rehash over and over again to try to convince the people around me, “I used to be interesting, I swear.”  Part of it, I suppose, is simply context: I know that, in large part, all my best stories come from being around friends more reckless and impulsive than I, and now they have graduated and acquired jobs and significant others and, quite frankly, have better things to do than play with fire.  Another chunk of it is just imagination – a tendency to look backwards and only see the exciting moments.  But at the same time, I also feel like in the post-mohawk, post-Princeton band, post-Cult of Elk period of my life, I’ve simply gotten boring.

I suppose if I looked back at my time in Oxford so far, I could find plenty of indications that I haven’t entirely sold old and fallen in line.  I have, after all, gotten in a fight with a neo-Nazi, done an erg in a tuxedo, popped champagne in our department reception area, eaten falafel from a sidewalk, and—as of last weekend—joined in teaching a few Germans to play robo with sawed-off water bottles (not to mention showed them the joy of those hair-spray torches).  In reality, though, this is probably not anything to be proud of.  In terms of things I should be worried about falling into decline—such as my academic performance, or my political activism—my identity as a raving lunatic ought to be low on the list.  And, in the depths of this self-over-analysis, it occurs to me that maybe what I should really be worried about is not about growing up, but not growing up fast enough.

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Jukebox: Pennywise – Homesick



Grey Britain

In the depths of winter—when it was dark by 3:45 p.m., and had drizzled for three months straight—a few friends assured me that the weather in English spring would be fantastic.  I was skeptical, since typically here “fantastic” weather usually means “you can sort of see the sun through the clouds and it’s not raining too hard.”  Oxford right now is exceptionally beautiful, though.  It’s been so sunny I’ve actually acquired a tan (which, I suppose, doesn’t reflect too well on my exam studying), and the Worcester gardens are poised to explode into bloom at any moment.

Britain, though, is still awfully grey.

In September, I decided I would prepare myself for my move across the Atlantic by buying some British music.  Naturally, I wasn’t much interested in popular British music, but I did buy an album by the cheerily named “Gallows” called Grey Britain. Reading the liner notes, I discovered that the whole production was a concept album about Britain, and how it’s falling apart.  At the time, I could make much sense of it, since my conception of Britain was driven mostly by watching Chevy Chase’s European Vacation and reading Bill Bryson’s Notes from a Small Island. The U.K. was a land of overly cheerful people with funny spellings and free healthcare: what could they possibly be so down about?

Now, though, I have a bit of a better idea what the pessimists are talking about.  The economic downturn hit the U.K. particularly hard, and the recovery has been comparatively slow.  As far as I can tell, every store in town has been engaged in a desperate clearance sale for the last six months.  Even in the super-affluent core of Oxford, the number of boarded up shops is a bit striking; only my Icelandic friend says things are worse in his own country.   On particularly grim winter days, it was hard not to take the sight of people with umbrellas and overcoats walking hunched over from a perpetual drizzle in front of vacant storefronts and turn it into a mental image of national decline.

I consider myself fortunate to be in the U.K. for a general election, if for no other reason than to draw comparisons.  While my own sample set of U.S. elections is pretty limited (I only became vaguely politically aware in 2000), the current campaign here is, to me, most reminiscent of 2004.  Prime Minister Gordon Brown is madly unpopular, but no one is much excited by the alternative: David Cameron, a posh and somewhat slimy Tory.  Still, though, the election discourse here could never happen in the U.S.: the main parties seem to be competing over which will be able to effect the most miserable cuts to social services and impose the most gut-wrenching tax increases.  Even amidst the irrational anger of the American tea parties, there is a sense of optimism and efficacy that feels absent here.  In all my conversations, not a single person I’ve talked to thinks that a new party is actually going to improve anything.

One of the big issues in the campaign is crime and “anti-social behaviour,” a term I can’t quite define but seems, basically, to refer to people being jerks to one another.  I suppose there are signs of “anti-social behaviour” everywhere here: signs in pubs pleading with patrons not to be too disrespectful to the neighbors, a drunken group of middle-aged men hitting on stewardesses on my plane back from Barcelona, or drivers at an intersection shouting “Move, you c***!” at one another.  Just last night, my housemate called the police on a twenty-person, multi-ethnic fight among teenagers right down on our street, which came on the heels of a month where three houses on our street have been burgled and we’ve been egged for no apparent reason.

While these might seem like just a few scattered anecdotes that hardly prove anything about national culture, I’ve run these by a few English friends here and all agreed that they were symptoms of broader problems.  I do wonder, though, to what extent this national malaise is all a matter of perception and history.  Once you start looking for signs of decline, they’re omnipresent, wherever you are: I’m sure I could find rude drunks and feuding teens anywhere in the U.S.  More speculatively, though, I am curious to what extent this current pessimism is embedded in the long, historical arc of Britain from world’s pre-eminent power to marginal player.  And in that case, I can’t help but think that the current British mentality provides a window into America’s future, as we come to grips with our own inexorably decline from being the world’s sole superpower.

In the meantime, though, the sunshine is fantastic and the beer is awfully good.  Cheers, Britain!

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Jukebox: Social Distortion – Sick Boys

Drinking Problem

Me: So, are you all packed for your trip?

Nicola (housemate): No, but I’m not stressing it.  I’ve already packed up my passport, credit cards, and tea, so I’ll be fine.

Me: Tea?

Nicola: Well, I’m a little worried they might not have tea in Sweden.

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Everyone always talks about how the English have a national problem with alcohol consumption.  But why isn’t anyone concerned about tea addiction?

Addendum: Nicola would like you to know that “I’m not tea-addicted, I’m just tea-dependent.”

Places that time forgot

I think I owe England an apology.

Real places in a real country.

I’ve realized that I’ve spent a lot of time essentializing “England” in my mind, as if it’s a place that you can actually get to know in a short time.  At some point in the last six months, I managed to convince myself that, having done the drive between London and Oxford a few times, I had gotten a pretty good handle on what “England” is.  Almost comical comparisons between the size of the U.K. and the U.S.—the whole island is smaller than Oregon, after all—made me think that somehow it is a homogenous and predictable place.

Such a staid and jaded perspective can only be solved by one thing: a road trip.  Last week, my housemate Christoph, Jeff (a friend from Princeton who rather amazingly decided to grace me with a visit!), and I rented a car and headed out for a two-day jaunt to the northern regions of the misty kingdom.  And while I’m not particularly good at writing travel narratives, our trip did a good enough job at curing my exam-studying blues that I figure a write-up is in order.

It's almost embarassing how many sheep pictures I have.

Our first destination was Chipping Campden (nestled somewhere between Stow-on-the-Wold and Little Slaughter – yes, really), but we didn’t make it all the way before I insisted we pull over to photograph the wildlife.  Sheep, that is.  With friends scattered around the world taking safaris and elephant rides, it’s a little bit sad that my adventures in foreign lands have me photographing sheep, but my, are lambs cute.   I have far more pictures of sheep from this trip than will ever likely surface.  I guess New Zealand ought to be high on my list of future destinations.

We were genuinely excited about the thatched roof.

Chipping Campden itself was exactly as quaint as expected.  The village is tiny and, despite being renowned as the most adorable town in the Cotswalds, still feels sufficiently un-touristy that I was convinced I was experiencing “real” rural England.  While there’s not much to say about a town that appears to have no economic activity other than antique shops, I do like the idea that in the year 2010 there can till be a tourist destination for which my guidebook lists “thatched roofs” as the main attraction.

We continued North, but sidetracked to cross a few standard sights off our lists.  Warwick Castle would look cheesy even compared to an American renaissance fair, and at eighteen pounds admission, we decided to just stand on a bench and take a few pictures over the fence.  Statford-upon-Avon has, somewhat disappointingly, moved on from its Shakespearean glory days and is now, well, a town. Next up was Ironbridge Gorge, birthplace of the industrial revolution.  We were sorely tempted by the Museum of Pipes and the Tile Museum, but pushed on past Manchester to the Lake District.

The world's first iron bridge.

As it turns out, England is a bit larger than expected (at least, long-ways) and so we didn’t make it to our destination before dark.  We went straight to our hostel.  Christoph – who is an M.B.A. and spent the last few years working as a consultant – was a bit horrified at the prospect of staying in a twenty-two bed dorm room, but I was immediately reminded of why I love hostels.  The guy at check-in managed to combine both charm and incoherence, acting like he had never done this before (“Uh, I guess, uh, you can go to your room now.  Pay whenever.”) and failing to correctly count out the six beers we ordered.  We walked outside and enjoyed the clear night – a rarity, I’m told – and stars better than any I’ve seen since I left Flagstaff.

Lake District

When we woke up the next morning, I was convinced I had been transported to Yellowstone, or Middle Earth, or really anywhere but England.  We were surrounded by snow-topped crags (I think they’re called “fells”) and our hostel was right on the bank of a mountain lake. The whole thing felt surreal: alien-looking moss, rugged feral sheep, archaic stone bridges, and locals speaking a language identifiable as English but otherwise unintelligible.

Tall things --> climb.

My man-hormones were telling me we needed to immediately find something tall and climb it, so we drove up a valley until we encountered an imposing looking cliff and waterfall.  Free-climbing the mountain side was an incredibly liberating feeling, though credit (or is it Darwin award?) should go to Jeff, who in an display of astonishingly good judgment decided he would take off his shoes half-way through our ascent and brave the sharp rocks and near-freezing wet ground barefoot.  Hey, if the sheep can do it…

We spent the rest of our afternoon wandering between mountain valleys and relaxing in tiny hamlets.  If I were in the U.S., I would probably find human settlements all over a national park to be blasphemous, but here, they seem to just meld into the landscape – it’s almost impossible to imagine this place without stone walls snaking through it.  We closed our adventures with a quick trip to a stone circle and drove home: it’s a bit ridiculous that just 24 hours later I was at a club in London.

Appeasing the druids.

It’s easy to sink into the trap of thinking places are timeless when they are, in fact, constantly evolving, but if ever there was a place that seemed to me like a window into the past, it’s here.  At the same time, though, it was nice to have my expectations shocked a bit.  I’m already one-third of the way done with my degree, but I’ve got a lot of exploring left to do.

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Jukebox: Zwan – Endless Summer

Ordinary Men

I forced myself to sit through the recently released–contrary to the wishes of the Pentagon–video of a U.S. helicopter gunning down a handful of Iraqi civilians in 2007.  It’s pretty gruesome and disturbing (“Ha ha I hit him,” “Look at those dead bastards,” “Well, it’s their fault for bringing kids to a battle [in reference to two kids riding in a car attempting to remove the wounded who were shot]”), but probably should be required viewing for, well, everyone - though, in particular, American voters.

As usual, my initial response was some unfocused outrage, aimlessly diffused through angry and thoughtless postings on facebook and twitter.  Even more typically, though, a few more hours of reflection blurs the categories of good and evil and leaves me simply puzzled about what it is that allows two soldiers to calmly gun down twelve un-threatening civilians and then laugh about it before, during, and after.

I always feel guilty about bringing my academic training in to try to make sense of tragedy–it sometimes feel like theory can do nothing more than cheapen reality–but since that is how I make sense of this often inexplicable world, I’ll do it anyway.  And while it is perilous to compare anything to the Nazis, there is a long-running debate in sociology about the way ordinary Germans participated in the Holocaust that I can’t help but think is interesting in this context.

One side of the debate is articulated by Daniel Goldhagen, who in his book Hitler’s Willing Executioners argues that the vast majority of Germans were enthusiastic and proactive killers of Jews because of deeply internalized anti-Semitism embedded in German culture.  The other perspective comes from Christopher Browning’s Ordinary Men, which instead emphasizes the importance of context; the way otherwise normal people can be tipped into violence by certain situations and certain pressures.  While Browning has no illusions about the right and wrong of what Germans did, his book does talk about the “grey zone” in which decisions like these take place, a “murky world of mixed motives, conflicting emotions and priorities, reluctant choices, and self-serving opportunism and accommodation wedded to self-deception and denial, a world that is all too human and all too universal.”

Browning often gets criticized for being an apologist – for, in a sense, being weak on Nazi foot soldiers by placing some blame on environment and contingency.  I felt the appeal of this kind of criticism today: I wanted to blame those killings of Iraqi civilians on jingoism and militarism, on stupid testosterone-crazed twenty-two year olds fed a diet of video-games and Republican vitriol who went to the Middle East to shoot A-rabs.  But then I realize how, just as killers de-humanize victims, we ourselves de-humanize the killers, when we build up walls of difference between us and them that give us the comfort of knowing “Well, I’m not like them – and so I would never do that.”

I think back to the eight year old who spent his afternoons re-enacting the civil war in the backyard, or the ten year old who watched World War II clips on the History Channel for hours on end, or the fourteen year old who spent hours shooting virtual terrorists on a computer screen and I realize that, with just a few random twists and different choices, I could be sitting in a cock-pit.  And, in that context, would I pull the trigger?  The very fact that I am human is, at moments, positively terrifying, because those twenty-somethings in the cockpit really are just like me.

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Jukebox: Propagandhi – Ordinary People Do Fucked Up Things When Fucked Up Things Become Ordinary