Saturday, November 19, 2011

Fighting Cynicism (and COSTECH)

I spent most of today working on my COSTECH application which I will shortly send to the Tanzanian government in an effort to get research clearance.  There are few things that make me go absolutely wobbly at the knees, but COSTECH is one of them.  I don’t want to say anything nasty about them in case they’re spying on me, but let’s just say that in my encounter with them last summer, they came off better, and after being comprehensively routed, I went off to Zanzibar for several days to recuperate and write over endless cups of spice tea and interminable sunsets.

After putting in due time on my COSTECH application, I went for a walk in the afternoon and returned in the evening only to be sent a video showing UC Davis campus police using pepper spray on students sitting peacefully on the ground.  It’s a disturbing video, and it is shocking that campuses permit this to occur again and again, and that police are so violence-prone.  Similar scenes have played out at other Occupy Protests, and I fear for these people’s safety should a Republican win office next year.  Newt Gingrich recently accused demonstrators of being “anti-civilization”, and accused them of wanting “to tear down our country.  We love and want to rebuild our country.  That’s the difference”.

Sometimes the world seems like such a terribly unjust place that I find myself thinking it’s no wonder I’m such a grumpy cynic.  The world’s falling apart, I’m stuck endlessly problematising things and begging bureaucrats to let me into their countries, while trying to take a balanced approach to the people I’m writing about and their causes.

Ironically, it is in ‘nature’ or the ‘natural world’, concepts I’m not supposed to believe in, that I find personal rejuvenation.  Something as simple as seeing, with extraordinary clarity, the world upside-down in the ponds at the Botanical Gardens this afternoon, made me irrationally happy.  I also spotted a pair of outstandingly beautiful Green Woodpeckers

At the end of the day, cynicism is no match for clear waters, fall colours, fresh air and sunlight.

“Barring love and war, few enterprises are undertaken with such abandon, or by such diverse individuals, or with so paradoxical a mixture of appetite and altruism, as that group of avocations known as outdoor recreation.  It is, by common consent, a good thing for people to get back to nature”.  Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac

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