01 August 2010

Forty shades of Grey

This fortnight I have mostly been in [REDACTED].

Normally upon returning to Dublin after an extensive foray into parts elsewhere I experience an emotional dip, a drop in energy and enthusiasm, a feeling of impending, if not outright immanentized, doom and gloom. Frequent readers of Booming Back might be somewhat familiar with this occurrence, and these feelings can almost always be directly attributed to the gulf between those things that have amazed me elsewhere and the sense of impossibility of ever actualizing those things or something similar here at home.

This time, however, it was the trip itself that has engendered such feelings of discomfort and discombobulation, for [REDACTED] is not an easy place to talk about, let alone visit. We do not live in a Black and White world, and if ever there was a place that embodies the Greyness in-between it is [REDACTED], which runs the full Grey spectrum from battleship to slate, passing through charcoal and almost every other shade of Grey along the way.

And yet it seems that in the media and the court of public opinion this most Grey of places can only ever be discussed in the most absolutist of terms. For the Right [REDACTED] is right, and every action taken by it is justified by its very existence, and the need to protect this existence. For the Left [REDACTED] has come to represent the ultimate oppressor, and every action taken by those it oppresses is a gallant stand in their own struggle for existence. No time is given to those who seek a third way, particularly those within [REDACTED] itself, whose numbers are somewhere between a vocal minority and a silent majority and yet curiously never seem to figure highly in external reporting, no doubt because they fail to conform to the established narratives of [REDACTED] good, [FURTHER REDACTED] bad, or vice versa.

I have been of the opinion that one should never judge the citizenry of a nation by the actions of their government, elected or otherwise, but recently I have begun to modify this aphorism to the more realistic notion that one should never judge an individual citizen of a nation by the actions of their government, for the collective citizenry in a functioning democracy is entirely responsible for the form their government takes. I may not have voted for a particular party but we as an electorate get the government we deserve. As demonstrated by the people of Latvia and Iceland last year the collected public opposition to governments by the citizenry can bring about change, and while (to date) the citizenry of Iran, Thailand and Greece have failed to do likewise their resolve to continue to demonstrate is something that shames those of us here and elsewhere who fail to stand up against official policies and actions that we know to be wrong.

Herein lies the first of my many problems with this trip, is it right of me to attempt to separate the actions of a government from my encounters with individual citizens of that state? [REDACTED] has compulsory military service for every non-[FURTHER REDACTED] citizen over the age of 18, male and female. Conscientious objectors are rare, and often serve jail terms for their actions. Thus almost every citizen you meet has at some time carried out militaristic actions on behalf of the state. While the ultra-religious can exempt themselves from service while studying in religious programs, these same groups tend to vote for ultra-conservative politicians who are the instigators of the more extreme and nationalistic government policies. Thus has almost every [REDACTED] citizen you meet contributed either directly or indirectly to the oppression of [FURTHER REDACTED] simply by being a citizen of [REDACTED]?

Furthermore, does this also imply that simply by being in [REDACTED], no matter what my motives, I too am contributing to the oppression of [FURTHER REDACTED]?

The standard Black and White answer to this from my redoubtable perch on the Left would be 'Yes', but there are no Black and Whites in [REDACTED], only Grey.

With these thoughts on my mind before I even set off, it was never going to be a comfortable trip.

Bear with me over the next few days while I try to explore some of the effects this trip has had on me. Never one to shy away from shying away from something here on Booming Back, I'm not going to touch the specifics or origins of the [REDACTED]/[FURTHER REDACTED] conflict with a ten-foot pole, I'm happy to leave that to others more eminently qualified and/or troll-ish than I. Instead I want to explore a few things that occurred to me while there, both positive and negative, and to do so without a) offending a whole bunch of people unnecessarily and b) attracting a whole bunch of offensive comments.

This being the Internet, I'd rate my chances as 50/50 of doing either.

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