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Monthly Archives: April 2008

flickr-wordsI’ve got things to sort out.

Things to put into words.

I can’t think without words no more.

But.

(I always have a “but” too.)

I don’t got time to write a 1000 words. Ain’t no desire to spell out the back story, the analysis, and then link it all up pretty to get the point across. Finally get to make my point at the end.

All the work first, make my point right at the end when even I’m bored of what i’m writing.

I need to learn to write again. Learn to write short. Fit a galaxy in a gesture. The world in a grain of sand. You know the shtick.

I want to be satisfied with few words. To write 100 and think – that’s enough. That’s the whole story.

Its not my fault though.

The whole story is too complicated.

herculaneum_bust_zenoStoic, n. and a.

One who practices repression of emotion, indifference to pleasure or pain, and patient endurance.

Oxford English Dictionary

I heard this word a lot in the midst of the Jessup Visa Debacle. My team coach was fond of saying it.

My stoic attitude in striving for the team, while my participation in the international round looked unlikely. My stoic practicality in discussing how the team should pack their bags, while mine were conspicuously unplanned for.

In a situation where a person is acting stoic, the last thing you should do is mention it. If they bring the issue up, fine. Don’t force the issue. Don’t bring it up yourself.

Being stoic is putting a band-aid on a stab wound to the heart. It’s being functional because the alternative is to hide quivering from the world. It’s survival by force of will.

Calling someone stoic is ripping off that plaster to check if the wound is still fresh. It’s cutting someone to see if they still bleed.

It’s cruel.

My coach was trying to be complimentary. That’s not what I heard. What I heard was “Let me test how strong this person is. Let me remind them of their desire. Let me remind them that they can’t have it. Let me do it again and again. Let me see if their will fails.”

In that moment, your desire refreshed, it becomes tempting to surrender to despair. To let the will fail. Every fibre around that stab wound swells. You’re being invited to fail, being told that its human to fail.

It takes an almighty effort to resist. To take a deep breath. To decide to focus on what matters: here and now. To focus on what can be improved. That effort is emotionally draining.

I started to hate our Team Coach for forcing me through this. For making me relive it every time. For being so inanely well meaning whilst inflicting pain. I’d never despised someone with that intensity before. I didn’t even know I was capable of it.

Do us all a favour. If you’re in a situation where someone is being stoic, keep your admiration private.

My friend Ali Ebrahim has set up a  site called PlanetBohra.org.

Planet Bohra uses the Planet technology, which downloads RSS news feeds and aggregates them together into a single combined page, with the latest first.

In simple language, what Planet Bohra does, is aggregate all the blogs of Dawoodi Bohras worldwide that Ali knows about, and displays them combined on its main page.

I’ve already gotten a few hits from the site, which is how I know it exists.

My reactions are mixed.

As the observer, its interesting to see the variety of blogs worldwide.  This concept of syndication and combination is amazing, to bring them together in one place.  The variety of blogs from geopolitical to personal is intriguing.

As a writer, who appears on that front page I’m more reluctant. My blog is personal. In fact its unavoidably personal. I’m not entirely comfortable with that being syndicated so  that many people can view it. As I’ve said before my writing is not blogging.

By that distinction I mean I don’t blog about issues like Aziz Poonawala exploring Islam in the west on City of Brass. I don’t blog all things technical with the sure wizardry of Yusuf Goolamabbas  and his Random Thoughts

For the moment, I think I’ll sit tight and see how it goes. My current uneasiness is just that, uneasiness. Perhaps when there are hundreds of blogs there, I won’t mind it when I’m lost in the chatter.

Dr. Cate Milton: Whereas you, on the other hand, have a perfect score. You are nice. responsible, human. And yet, you’re House’s best friend.
Dr. James Wilson: Hold there. Makes you think he’s secretly nicer than he seems?
Dr. Cate Milton: Makes me think you’re secretly a lot less nice than you seem.
Dr. James Wilson: You always insult your doctor?
Dr. Cate Milton: It’s not an insult. Indiscriminate niceness is overrated.
Dr. James Wilson: No wonder he likes you.

House M.D, Season 4 : Frozen

I used to be careful. Very careful. You never know when you’ll need the good will of a person.

I used to be very easy going. I wasn’t an easy person to wind up, an easy person to alienate, an easy person to make angry.

I’ve suppressed my emotional reaction to people. I’ve been restrained and polite, as far as it was in my power.

I never believed it right to hate a person. I never believed it right to dislike a person. It was always just a matter of understanding them.

Things change. One particular example illustrated how much.

Being forced to deal with inane and obstructionist people irritates me. Dealing with people who contribute nothing but take all they can raises the bile in my throat. Talking with people who have nothing to say, but are compelled to say it makes me clench my fists in rage.

In the perfect world, where I live to my Ideals, I would take a deep breath and let it go. I would accept that these things reflect on them, and not on me. That all I control is my own reaction. And that my reaction should be dignified.

Now no more. When the inane leave chinks in their armour, I feel no shame in striking with a rapier tongue. Where the ignorant are proud of their errors, I feel little regret in swinging in to correct it. Why should I suffer patiently? What use is my suffering?

The only balancing exercise I now engage in, is whether doing it will make me an asshole. Sometimes it does, and I back off. Sometimes, it’s kicking someone when they’re down, and I back off. Sometimes a good person is having a bad moment, and I’m honoured to help.

But it’s no longer the general rule. Sometimes people deserve it.

And to do otherwise is boring. It’s bland. It’s unnecessary. Indiscriminate niceness is overrated.

ICJ LogoI’m back from watching the finals of the Jessup 2008 International Round and want to jot down what I saw and articulate some of the frustration I felt with the finals.

This year, Case Western Reserve University took on the University of New South Wales.

Case Western started the case as Applicant’s, while UNSW were the Respondents. Now Respondents clearly have the harder case this year, but the problem is pretty balanced, and I’m now sure there are some excellent arguments for the Respondent who is properly prepared.

The first Agent of the Applicants was good. it was clear from the outset she was a good speaker, with a smooth, relaxed and composed style. She had some difficulties with questions but was smooth enough that it didn’t matter. She had a great ability to take a question and tie its answer back in to the structure of her submissions, so that she got all her points across without the slightest interruption.

Importantly, for the listener, she had the sound of conviction and force in her voice, which made everything that little bit better. Sadly for the listener, she was the first and last to possess this quality. She did rightly win best speaker, but it shouldn’t have been so clear cut.

The Second Agent of the Applicant was average. He had a weak case and there was more need for advocacy to carry his points. The questioning was probing as the judges warmed up, and he didn’t  rise to the challenge. He was unremarkable but high quality speaking without being convincing.

The first Respondent’s Agent for UNSW was disappointing. He was short, sharp and far too in love with his case to engage the panel. The  silky smooth presentation was there, but it lacked decorum. There was little deference to the bench, an unwillingness to address the judges questions and an inability to spot when the judges handed him opportunities.

By this point all four of us had given it to the Applicant. The Second Agent needed to be special to rescue her team. It had to be that the first agent was the junior of the pair, if UNSW were to win.

The Second Agent for the Respondent was a mixed bag. As Ernest pointed out, she was so smooth that she put you to sleep. It was just devoid of all emphasis, all clear signaling and all sense of importance. It just didn’t feel like the Agent cared about the case. That was fatal.

She was immensely well read, could answer questions on obscure points of the International Criminal Court Statute with ease, but none of these overcame the disadvantages.

Rebuttal and Sur-Rebuttal were unremarkable. Lots of faux agreement, because the teams agreed on issues that the judges had raised, and well might they agree. The issues were tangential taken at their best.

Overall, I was disappointed by the finals. Tim has often said that finals disappoint in any competition. These ones proved him right. The new judges, appointed for their prestige rather than their knowledge of the law or the problem proved unsuitable to the occasion. Teams, cast in the public glare, felt the pressure.

And this final suffered from all those flaws.

Partly the judges were to blame. Inspite of their eminence, their understanding of the field in which the problem was placed, and their years of professional experience, they hadn’t quite tweaked to what it means to be a Jessup judge. The sharp questioning, the insight into the facts and policy, and a real understanding of the issues thrown up by the problem would have made the final round much better. Instead they typified the Common Law passive judge. When one of the judges is the man who prosecuted the case of Nikolic before the ICTY, but still lets sloppy characterisations of it slide by, its uninspiring at its most fundamental level.

It was some beautiful advocacy, if you like slow paced, measured and dull advocacy. Its lack of passion turned it into a background noise, an international law lullaby.

It was absolutely insipid on the law, with points argued that made us laugh out loud that these teams still even barely considered them even mildly viable arguments. And the reasons they are not viable are easily expressed in a four word or five word question. Fundamental questions that would have destroyed these arguments.

I had hopes for so much more.

jefferson_basin We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, that to secure these rights governments are instituted among men.

We…solemnly publish and declare, that these colonies are and of right ought to be free and independent states…

And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.

Appears on the panel of the southwest interior wall. Excerpted from the Declaration of Independence, 1776.

Great words resonate in their proper place.  Great times, great events, demand great words.

Jefferson’s are those of an America at its birth, and their poignant nature is attested by their incorporation into the heart of a memorial to that moment, as much as to the man who made that moment possible.

Throughout the inscriptions inside the Jefferson Memorial the pen of Thomas Jefferson, its persuasive rhetorical power and its historical triumph echo that of the State newly born through that ink.

Words truly resonating through time. Words truly inspiring. Words that have, are, and will, change the world.

Game-Over What a roller coaster. What an upside down, topsy turvy tale.

What fun.

The bad news first. We’re out of the Jessup. Knocked out in the first elimination round, 5 – 4 by the University of Auckland.

We beat them in the advocacy, but they swept the memorial points and took a judge; and that’s enough to take victory. It was a close fought round, and not much could have stood between us and victory.

The good news. We swept it 4-0 in the preliminary round. Which is an achievement. What’s more, in the prelims we beat two  teams that made it to the knock out round, showing their high quality. One of those was last years’ reigning Champs, the University of Sydney. The other was the National University of Kiev.

We also discovered a new University, that none of us had heard of before. The University of Peace. UPeace is a United Nations mandated Charter Body established in December 1980 as a Treaty Organization by the UN General Assembly.

The bad news, again. They turned out to be very tight rounds, and we got our incredible 4 – 0 by the slightest margin. We won 3 of the prelims by a vote of 5 – 4. We suspect that if we’d lost any of the rounds, we wouldn’t have made the knock out rounds.

The good news. This has been an incredible adventure. Being in Washington, and being in a competition for the first time, this competition of all competitions, has been an incredible buzz.

I’m intoxicated and I’d love to be able to do it again. I understand how Tim is so addicted. How every past Jessuper is addicted. How the judges are addicted. How could you not be?

250px-US_Consulate_Hong_Kong I spent today morning at the US Embassy.

They got me my visa. With literally no time to spare.

The rest of the team left today.

I’m leaving tomorrow for Washington.

Its an incredible feeling of joy and anticipation.

Just incredible.

James : Did you attend the lecture? Any word on Washington?

Me : No lectures or visas unfortunately. Still waiting.

James : *nods* Is there a preliminary prognosis?

Me : It is “abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”
(Inscribed above the gates of hell, in Dante’s Divine Comedy)

James: One does not simply walk into Mordor….
(Boromir, at the Council of Elrond, in the Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien)

Thank you James, for finding a way to make me laugh even at this point.

I’m abundantly grateful.

An unknown number of survivors from the Hiroshima bombing had made their way to Nagasaki, where they were bombed again.

Wikipedia : Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Now that is just bad luck. Insanely bad.

It’s also funny.

Humour is a strange thing.