Bated breath

January 4, 2010 at 11:25 pm Leave a comment

Chatted with a friend yesterday about a mutual acquaintance who is joining the Peace Corps. We both mentioned how, to us, this choice seems odd: how the Peace Corps seems an anachronistic remnant of the Cold War, the “soft” approach to diplomacy (“winning hearts and minds”) to complement the hard approach (“bombing brains and bodies”). How there’s something uncomfortably imperialistic about it, about the idea that all these “natives” need to “rescue” them from hardship is a 22-year-old liberal arts student with a Lit. degree and no remotely relevant experience; analogous to the “Mighty Whitey” trope in film and fiction, also known as What These People Need Is A Honkey.

“At the same time,” I said, “I envy these people their ability to believe in something.” Our friend’s belief in the American Way and its relevance to completely different cultures, while deeply problematic and sort of shockingly naïve, allows him to go out into the world and accomplish something. It’s analogous to religious faith: as with many deeply religious people, his unquestioned, blinkered “faith” is a source of strength. And like many religious people, he’s a genuinely good-hearted person.

“Myself,” I went on, “I don’t have that kind of faith – not in a chosen people and not in a chosen country. I used to sort of “believe” in literature, but even that has become problematic for me in recent years. I guess I don’t know what I believe in, anymore, not really.”

“Hmm,” said my friend, after a pause. “I guess I believe in breath.”

And I thought that was as good an answer as any.

Pic by Adriana Petit via here


Entry filed under: Stuff About Me. Tags: , .

My New Year’s Resolution “Anti-List” Obama and the Age of Iconicity

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed


Bennett Carpenter
Leiden, Netherlands

Random musings about literature, art, politics and (occasionally) my life as a graduate student in sunny Holland. Click on the pic for more about me.


January 2010
« Dec   Mar »

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email. (You know you want too...)

Join 1 other follower

%d bloggers like this: