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Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Doing Diplomacy is Harder than I thought

I’ve always had a conflict resolution bent, as it were. I remember crying way back in 1995 during the Bosnian crisis. The reason was because of the UN soldiers that had been chained to posts while NATO planes flew above. They were in effect, being used as human shields. I remember that was the very first time I re-call feeling immensely passionate about wanting to work for the United Nations—flaws and all.


I had been at a Model United Nations in 1994 in the Hague, where I represented Argentina in the Environment Committee. It was awesome fun. You can check the link out I miss it. Tremendously.


But as every thing changes but the sea, I also changed, and realize there were more rational ways of achieving a sense of serenity in this big, bad world.


I have always felt, as Martin Luther King intoned, that peace is not the absence of conflict, but the presence of justice.


And so, it was no surprise yesterday that I felt a bit awkward attempting to be an honest broker in this very odd dispute.


Odd, because it was nothing of epic and international proportions, but simply funny.


It all started with my colleague ordering some food from my regular place. I have personally been to the place, and seen the woman, B, acting in the most professional manner. I have seen her efficiency and found it commendable.


Yesterday, my colleague ordered food from these people. The food arrived almost two hours late. Yes, two hours, can you imagine? The driver was blasé about the whole thing. Put simply: he was unapologetic, and that pissed me off, because it made B look like a fool, which I disliked. She is <i>such</i> a nice person, and she pleaded for me to get my colleague to accept the food otherwise the price would fall on her.


I felt so bad, because my colleague was incensed—and rightly so.


I could see myself looking like a fool to almost everyone because I was defending B’s company. I thought it was the right thing to do, whilst contemporaneously pointing the finger of blame to her company’s driver—who was the major cause of the problem. The fact is that we are literally five minutes drive away from B’s company, so how the driver managed to bring the food so late merits some serious head-scratching…


I tried to calm my colleague down, but she wasn’t having any of it. She and her other colleagues at the office warned me not to pay for her food—and that she was going to return it.


Well, I ended up <i>not</i> paying for it, and being compelled to return the food. I felt so sorry for B, but I had to do what I had to do—and it was not nice.


I felt like a woos, but upon reflection, I realized it was important to have stuck to my principles.


I later explained to B that it was my colleague’s first time, and it was normal she was going to behave that way.


She was so low. What could I do?


The best was call her up today and try to cheer her up, which, in itself, felt odd.


But I keep on remembering that thing about “if you don’t stand up for something, you will fall for anything”. Perhaps, not entirely apt in this context, but it reminds me further of standing up for those who don’t have a voice.


Yesterday’s trail of events reminded me that deep down in me, there is this small guy trying to put things right. And it doesn’t only start and end with me. There are probably thousands of people out there doing unsung things, especially with the devastation of hurricane Katrina. But who will ever acknowledge them, especially with an obtuse president like George W Bush.


Doing diplomacy is not an easy thing, but not trying either is, frankly, criminal.




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