Houston, we have a problem

Quick apology to the few people who’ve read and commented on this blog. The initial comments all made it past my spam filters so I never thought to check it after that, but today I noticed that several comments had been filed as spam. I’ve fixed this and approved all comments; hopefully it won’t be an issue any more.

I was going to post about why I haven’t posted much but I guess it makes sense to just explain it here. A lot has been going on, both in A-100 as well as socially, but I’ve resisted talking about it to avoid running afoul of any policies regarding what is permissible to blog about. We’ve gotten conflicting messages about social media. On the one hand, the social media landscape is clearly recognized as one that needs to be engaged but on the other, we are warned about how much trouble we can cause with it.

Adjusting to the reality that we are “on” 24/7 is perhaps the greatest initial challenge to being a diplomat. In A-100 we don’t really do anything of note; it’s all about learning and developing awareness of how the job works and what is and will be expected of us once we actually start working. Most of it is common sense, especially when it comes to meatspace and workspace issues. But cyberspace is different primarily because there is a 1) a permanent record of it and 2) the record is so easily disseminated. The ease with which comments can be taken out of context only makes it worse.

It seems that we have to give up a lot of privacy in this job. Scratch that, we don’t have to sacrifice privacy, it’s that we lose anonymity in many areas where we enjoyed it before. Innocuous comments, tweets, and status updates about one’s personal activities and opinions are throwaway on the internet until you take a job where you represent the United States in both official and unofficial capacities. Now there are people out there, both foreign and domestic, who are looking for any opportunity to take something out of context or just rake us over the coals. We are learning that we may have lost the ability to publicly be ourselves and speak freely and frankly.

It’s frustrating, really, to be forced to accept that there are people out there who simply can’t (or as is perhaps more likely, simple won’t) understand that not everything we say and do is FS. Yes, it is a lifestyle career and yes, we have to always maintain good judgement, high integrity, and represent our country honorably. But that doesn’t mean that we should be deprived of the opportunity to just have fun and be ourselves when it doesn’t violate common sense precepts of decency.

I’m really rambling now (get used to it, I guess). I think its very important that FSO engage the world via our blogs and tweets. It’s important for giving the rest of the world access to the world we live and work in and the effects of the work that we do. It’s also important to have the community and support network for ourselves. So its sad to see quality FSO blogs go dark as a result of trolling in the comments or start to second guess themselves because they get smacked down for a post or comment. We can’t be too risk averse, as individuals, as a service, as a department, lest we get left behind. I’m not arguing for imprudence either, naturally, but perhaps we can hope for a near future where we don’t have to deal with petty comments and unnecessarily strict posting policies (not saying that the current posting policies, whatever they may be, are unnecessarily strict, mind you!).

This has ended up being a long-winded way of saying that the last 6 weeks have been an incredible experience, but I haven’t written about it because much of it shouldn’t be publicly discussed (class content, etc) and some of it I don’t particularly want to blog about. Not that it isn’t notable or memorable, just the opposite. Sometimes I don’t want to write about it because I wonder if I’d draw undue attention to myself and sometimes I don’t write about things because I just want them to be mine.

Where am I going with this? Who knows. I do know that I will be posting more soon. I want to talk about my posting and preparation for it as a reference for others, at least, so expect that sooner than later, hopefully.


More words to live by

I think these would make a good mission statement for this blog:

I have no doubt that I often speak of things which are better treated by the masters of the craft, and with more truth. This is simply a trail of my natural faculties, and not of my acquired ones.  If anyone catches me in ignorance, he will score no triumph over me, since I can hardly be answerable to another for my reasonings, when I am not answerable for them to myself, and am never satisfied with them…. These are my fancies, in which I make no attempt to convey information about things, only about myself.  I may have some objective knowledge one day, or may perhaps have had it in the past when I happened to light on passages the explained things.  But I have forgotten it all; for though I am a man of some reading, I am one who retains nothing.

Words to live by

No prudent man dared to be too certain of exactly who he was or what he was about; everyone had to be prepared to become someone else.  To be ready for such perilous transmigrations was to become an American.

Seems like a pretty good motto for where I’m at and where I’m going (not to mention for getting me here).

Vindicated! (actually, not really)

A year or so ago, I was talking with a friend about world politics and I mentioned that I thought it was entirely possible for a Palestinian/Israeli peace deal to erupt suddenly in spite of the utter lack of progress.  He kind of laughed at me with a smirk that screamed “How could you be so naive?!?!?!?”  I explained that I wasn’t arguing that it was eminent or expected, just that I could see a situation emerge where the general population in Israel/Palestine got it in their heads that they wanted to shake up the status quo and impose a little of their desire for change, peace, and stability. He scoffed and stood on his belief that Israel will never change until the USA changes its stance and that the Palestinians will never be able to inject themselves into it outside of another intifada.

Now we’ve got serious proof that social and political Black Swans swim with the economic ones. And its not just Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and the other Freedom Dominoes, it:s happening in the USA as well.  The Tea Party was a Black Swan and its looking like the teacher protests in Wisconsin are another unanticipated event that could redefine society.

It’s pretty easy to get comfortable with the status quo but the world’s a complex place and you just never know what is or isn’t going to happen.  Best keep an open mind and don’t discount anything.