Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Thanks for the Encouragement

Two days into pre-Pakistan training, and not an hour of it has gone by without some fellow officer telling my how "difficult," if not "impossible," my job in Lahore will be. And that's if the person is being kind: one guy today was more frank in his assessment that Pakistanis hate us so much and so deeply that PD work in Pakistan was a "waste of time." He felt the need to press this point for some number of minutes. It was a little uncomfortable.

It's hard to respond to the cynicism -- somewhat problematic in and of itself as responding to cynicism looks to be the core of my duties over the next year. I'm not someone who thinks reaction to US policies and actions can be papered over with free concerts, and I loathe all the talk about needing to 'brand' our aid, as if the point of our spending was to buy friendship. I do think, however, that personal relationships between Americans and people of other nations can make a difference in attitudes, enough to maybe, hopefully, transcend the ups and downs of politics. That thought was why I chose the Public Diplomacy cone over the Political cone all those many years ago.

I hope I don't regret my choice. I really don't want to spend the next year wasting anyone's time, least of all my own.


John Brown said...

Keep the faith. Best, John Brown

American Voices said...

People are still talking about our free concerts in Lahore and Islamabad in 2010 and some of our students follow us to other countries for extra training. these program 'can' make a difference if planned and organized carefully. a video:

Katie said...

Postscript: I'm reading the new Joseph Nye book and feeling a little better.

Kevin White said...

I have read through your blog steadily for the past couple days and finally got to a post where I just had to comment. And I don't mean that in a bad way - there were other posts that I wanted to comment on - but this one just made me want to say thank you. I'm not a foreign service officer - but I was an Active Duty Marine for 7 years. I'm an aspiring FSO. I have an internship with INL in two weeks.
Anyway, I know exactly what its like for people to tell you how hard (or pointless) your job will be before you even start. But, I was always thankful for people who said thank you (despite futility).

So thank you - i'm sure you've been in Pakistan for a while now, and have figured things out - but I'm sure you're figuring it out.

And thanks for this blog - it is thoroughly hilarious!!!! Love it!

Katie said...

Thanks, Kevin -- and good luck with INL! I've enjoyed working with them when I've gotten the chance.