Working late and The World

Sometimes in life, you get way more than you bargained for. Its not that I didn’t expect my new management position to entail a great deal more work. What I didn’t realize was exactly how quickly it would be thrust upon me. I thought there would be a few weeks or even months of transition, where my boss slowly turned over responsibilities to me and my work increased in scope and complexity.

It ended up more like a few hours or maybe even minutes.

Three days down in this work week and all three days ended up being 10+ hours of work. Hard work. Meeting after meeting, document review after document review and email after email. It is like the heavens opened up and the flood poured in and overflowed my inbox. I have, for years, prided myself on quick responses to inquiries and closing open items in short order. That obviously will not be the case from here on out.

One of the downsides to working such extended hours is missing my favorite radio shows, All Things Considered and Marketplace. The last few nights I have either missed them entirely, having left work after they were off the air, or only caught the last few minutes of Marketplace as I drove out of the parking lot. I get my news there, although they can be as redundant in their reporting as any other source, and most of it is relevant and interesting, if not always what you might think of as particularly newsworthy.

Thankfully, the Louisville NPR station carries the BBC World Service / Public Radio International show, The World. I’ve heard this one a few times over the years, and while it is definitely more USA centric than anything else in which the BBC participates, it definitely has a more global focus than any other news source in this hemisphere.

Tonight, as I wolfed down a big bag of KFC grease, there was a very interesting report coming from a Quaker aid worker stationed in Kenya. While an honest and true report of the level of violence plaguing that country was a refreshing change to the sensationalized or narrowly-focused stories that I had previously heard, it was a single comment the aid worker made which really struck home for me.

The interviewer asked if this conflict, between two powerful political figures, was really nothing more than an advanced form of tribal warfare. No sticks and stones, at least none wielded by the two primary instigators, but a battle of words and supposedly different ideas on how government should function. The response of the aid worker was that the conflict could easily be interpreted, as most could in Africa, as tribal, but anyone who made that argument missed the more subtle and accurate reason… money and who has more than their fair share of it.

Class warfare was the driving reason for the conflict, not any deep-seeded hatred over which part of the country in which a person happened to have been born. It wasn’t that one’s tribal identification was unimportant, only that it was a short-cut to determine who was relatively wealthy and who was not.

Isn’t that just like us? The more I heard her speak, the more true those statements rang in my mind. Until a few days prior, when had started running for their lives, the school teachers of the aid workers children had never brought up their tribal heritage and it had not seemed to make any difference in their daily lives. Yet, now those same people ran for their lives, all because someone believed taking away the life or livelihood of that teacher would better their own life.

How utterly sad, and yet how utterly human. Please don’t misunderstand, I have no illusion that we here on this continent, especially those of us in this country, are in any way above what is happening in Kenya. A simple perusal of the news headlines, especially the focus story of the never ending presidential campaign, will show you, as Bill Clinton said in his 1992 candidacy, “Its the Economy, Stupid!”

Let the food supply run out or be crippled by a world-wide drought and you’ll see how fast we in this country turn on one another. Give global warming a few more decades to advance and we’ll likely find out first hand just how bad our relationship with our fellow Americans can be. Wait until there is no gasoline left in the tanks and we have no way to get to work and earn a living, then the ugliness in this country will become more than just a mild deformity.

In the end, people in Kenya will die from this unrest. It has already started and will not likely end for some time. Even then, the unrest will likely be buried in a shallow grave, waiting for another political mess to open up the tomb for a good airing out. Don’t believe me? Just look at Iraq and you’ll see that I am right. A quarter-century under the rule of a ruthless dictator only delayed their desire to kill one another over the fact that someone’s ancestor slighted, oppressed and generally spoke ill of someone else’s aged relative.

I really just want to turn my back on our race, forgetting that we’re here. Maybe Ted K., the infamous Unibomber, had it partially right when he left the world behind and retreated to his woodland hide away. The only problem is, the world would not leave him alone. It had sunk its teeth deep in his disturbed mind, just as it has embedded itself in all of us.