Month: October 2013

Language and Labels

Language can be obtuse. Labels can be insidious.

There was a time, at the beginning of the last century, after what was thought to be the ‘war to end all wars’, when we thought we could work together as sovereign nations. That was when President Woodrow Wilson came up with the idea of a League of Nations. Countries coming together in a meeting hall and discussing their problems, working out diplomatically border issues or trade issues. The League fell through, not in small part because the  United States Congress didn’t want to have anything to do with it. And, we had another war. And we started another group, the United Nations in 1946. A ‘grand alliance’ Winston Churchill called it.

And, this week in the Wall Street Journal the Saudi government said, “Allowing the ruling regime in Syria to kill and burn its people by the chemical weapons, while the world stands idly, without applying deterrent sanctions against Damascus regime, is also irrefutable evidence and proof of the inability of the Security Council to carry out its duties and responsibilities,” said the Saudi statement. And, so they declined, the Saudis, NOT wanting to be part of the Security Council of the U.N. in a two year non-permanent members. Originally there were seven, the five permanent and two rotating, or non-permanent. There are now fifteen members of the Security Council, the five are permanent and can veto any resolution. The only change, really, from 1946, is that China, or the Republic of China [Formosa] has been replaced with the Peoples Republic of China, a move from an island to a the mainland. These were the victors, who always write the books.

Diplomatic language is a way of saving face, of skirting issues to solve them. It always is a way to stymie and forestall action. Say what you will about the Saudi government, that it can be repressive, and non-democratic, but at least it was neither obtuse or insidious. It said the ’emperor has no clothes.’ That the U.N. is not effective in meeting it’s goals, that it has become a political player. All, sadly, too true…

Making Conferences

So. It’s done. The conference is over and wow! It is not the amount of work. It’s not the faculty. It’s not the venue.  It is the stuff.

To come to the conference we bring LCD projectors, print rows of name badges and labels. We copy forms and informational sheets and bookstore items and handouts for the speakers. We bring gift bags for faculty.  We bring baskets for the books and for the First Pages. We have signs to direct participants to the baskets, the critiques and reviews and registration. We have folders full of the handouts, the informational sheets, the bookstore items and the schedule. We even have a huge banner for our chapter!

We write scripts for our panels and for our conference narrator chatter. We go to a good hotel, staffed by caring, hardworking people. We try to have something where almost everyone, okay, okay, it should be everyone, but seriously? We try to have take-aways for as many as we can.

But the big deal isn’t any of that. The biggest deal is the expectations. :-). There are those who nod knowingly and talk about managing expectations. Or, suggest this little tweak here, or that little tweak there, and all will blossom into the most perfect of alignments, a spectacular conference. Personally, I like the glitches, the hangups, the issues. They mean that the conference can’t run itself. It needs all of us, those who volunteer for this duty, this job, this vocation.