Tuesday, February 19, 2008

International Institutions

I went in to talk to one of my professors about a paper I have to write for his International Institutions class today.

First of all, I have no interest in International Institutions at all. International Institutions have occupied a space in my mind akin to those Victorian illustrations of the Mad Hatter's tea party, except twice as useless. International Institutions embody many of the reasons I am so disenchanted with law, namely you go in all starry-eyed about changing the world and then learn that the world will never be changed because of the bureaucracy, then starting to appreciate the bureacracy because it guarantees a future income that might return you to the point where you may begin something else similarly starry-eyed. And debt free. And if there are no longer any stars in your eyes, well I guess that's the point where you have kids and complete the idealistic cycle.

My reasons for taking this class were purely material -- it was the last credited slot I needed to fill in Mondays and Wednesdays so I can spend the rest of my days dressed up in a suit downtown making ridiculous money doing random things like figuring out how to diagnose blunt head injuries by getting the privilege of flipping through forensic books with literally hundreds of black and white photos of murder victims with such grotesque injuries that you start making excuses not to accept lunch invitations. Or document review. I actually prefer the blunt head injuries.

Anyway, I knew this meeting was going to be bad because at the beginning of the semester the prof pulled a surprise on all of us by announcing that he was going to change the class into a seminar which meant we had to write a paper and then asking after the fact if everyone was alright with that idea. Having spent about a gazillion hours on a comprehensive review of internet enforcement of US security policies last semester, I was less than thrilled, but had little alternative. Moreover, since it is my last semester of law school, I was banking on cruising a little. So, I raised my hand and innocently stated "Does this mean we get graded on participation? Because if that's true I am totally against this idea." To which everyone laughed. Or, as I'd like to think, acquiesced humorously.

Well, we are not getting graded on participation, but the prof definitely now has it in for me.

So, I've been late getting back to him about a paper topic, namely since it's become apparent to me that every person in the room spends what is probably copious amounts of spare time that I do not have reading the Economist or The Wealth and Poverty of Nations or The Audacity of Hope or many other books that I'd love to list on my read list besides all the cognitive behavioral shit I've been into lately. Therefore people are writing papers on things like the International Organization for Determining Whether Standing On Your Head is Masochistic or a Laudable Physical Feat or The Middle East: Coalition for Turning It Into A Place to Dump Our Nuclear Waste. I'm a little lost, and never bothering to do the reading is probably not helping.

Despite having passed the Foreign Service Exam, the only real International Institution I'm familiar with in any way is the UN. So I was hedging my bets on writing a paper on its Declaration for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Which is a great document about how we shouldn't treat women badly that has ran into a lot of problems because in a lot of countries treating women badly is just good policy. So, state sovreignty and perogative versus the need to give power to an international entity to resolve what is seen as a universal problem.

Except my prof wasn't buying it because violence against women is apparently not an international issue.

At that point I should've given in and breathed the magic word "NATO." Unfortunately, I decided to ardently defend my point of view about how violence against women has important societal and economic implications that transcend political boundaries. Or some such nonsense. Being ardent is always getting me into trouble because I never have identified what exactly it is I'm being ardent about while being ardent. I use my hands a lot to distract the other party from this fact.

He says: "Wife-beating is just a domestic problem. I mean, all I know about this is the Battered Women's Syndrome or whatever silly American thing that is and that doesn't have anything to do with global policies."

My mouth dropped open at that point and I think I let him talk me into some other paper topic instead. Probably doing with oil and gas rights, or antitrust issues or something equally heinous and tedious. I'll have to ask him again what it was. Being ardent also affects my listening skills.

As I'm leaving the office still annoyed, he asks me, "Aren't I your advisor?"

"Yeah," I reluctantly admit.

"You're a 3L, how come you've never come to see me?"

"I guess because I never needed any of your advice," I shoot back somewhat bitterly.

On the way down the stairs, I remember why I hate seminars. The grading isn't anonymous.

There goes graduating with honors. Fuck.

1 comment:

steetoa said...

Jesus God. I can't believe he shot your paper idea down. The US is one of the last countries to ratify CEDAW. We used to reference CEDAW all the time in different trainings we did (it was a women's legal rights project). That prof sounds an awful lot like people near yet not so dear to me.