Political, Plane and Plain Patience

Dear English-B Interpreter Friends,

(First, my letter to you to using words from Post #14 while en route back to Brazil after the harrowing experience of nearly getting barred from embarking on my flight back because of confusing Brazilian visa regulations, the birdbrained people who seemed to be assigned en masse to my (and only my) departure gate and a dearth of Portuguese speakers or airline employees willing to use minimal brain power to Google translate my visa-status certificate (and now that I’ve let off steam…))

Among my million and one interests, I have a fascination for the subtleties of communication strategies (clearly sadly wanting at gate C108 with the lone exception of a department head who resolved the issue at the very last minute), for all things Norwegian, and for geopolitics (just to dispel any glimmer of hope that I am normal). And because the heavens seem to smile down on me whenever I pull out a magazine while on an airplane (although maybe this time I just got a dose of divine pity after nearly having to unwillingly spend a night on the threadbare airport chairs while the nitwits confirmed my right to fly back to Brazil), I hit upon an intriguing article that managed to engagingly address all three topics at once: the Norwegian-led UN peacekeeping mission in Cyprus, considered either a wild success or a total failure depending on how one analyzes current political communication. Plus, as a bonus for those who enjoy descriptive fiction over fact-filled political science, the author shows coruscating creativity in describing the scattered relics in the buffer zone that hark back to the decades leading up to and including the war.

The gist of the article: the UN’s longest-running peace-keeping mission has famously been doing pretty much nothing all day long for 40 years on the border between the Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. The underlying question: is this good or bad? The 850+ UN soldiers have become a muted backdrop to the island, so much so that there are hardly any talks ever to devolve control to the Cypriots or somehow come to some solution that would eschew the need for a peacekeeping force that boringly busies itself mediating between soldiers on each side whose main transgression is feeding stray dogs inside the restricted buffer zone. I found the quote by the Norwegian Major General of the mission, when describing the role of her country, a tragicomic metaphor for the pacifically divisive (or divisively pacific) reality of both Cyprus and the peacekeeping mission today: “We are a small country and we don’t have an agenda. We understand we have to learn another language to communicate.  The UN has always been at the back of Norwegians’ heads. We had the first Secretary-General and there was a reason for that. We are not a threat to anyone; we stopped attacking people after the Vikings. I think we are just straightforward. Sometimes too straightforward.” Which begs the communication question: in the face of disagreement, is it better to call in an even-tempered middleman to calmly keep fighting at bay like a just parent sternly and lovingly putting quarreling siblings at opposite ends of the room, or is it better to seek a solution where there is ultimately no need for the mediator and the two sides are forced to hash it out? History, classic logic (and today’s experience of holding myself back from going all out Viking on the moronic airline personnel) show that both approaches have their many merits and equally as many drawbacks.

Happy words,


— all as used in the short (i.e., there is no excuse not to click and read), insightful blog post on diplomacy  “What Comes First: War or Diplomacy?

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