Concrete impressions

There being some wet concrete outside my house, I couldn’t resist sticking a finger in and engraving my initials.

Now, whenever I walk past it, I can’t help but wonder if that will be the only lasting impression that I leave on this country.

My gut feeling is that it will be. The work that I do is, I believe, an important part of a greater whole that does and will make a difference. But the impact is not as visceral as wet concrete, or as visible, or as likely to survive.

It’s a slightly melancholy thought but not a surprising one, and I’m fine with it. You’d have to have some kind of god delusion to think you could individually make a real impression on this landscape. The current climate is too harsh for much to last. Even that concrete is likely to freeze and crack this winter.

‘Making a difference’: a difference to what, and to whom? Who should decide what kind of ‘difference’ to make? There’s such hubris in the phrase, as in development, though perhaps it’s necessary. There’s also a particularly individualistic streak to my thinking here, a Western philosophical orientation towards the self rather than the group, illustrated perhaps by the childish desire to carve my initials in the first place, to make my personal mark.


One Response to “Concrete impressions”

  1. Una Says:

    Hmmm, that reminds me of that very controversial “sex, death, and peacekeeping!” memoir some UN employees came out with a few years ago. If I remember correctly, there is a scene where a guy carves his initials into the wet concrete of his compound in Somalia, or something like that, and then ruminates on the mission he’s part of.

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