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.

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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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