“Post-Conflict Chic”

“Post-conflict is cool,” says Karl Muth in his recent blog posting for Global Policy, “The cool kids know the difference between Somalia and Somaliland; an improbable number of people seem to have friends with amazing jobs banking in Bosnia or marketing in Medellin.” Muth spots a growing trend of “Post-Conflict Chic”, the tendency for the privileged global cosmopolitan class to seek volunteer and professional opportunities in conflict and post-conflict zones, combined with “combat-ready fetishism” militarized fashion and luxury goods. He is unsettled by this ‘militarized privilege’ that makes “wealth inextricably intertwined with violence.”

Just as the wealthy once fled cities for the suburbs, they now – in huge numbers – have homes in far-flung areas, near wars that have made or grown their fortunes. The post-conflict zones of the world have become gated communities for the next generation of millionaires and billionaires, often with security paid for by the U.S. taxpayer. … Never in our collective, global history has the smell of stale war been so similar to the smell of fresh money. The line between stable and unstable governments is the new coastline. And the post-conflict tourists are buying up all the beachfront property.

I gulped a little uncomfortably at this characterization, as someone who has built his career on working in and researching conflict and post-conflict zones. As I wrote in a self-deprecating blog for Sustainable Good back in 2009, working in international development made me desperately want “an adventurous hat – khaki-colored with a broad brim, evocative of Indiana Jones”, because working Somewhere Dangerous made me feel “dashing and exciting.”

Just as Chris Hedges noted in his book War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning, there is something unsettling, a little distasteful about profiting and finding a thrill in others’ suffering. (See also the books Emergency Sex, Imperial Life in the Emerald City and My War Gone By I Miss It So). It is rooted in an understanding of The War Zone as an exotic, sensual, dangerous place where one can become an Interesting Person just by showing up.

One hopes for a more thoughtful, reflexive humanitarian professional

~ by Matthew Bolton on 1 March 2012.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: