Thursday, December 3, 2009

"one of the most remote places" on earth

Cultural comparisons: 2

The speculative run-up to President Obama's policy speech on Afghanistan tonight has, predictably, generated a lot of vaporing. Several weeks ago, I was struck by reference to the country on an NPR report as "one of the most remote places on earth" (NPR usually reserves that phrase—just try googling it—for Antarctica, or occasionally some exotic isle.)

Really? By what standard? One would think that a country that is already home to some 50,000 US troops, with 30,000 more now on the way would hardly be remote in the sense of hard to get to. Indeed, what with the influx of troops, support personnel, and press these days, it's probably one of the easier places in the region to get to. Just try visiting the hinterlands of Kyrgyzstan, or for that matter, Canada's Northwest Territories.

And "remote," in the sense of distance?

Isn't this all relative anyway? I'm sure that, to the people of Afghanistan, the United States qualifies as "one of the most remote places on earth," in more regards than one.

I am also reminded of the old joke told by and about refugees from Nazism:
Early 1930s: two acquaintances trying desperately to leave Germany run into each other at the emigration office.

First émigré: Where are you going?
Second émigré: Shanghai.
First émigré: What, so far?!
Second émigré: Far—from where?

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