Remembering Them: The Art of Love in Diplomacy — Act One
Act 1— The UN General Assembly Chamber, New York City
(Lights up, revealing Delegates of Australia, Ecuador, India, Kashmir, Liberia, New Zealand, Qatar, Switzerland, United States of America and Viet Nam seated quietly at their desks, poised to begin a morning session of formal debate; President and Vice-President, accompanied by two rapporteurs, enter and take their seats on dais — all delegates stare expectantly at dais)
President: (sternly, candidly) It is my privilege to welcome all of you to this emergency session of the United Nations General Assembly meeting here today to discuss the latest in nuclear tests conducted by the Republic of India, as convened by request of the Swiss Confederation. Barring further formality and being mindful of the urgent need for a draft resolution, the Vice-President will now take roll call.
(Pause) (Rapporteurs begin typing on notebooks)
(NB — USA stands for United States of America and NZ for New Zealand; NPT stands for Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty)
Vice-President: (neurotically, in a mechanical and almost robotic tone) We will proceed with roll call. Delegate of Australia.
Australia: (shyly, quietly) Present.
Vice-President: Delegate of Ecuador.
Vice-President: Delegate of India.
India: (calmly) Present.
Vice-President: Delegate of Kashmir.
Kashmir: (nervously) Present.
Vice-President: Delegate of Liberia.
Vice-President: Delegate of New Zealand.
Vice-President: Delegate of Qatar.
Vice-President: Delegate of Switzerland.
Switzerland: (slowly) Present.
Vice-President: Delegate of the United States of America.
USA: (swaggering voice) Present.
Vice-President: Delegate of Viet Nam.
Viet Nam: (confidently) Present.
Vice-President: (monotone) Mr President, with nine voting members and one observer member present, quorum is set at five.
President: Thank you, Vice. Delegate of Switzerland, the floor is now yours.
Switzerland: Mr President, members of the dais, fellow delegates. It is a time of grief for Europe and the rest of the world when it must seek the convening of an emergency session of the UN GA due to ill-considered and unconventional behaviour exhibited by one member state. Let us not mince words. No nation state can claim self-righteousness to justify the testing of a weapon of mass destruction with the potential for the butchering of civilians on an unprecedented scale. (pause) We sit in a chamber whose very existence is evidence that the international community once vowed that no one would ever indulge in murder on any scale, and that law and order would prevail. This week, we have seen an abrogation of that founding principle, which is an unconscionable outrage. Switzerland cannot condone such a blatant assault on the precepts of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which the responsible member state has continued to refuse to sign. Therefore, we encourage the development of recommendations that will bring us closer to having the member state recognise why signing the NPT is critical. Thank you. This delegate yields to questions and points of information.
President: The delegate is open to questions and POIs, are there any on the floor?
(Signs for India, USA and Qatar light up)
Vice-President: India, the United States of America and Qatar have been recognised in that order.
India: (deferentially) Thank you, the delegate wishes to ask the Swiss Confederation how the restrictions that the NPT places upon signatories would allow any nation state to defend itself given the absence of defence treaties or mechanisms for complete protection with any third state.
Switzerland: (smiles) Thank you for the question, the delegate is cognizant that the NPT places no such restrictions on any signatory, merely positing the principle of no-first use, which has little, if anything, to do with defence treaties or mechanisms with any third state; which nullifies the premise of the question and instead finds that the premise was deliberately misleading in outlook.
Vice-President: (nods) Thank you delegates, next recognition please.
USA: (assertively) Thank you, the delegate seeks assurances from the Swiss Confederation that the chamber will pursue effective solutions — will the delegate therefore be open to the recommendations of sanctions and embargoes?
Switzerland: (frowns) Thank you for the question, the delegate wishes to state that no solution should be considered off-the-table, but it would be premature to suggest that sanctions and embargoes are necessary at this stage.
Vice-President: (nods once) Thank you delegates, next recognition please.
Qatar: Thank you, how open is Switzerland to compromise on the issue at hand, given the propensity of the offending member-state to respond poorly to threats?
Switzerland: (evenly) Switzerland would welcome a compromise which does not jeopardise international peace and security and prevents the occurrence of further nuclear tests, which continue to be a stark reminder of the possibility of first-use actions undertaken by the Republic of India.
President: Thank you delegates. All delegates on the floor wishing to speak, please identify yourselves.
(Lights down, President, Vice-President and Rapporteurs exit)
(Lights up, India’s sign lights up)
India: What harm could it do to anyone, to have the courage to fall in love and then say so? Why should anyone hide behind curtains of fear within the confined boundaries of comfort zones? How can anyone justify the idea that it’ll be okay as long as the pain goes away, without facing the issue causing distress head-on in the first place?
(Sign for USA lights up)
USA: Everyone has the right to shirk responsibility and save themselves from the effort of confronting reality. If that involves palliatives like anti-depressants or tobacco or alcohol in any form, then so be it. No one should ever be imposing their way of doing things on anybody else.
(Sign for Liberia lights up)
Liberia: We agree there; it shouldn’t be compulsory for anyone to face their fears if they don’t want to. Elective ignorance, even when enforced by brusque rudeness and selective memory, is a right for all human beings. Surely there is no debate about that.
(Sign for New Zealand lights up)
NZ: We’re on board there; it is freedom of choice which is threatened when individuals aren’t allowed to pick and choose when they’d like to acknowledge the existence of fear and discomfort. This would mean that all of us can choose where to direct our desires and act upon impulses that we decide by ourselves. It makes sense to let that be, since everyone has a different set of interests and urges that would aid in their decision-making.
(Sign for Switzerland lights up)
Switzerland: Freedom of choice has to be tempered by responsibility toward the planet and consideration for fellow humans. If we don’t take these two things into account, we see misdirected need as an inevitable consequence, as we witnessed in Germany during the 1930s, England in the 2010s and the USA of late. It should therefore be considered a short-term ploy to make the choice of hiding behind fear, and should be recognised as such in this debate.
(Sign for Ecuador lights up)
Ecuador: But choosing a short-term strategy is also a matter of choice, even if it disrespects the planet and wreaks havoc upon fellow human beings. If conscious thought is involved, why should individuals, families and communities not take it upon themselves to indulge in self-centred behaviour if that’s what brings them maximum utility and pleasure?
(Qatar clears throat; sign for Viet Nam lights up)
Viet Nam: Deliberations on philosophy don’t come within striking distance of what’s important here. Our responsibility toward fellow humans and the biosphere remain regardless of the individual decisions made in pursuit of constructive utility and selfish pleasure. That still doesn’t explain why anyone should feel obliged to respond to an expression of love if someone doesn’t feel ready to do so at a particular time.
(Sign for Australia lights up)
Australia: Hear hear. No one should have to reply if they feel uncomfortable for a while — because the discomfort won’t last forever. When a person feels ready to respond to an expression of love, they’ll respond as they see fit.
(Sign for Qatar lights up)
Qatar: Given that we’re all responsible for pushing the planet’s biosphere beyond the point of repair and recovery, testing the limits of an individual’s patience by being compelled to wait might no longer be an option for most of us. Nature won’t discriminate when its fury is unleashed in the form of freak storms, rising seas and the disappearance of all that we hold dear. How can we be expected to wait for the discomfort to ebb away on its own?
(Sign for Kashmir lights up)
Kashmir: Waiting has become all we know in life, for generation after generation in Canaan and Kashmir. We all push our patience to the edge of sanity, so much so that it feels less painful to opt for chemical relaxation as opposed to the perennial wait for something better. The experience of patience isn’t far off from torture. We crave an end to the waiting game.
(Lights down; Liberia, New Zealand, Qatar and Ecuador exit)
(Lights up; delegates standing on a bare stage in a half-moon-shaped semicircle and focus spotlight falls on each delegate shortly after they each begin speaking)
USA: (menacingly) You set up an impossible choice for me. You forced me to choose between a way of life that I’d known for all of my life before meeting you and a life which I had never lived at all. And you refused to acknowledge your own preferences within the inherent fluidity of sexuality.
India: (humbly) I accept responsibility for having caused havoc and devastation in your life, and the potentially life-threatening effects that could have been because of my missteps. I was cruel, inconsiderate and relentlessly insensitive in response to your trying to salvage the situation. I failed to appreciate the gravity of my actions. (pause) Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa. I apologise unreservedly, unconditionally and absolutely.
Switzerland: (cautiously) You did not know what it would be like when you made the decisions that you opted for. You should have thought about the idea of micro-managing within the context of a relationship. That doomed ours to a certain extent.
Kashmir: (angrily) You repeated that domineering form of micro-managing between us. You sought to assert control over decisions that I made for myself. You stood in the way of the freedom that I had just discovered.
India: (takes a deep breath) I did learn a lot about not doing that, no matter what decisions you’d all made. I did hurt all of you. It wasn’t fair to all of you at the time.
Viet Nam: (interrupts) I don’t think it was fair to me either, not telling me you’d sent me those flowers. Especially after I’d just made a speech in front of more than two hundred and fifty people asking for someone to come up and tell me who it was. You were a no-show that day.
Australia: (quietly) You also didn’t tell me what you were writing about me. Do you think it was okay for you to tell so many people, but not me? How would you feel if that had been you? Would you reckon it was fair?
India: (evenly) How did you both react after you found out about my feelings? Did your knowing about them make you less or more likely to talk to me? To what extent did finding out change the way you felt about all of this?
(Lights down, then back up with all six remaining nations sitting upright on their knees on a bare stage, looking toward the audience in a tight half-moon-shaped semi-circle — spotlight on each nation for rest of act)
Viet Nam: I’ve never considered the idea that sexuality might be fluid. It just felt right to be looking out for a girl. I was surprised, but there wasn’t really a reason to try out something that was far-fetched.
Kashmir: To swing the other way didn’t seem to matter in a relationship, except when it got in the way of fitting in. Why should belonging be the province of everybody else, just not me? (pause) Nations shouldn’t be made to feel left out.
Switzerland: Everybody should be entitled to decide what stresses them out. Particularly nation states. Taking responsibility for our actions shouldn’t be something to be avoided. Going forward, I feel that common-sense actions will rule the day.
Australia: Insularity and inward-looking tendencies are the prerogative of each person and state. Comfort zones merit respect, except in special circumstances. There aren’t enough hours in the day to consider so many nuances in the complexities involved in relationships.
USA: There has to be someone to pick up the pieces and make an active decision to move on. Neither nations nor people can live as islands of fear bubbles, but it’s important to persuade rather than impose when we navigate those bubbles. This is where diplomacy is sorely needed, especially given the state of the planet.
India: Karma is an inevitability for everyone who seeks movement. The consequences of those actions will always follow, and one must persevere through the implications and ramifications that ensue. (pause) It would be foolish to say that relationships are easy. If we choose to arm ourselves with courage, hope and patience, could we endeavour to communicate better?
Completed on January 25, 2017.