A.J.’s Adventures: Model UN
This week I went to a Model UN conference in Washington, D.C. Except it wasn’t in D.C. It was in Bethesda. Bethesda is next to D.C. The thing about cities that are next to big cities is that their proximity makes them worse. There is no expectation for Missoula, MT to be exciting. But the aborted excitement felt when you find out you’re not actually in D.C. makes Bethesda feel like receiving a donation in your name to the Red Cross for your Bar Mitzvah. Also, Bethesda sounds like a biblical concubine.
The reason I joined Model UN is not because I care about international affairs. All my friends did Model UN. They pressured me to join. I finally joined and signed up for a conference. Then they all quit. They said, independent of each other, that they had planned to quit the club since the beginning of the year, and that after a conference I would soon understand their displeasure. Now I understand McGruff the crime hound’s speeches about peer pressure.
We landed in D.C. and took the rail line to Bethesda. I took a picture of the subway map because I have never seen a subway that goes so many places. I did not realize that I was grinning on the subway. When asked why I looked so happy I said, “The subway goes more than 2 directions. Unlike MARTA.”
The hotel was designed in the most avant-garde modernist style. It looked like it was built in 1978. Modernism was a poor name for an artistic movement. I needed to send a paper to my professor. Unfortunately, the wifi cost money in Bethesda. Its free in D.C. Bethesda is not D.C.
We were not attending a typical Model UN conference. This is a “Crisis Simulation” conference. Instead of pretending to be Bolivia in a General Assembly of nations, we each played characters during different crises ranging from Mugabe’s Cabinet during hyperinflation or the U.S. State Department during the Cuban Missile Crisis. I played a Chilean Senator in 1970 after the election of a Socialist.
We had a prep meeting in the President’s bedroom. She gave us a strategy run-down.
“Don’t try to assassinate anyone on the first day,” she said. “Save that for Sunday morning.”
She then asked me, “What’s your plan?”
“Take over the Central bank and impose quantitative easing.”
“Great. Is the economy in ruins?”
“No, but it won’t have an effect anyway.”
All I wanted to do was take over the central bank. The funniest thing about this conference was that the participants took it too seriously. We spent 9 hours discussing land reform. Because of partisan gridlock, the peasants began rioting. Demonstrations took place in the streets. Wealthy landowners were killed. Meanwhile, inflation ravaged the Chilean economy.
I explained to Senator Peralta, “We have to pass my bank directive or else Chile will be buried beneath worthless bills.”
He asked, “What’s this provision about firing the bank’s governor and replacing him with a council of senators? It seems shady.”
I replied, “That’s just an advisory council to choose a new governor. We wouldn’t pick anyone in the game. Just someone from history.”
“I mean senate.”
“Are you implying our senatorial duties are a game?”
I was implying that this simulation was a game. I didn’t realize that the first rule of Chilean Senate Simulation is to not mention it’s a Chilean Senate Simulation. Much like the works of celebrated South American author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Chilean Senate Simulation requires willing suspension of disbelief.
I got bored during the six hours of land reform, so I drew President Robo-Allende-Saurus. He’s half robot, half T-Rex, all popularly elected socialist president of Chile. His power source is the hopes of oppressed Chileans. He blows fire. I also drew General Augusto Peanut-chet. It was a drawing of Augusto Pinochet, but as a peanut man with a top hat.
But, as we rounded point 21 of 22 on one of 5 land reform resolutions, I realized that this seriousness was not just absurd, but necessary. If any of these senators for a moment forgot they were senators and remembered their small, almost meaningless lives, they would be smothered by an existential weight that threatens to crush everyone. So I proceeded to introduce amendments to the resolution, if only to forget for a moment that nothing, not college, not career, is ultimately fulfilling or meaningful. I then vehemently opposed land redistribution without compensation, not because I cared about compensation, but because I needed to stay grounded in the world around me, however false.
There isn’t anything else funny about twenty-somethings debating imaginary nuances of fiscal policy, down to the date when national bonds would mature at a fixed interest of .05%. It’s actually tragic. I ache thinking these minds will be wasted. I ache thinking of the wasted money these students spent on their educations. I ache thinking that these kids will become faceless, powerless bureaucrats and regional managers of Target. Except the kids from Harvard.
Then we started drinking. I drank to forget. Everyone else drank so they could discuss monetary policy with slurred words.
Emory is a highly ranked team. UPenn, ranked #2, always invites its best competition to drink free alcohol so that the other teams are hungover for the most important day of the competition. The UPenn kids only pretends to drink. Emory was invited to UPenn’s room for drinks. It was an honor.
Even with my “Model UN Goggles,” I had no intention of requesting a unmoderated caucus with anyone. Everyone was ugly. There is no joke to make because that’s not a surprise.
I went to the Delegate Dance at the local Bethesda bar. It ended early because two guys got in a fight. Apparently some Helen of Troy danced with another gentleman who was not her boyfriend. Her boyfriend retaliated. The DJ turned on the lights and everyone evacuated the dance floor.
Someone told me that one student in Zimbabwe’s cabinet wrote a directive that created a Mugabe-themed amusement park. He then sabotaged a ride at Mugabeland’s grand opening to assassinate President Mugabe. These are the brightest minds at work.
Thankfully, we left the D.C. area before the big storm hit. After this weekend I learned a very valuable lesson: don’t trust your friends.
— By A.J. Artis