Sunday, December 4, 2011

Agrees That

I sat in on a closed negotiation the other day, despite the color of my badge. If anyone has doubts about the efficacy of the text drafting process, I still can’t assure you otherwise. The discussion covered four short paragraphs in 80 long minutes. Proposing deletions, bracketing additions. But as to the significance of the linguistic debate I can assure you, it’s not a waste of time. The implications of changing singular to plural, reference level to reference levels, are at once syntactical, philosophical, and political. It’s hard to believe that word choice reverberates down to a forest, or that the sound of a bulldozer could be heard inside a plenary. But somehow language is the only suitable conduit to connect these disparate points of power and locale. And if the language is shoddy at the sentence level, the treaty at the global level won’t ever hold water. The other thing that struck me about the process was the skilled mediation of the chairperson. It was a feat of listening. Of listening to the opinions and posturing of negotiators inside the room amidst the hum of 7 billion more outside.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"we don't need no stinkin badges", B. Traven, Treasure of the Sierra Madre