FAO Quotables

"But being right, even morally right, isn't everything. It is also important to be competent, to be consistent, and to be knowledgeable. It's important for your soldiers and diplomats to speak the language of the people you want to influence. It's important to understand the ethnic and tribal divisions of the place you hope to assist."
-Anne Applebaum

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Culture Shock: You Can Answer Your Phone Anywhere--Presidential Ceremonies no less

I arrived in Madagascar almost two years ago to open up an Office of Security Cooperation here in Antananarivo.

I had 10 years experience as a naval aviator, a fresh national security affairs master's degree and six weeks of the DoD specialized security cooperation training--I was screwed ready.

What none of this training prepared me for was the casual nonchalance military officers here will answer their phones.  I've been in meetings with the Minister of Defense, at Presidential ceremonies, seminars--neither the place nor the occasion matter.  If you get a phone call in Madagascar you are welcome to answer it.  

Even after two years this still catches me off guard.  In the American military the sacrilege of not having your phone silenced or turned off in a meeting, ceremony or seminar is so inculcated into one's DNA that the mere bumblee-ing cellular vibration in one's pocket can send shivers of psychological terror up one's spine.  

Here often time the officer won't even leave the table or room, he will just cup his hand over the phone and carry on a conversation with nary a side glance from the general or minister.  

I am still trying to figure out why this is acceptable.  Potential hypotheses include the fragility of life (i.e., life here is much more precarious so any phone call could literally be a life or death situation), lack of a real Plebe summer, lack of reverence for authority, etc.

Any other FAOs/FSO with similar experiences in their countries?

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