Today’s lecture was pretty insightful. We learned how global politics can be shaped around rivers. Their strategic roles in warfare and ability to cause fissions and divisions gave geopolitics an interestingly daunting aspect.
In our academic classes, we moved on with a deeply interesting discussion about the words cloud simulated just after we were introduced to the programme. We were essentially looking to understand why and how our opinions, feelings and preconceptions about ‘global citizenship’ changed over those 7 – 8 days.
‘Education’ definitely dominated; indeed, it’s such a vast and varied concept that it could practically cover the rest of the words. Our concerns, however, revolved around the others. While some of the students viewed tolerance as an essential prerequisite, others viewed it as mere passivity, a feeling that could be associated with indifference and mediocrity. I thought ‘acceptance’ would be more appropriate than ‘tolerance’, since a sense of belonging is more important than a predisposition to ‘let be’.
Curiosity is one word which we felt did not fit the global citizenship umbrella particularly well. Many of us agreed that it was quite pretentious a feeling, focused on the self rather than on the outer world. In that, it had an equally-divided double connotation: while curiosity could be welcome as showing interest and importance into others’ lives, it could as well be condemned as intrusiveness and self-elevating pity (for others). Given the fact that everybody is not on a level playing field, it is understandably difficult for people to share their problems and tensions with others who are not in the same predicaments. This is something we could relate to our own experiences while seeking to interview Romanians in Walthamstow. We realised—better late than never—that instead of “I want to know more about you”, we had approached people with an “I want to help you”, they would have been more willing to open up to us. Hence, we feel trust and empathy should be paramount.
Another word, or rather phrase, we strongly believed should have come out more than the others is ‘net contributor to the world’. Above and beyond all, life happens at the level of actions, and not just words nor thoughts. Change is the end result of a logical sequence: thoughts that are expressed into words, which are then translated into actions. For how does a mind full of thoughts cause a difference in the lives of people thousands of miles away from us? We should be having both the willingness and courage to act in times of need—at all times. A net contributor gives much more to the world than he takes from it, displaying both selflessness and the courage to act.
The last word led to an important realization, a sense of awakening in us, I should say. We felt that the aim of this programme should be to realize that our deeds will help make a positive impact, and not mere thoughts or philosophies. Indeed, many agreed that if we took out some time each day to help the community, the vulnerable, anybody who needed help, the results would be concrete, i.e. we would in effect become global citizens. Someone even mentioned trying to open up education opportunities for the needy foreigners, which I thought was a remarkable thought. We felt these could be useful suggestions for next year’s programme which could make it an even bigger success.
After pondering for a while, I realized that the global citizenship programme did have its intended effect. In thinking the way the students did in class, in wanting so strongly to make a difference and not simply conjure up theories around it, they were already acting as global citizens… the required values, attitudes, and feelings had already been embodied. After days since we first encountered those words which we perhaps abstractly understood the first time and after playing an engaging role in the programme; I, for one, feel less foreign a foreigner now.