I recently read the last chapter of a book for my leadership class. While I was reading this chapter I had an overwhelming sensation of how much it related to this class and issues with genocide and refugees. I haven’t read the entire book but I would definitely recommend reading this chapter. The book is called Global Citizen by Mark Gerzon and the chapter we read is called Global Intelligence: Twenty Ways to Raise Our GI. As indicated in the chapter title, Gerzon lists twenty steps to increase global intelligence. He does so in list form, describing each item as he moves through the list. A few of these items really resonated with me.
Speak more than one language
I cannot tell you how embarrassed I am that I do not speak more than one language. Most US citizens have a very egocentric view in the sense that English is the only language we need to know. I feel that being multi-lingual is under valued because so much of the world knows English. It is so surprising to me that a country with so much access to education is so limited in it’s desire to be a global citizen.
“’You can train people in cross-cultural communication,’ says Cabrera, ‘but it is harder to get them to understand what cross-cultural relations are if those people have never struggled with learning a foreign language’” (Gerzon, 2010, p. 191).
While a lot of US citizens will claim, I took four years of –insert language here-, in all honestly, it’s just a half-assed attempt. I know because I fall into this category of people. While we do learn language in high school and even college, most of us never reach the level of fluency required to actually know another language. When we were in Phoenix on our alternative spring break, it really made me wish I were fluent in another language. While I have taken Spanish classes and could form a few poorly structured sentences, it does not compare. Honestly, I felt embarrassed, as I feel most of my classmates did, that we never pushed ourselves or truly saw the value in being bilingual when so much of the world does. As Gerzon quotes above, there is value in struggling to learn a language because it gives individuals a perspective on how to communicate cross-culturally, an understanding which is lacked without that experience. I cannot imagine what some refugees in the United States must go through, I have never had the experience of being placed into a country where I do not speak the language and then having to figure out how to live. I knew this class would give me a new experience but it has only made me desire more experiences to help me gain a better understanding. I want to live in a country where I don’t speak the language and struggle with learning the language. I feel that everyone should have this experience because it helps create an understanding for different cultures and how people who come to the United States must feel.
Seek common ground
This reminded me of our trip to Phoenix. Throughout our trip we attempted to be global citizens by seeking a common ground with the refugee families that we visited. Jen mentioned in one of her earlier blog posts that laughter has no language. At the family’s houses we visited where there was a language barrier, we took the kids outside to play. Even though we were not able to verbally communicate, we communicated through playing games and laughing with one another. On the second to last day of the trip we visited a family that consisted of a mother and her son and daughter. The daughter was a pre-teen and the entire group was able to connect with her in her taste in music and books, and even able to recommend books that she may not have heard of. Doing so created happiness and a connection between her and us, it broke down the barrier of us versus them.
Ask questions that stretch your mind
To me, this entire class has been about asking questions that stretch my mind. If this is happening, why is it happening? Why can’t we stop it from happening? Why has no one done anything? How can we fix it? All of these questions seem so simple but when you are just one person, they can be hard to undertake. It can be hard to come to terms with the fact that the world isn’t all butterflies and playgrounds, like you thought when you were a child. It can be hard not to get caught up in your own life. It can be hard to find the time to care. This class has taught me that it is not possible to do it all. I’m still struggling with finding my place in helping and figuring out how I can be an advocate. All of these topics and issues we learn about in class lead me to questions that I am not able to answer. In asking these questions it is hard not to become discouraged. This class has made me realize that although I am just one person that does not mean I am not able to make a change. Being a realist, I know that you can’t take on the world and expect to fix it all, but this class is teaching me that my voice can make a difference, no matter how small.
Know your enemy—inside and out
Gerzon says know your enemy. Not in the sense that I view refugees or countries suffering from violence or genocide as our enemies but in the sense that I feel many US citizens have the view of ‘us’ versus ‘them’. There is a misnomer among some Americans that if we help other countries we won’t be able to help our own, which is not the case. Helping other countries and helping your own country does not have to be mutually exclusive. Helping other countries should not be seen as an enemy or a threat to our ability to help our own country. I think to break down this idea we need to publicize the stories of victims of the hatred that occurs around the world. In the sense that we, not just the US but the world, need to witness the violence that some areas of the world face in the idea of humans helping humans. As the human race we need to unite in the idea that innocent humans do not deserve to suffer. In my opinion this is where advocacy comes into play. Our class needs to share the stories we have heard. We need to put faces to these stories. We need to prove that these people are humans just like us. The world shouldn’t be a place where people are too concerned with succeeding themselves that they ignore suffering that others may face with the defense that it is an issue that does not concern them. Or simply because they think someone else will take care of it.
When I signed up for this class I wanted to learn about genocide and refugees, I had no clue that this class would enhance my worldview so much. While I may not be there yet, I truly believe this class is helping me become a global citizen and motivating me to be part of the changes that need to happen in the world. In the words of Gandhi (and quoted by Gerzon), BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE IN THE WORLD.
Global Citizen by Mark Gerzon; chapter: Global Intelligence: Twenty Ways to Raise Our GI (pages 166-194)