UR Abroad- The American Experience™

15 Aug

2016 has proved that the world is an absolute mess right now. As I think back upon my experience over the last five months around Europe, I’ve come to realize that we truly are all in this together. Globalization is real and there’s no going back.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when people start throwing around terminology and “buzzwords” without properly defining it. The most recent words include but are not limited to, “sovereignty”, “globalization”, and “paradigm”. While all of these phrases are entirely applicable to a variety of scenarios, that does not mean they should be thrown around lightly as a means to justify your position on something. Let me say it again: just because you CAN say it, doesn’t mean it’s factually true or correct.

The American Experience™ is a unique one. That is a given. I was, and still am, extremely critical of my country despite loving everything wonderful it stands for (cue more buzzwords like “democracy” “freedom” and “justice”).

Freedom Meme

Before coming over here, I tended to idealize the European system. Despite the fact that there are several aspects about Europe I love, I find it lacks a certain depth that other countries possess. Additionally, while Americans do tend to be ignorant about world politics and monolingual, the diversity we possess culturally and historically results in, my opinion, a charming curiosity within the American perspective. As good or bad as it may be, this results in the United States serving as the gatekeepers to the modern world. By this I mean that my country sets a large precedent for technology, pop culture, music, and global relations that is taken for granted both by it’s own citizens and people around the world. People are 100% in their right to pass judgment on the US for its poor decisions (and boy do we have a lot [maltreatment of POC {ESPECIALLY Native Americans and Black persons}], constant involvement in the eternal war machine, income disparity, obesity, a rampant school-prison pipeline complex, etc), we also serve as a beacon of hope for many who seek the American Dream. The thing that always strikes me as most pertinent in Europe is the homogeneity within societies. This is fairly offset by the smaller geographical area between one country and the other but even still, Europe only possesses about 5% POC which speaks volumes about how the continent is mostly able to be so cohesive and successful. Again, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does limit the opportunity and comfort within marginalized groups around the world to succeed in an area that strongly supports a certain mold.

All of this in mind, Europe is not faultless either, with the rise of extremely right-wing/radical parties (See LINKS: Brexit, the Freedom Party of Austria, the Affirmative for Deutschland (AFD), French Nationalist Party, and, of course Putin among others etc), we see that this global dynamic is shifting back to reactionist roots in order to “preserve the integrity of a nation’s culture”. While I’m all for appreciating culture, that does not excuse any and all –isms out there in the world. Furthermore, it’s intriguing to see how such a progressive society still can’t agree on issues that a variety of “conflicted” countries around the world already embrace. Case and point: LGBTQ+ rights. As an add on, I also think it’s a shame that the Occidental viewpoint has dominated the academic field while giving minimal recognition to cultures that have had an equally significant impact on global culture. For instance, I recently learned that Alexander Fleming didn’t discover penicillin; it was actually a Romanian scientist. Not only this, a lot of philosophical theories can be easily predated to ancient Persia, Hindu Valley region, and China. To make matters worse, a lot of female scientists and writers have been overshadowed by their male counterparts simply because they couldn’t get recognition (and for a large part, still don’t) for their discoveries and contributions. In short, our biased view of “greatness” is heavily influenced by our sense of superiority and need to secure our top position in the worldview.

As I move away from this diatribe, I try to find some plausible academic solutions to these issues. The most notable one that is easier said than done is to keep pushing boundaries and do vigilant research. Skepticism can be exhausting, tedious, and downright foolish at times, but critical thinking and analysis of our actions and thoughts can result in a more thoughtful, tolerant world. The balance between luxury in ignorance, I’ve found, is a very thin line. I am extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to travel around the world in a relatively safe and comfortable level. I can easily be out of touch with the reality of those who struggle to simply find enough to eat every day. I constantly catch myself saying something that may or may not be “politically correct”- and rightfully so. My temporary discomfort should never infringe upon a person’s sense of safety. Rights are given just as easily as they can be taken away and we all need to respect and understand that.

As we progress as a society, I am hopeful we can work through the adversity to keep pushing the boundaries for a better world. Globalization is not a pretty or easy process. There will be suffering just as there will be success yet, we should never settle for the latter as being a “necessary evil” to the former. That is lazy. That is ignorant. That is imbecilic.

This blog is dedicated to those whose voice will never be heard so mine can. This blog is a work in progress to address the infinite inequities that exist throughout life. This blog is meant as a catalyst towards the progressive conversations to come. This blog isn’t about me; it’s about all of us.