12 June 2011

What does it take?

Excitement is illuminating rainy mid afternoons, late nights finishing assignments and time intensive work with small groups as we move into the last phase of our program. It is a high siphoned from our new found understandings about the world and the places we want to fill within it and the realization that we will go home empowered to take action in our communities because of what we have seen and discussed here.

After every unit, we make ‘next steps’, a brainstorm of the things we as individuals can do, or do differently, to remediate the serious injustices we just studied. This easily escalates into a very frustrating experience: what can we actually do about dams in Thailand, or more importantly, the globalized capitalism informing anyone who initiates these large scale development projects in the first place?

My question tonight is why it has taken a trip around the world, afternoons navigating rice fields, eucalyptus forests, tropical wetlands and mountains rich in copper ore, for us to begin analyzing our world?

The need for 20 students with a new found consciousness, willing to take the time to engage in the actions we dream of taking, is immeasurable within the country we will be returning home to. But, this is exactly the point. Our own communities are victim to many of the same injustices we have mourned here.

The unresolved affects of the BP oil spill, two public wars as well as many private interventions such as plan Colombia, a torture center in a country whose existence we ignore, growing wealth disparities, immigration, gay marriage, segregated and unequal opportunities in our public schools, a democracy that seems to be representing the interests of major corporations rather than it’s citizens…
Moreover, while in Thailand, the articles which struck me most were written by people like Michael Pollan and John Steinbeck, or published in the New Yorker and Orion Magazine. These articles not only focused on problems at home but the sources in which they were published came from the states as well.

Not only do we have the problems, but the resources to discover the information of these atrocities are almost too accessible. Every student here has a laptop as well as a university library overflowing with details, informed professors, public commentators that can share their differing opinions unabashedly…
Why were we so unaware; what was getting in our way?!

I think it’s a fa├žade that Thailand gave us a perspective far enough removed in order to see problems at home for what they are. I think that we exist is spaces too comfortable to force us to look outside ourselves and not only question the bigger picture but empathize with those in our own community suffering from less opportunities than we have had the privilege to enjoy.

In the end, why it took Thailand may not matter, because we have pushed the boundaries that were limiting us. We have begun questioning ourselves and our world. Our experiences together are impossible to account completely, and what we have learned, for now, feels like something that will extend into the parts of our lives that last beyond this semester, but, it is just something I have been considering.

Cassie Peabody
University of Michigan

1 comment:

Ellery Kirkconnell said...

Hi Cassie,
Reading your, "What does it take?" write up, has also made me realize and questioned my experience here in the Dominican Republic and how blinded many Americans, included myself, at times are by what goes on in other countries, especially in developing areas. I feel that we start to "analyze the world" once we are taking out of our comfort zone and begin to walk down new streets. For me, it's a good feeling, as well as a bad one because I am introduce to new experiences as well as new views, yet at the same time it reveals to me how sheltered I've become while living in the US. When I return to the States in 3 weeks with new memories and experiences that will forever resonate in memory. This experience in the DR, I know, will also force me to think twice about my surroundings and not wait till an experience like this see what’s going on around me.