Below are three reaction papers from students at The University of Scranton to a speech Sondra gave in the Communications Department.
Reaction #1: Amanda Kerins
Interdependence is a topic that has gained attention in both the media and the academic world over the past decade. After reading through several articles from the Interdependence Handbook and participating in Friday’s discussion with Ms. Sondra Myers, I have gained a better understanding of four ideas in particular that fall under interdependence.
The most important concept of interdependence is that interdependence is a fact. What this means is that interdependence is not just a prescription rather it is a reality of the world we live in. This notion is discussed in all of the readings and it was the underlying principal of everything that Ms. Myers discussed with our class. The world’s resources are distributed unevenly, therefore, it is impossible to function independent of everyone else. This concept was best articulated when Ms. Myers stated “My society needs me and I need them- we can’t climb the ladder of success alone.” She went on to explain that “this can be applied to everything from the raw materials we need to expertise in various fields that we lack.”
A second important concept that falls under interdependence is the importance of a liberal education. Martha Nussbaum’s article touches upon the idea that Americans live in a “time of fear” ever since the 9-11 terrorist attacks. Ms. Nussbaum explains that fear narrows our imagination which in turn makes it difficult for us to relate to citizens in distant places. Receiving a liberal education allows people to acquire knowledge of other cultures which creates a better understanding of the ideologies that these cultures function under. Knowledge decreases the gaps created by fear and instead allows us to draw connections and focus on similarities. Ms. Myers further explained that education, travel and experience allow for connection and understanding.
A third important concept of interdependence is that interdependence can be positive or negative therefore we need a strategy to build up the positive and beat down the negative. This concept is discussed most thoroughly in Bill Clinton’s article. Throughout his piece, Mr. Clinton explains that the positive aspect of interdependence can be built up through shared benefits, shared responsibilities and shared values. Power, in terms of who has access to the most resources, is not a stable concept. Therefore, the more integrated we become, the better off everyone is. Ms. Myers added to this by explaining that although our most explicit right is to be responsible for the public good, within the last 30 years a tendency toward greed has trumped this good. She explained the importance of combating this trend, which can be achieved by using our communication skills and our knowledge of other cultures to engage in world issues that are close to our hearts.
The fourth concept that falls under interdependence is the importance of breaking down stereotypes/establishing equality among all. In Tariq Adwan’s article, he speaks about the importance of knowing about other cultures as well as the importance of listening to the voices of the oppressed. He explains that by gaining knowledge of stereotypes through education, the world’s citizens are able to connect in a more positive and concrete way because it is done based on true understanding. Ms. Myers further explained that although breaking down these barriers does not happen overnight, we have come a long way and that education plays a key role in speeding up the process.
I agree with everything Ms. Myers spoke about, in particular that education is key to improving how we approach interdependence. This summer I worked for CHS and I spent a lot of time working on issues involving the Middle East. I was required to attend many seminars that educated me on the history and culture of the Middle East. Upon gaining this knowledge, I was able to approach war, peace talks and even terrorist organizations from a different perspective. By learning about how other culture’s approach issues people are able to make compromises and work together more effectively. My plan for the future is to continue to educate myself on other cultures and continue to travel. I plan on entering into the political arena upon graduation where my knowledge of the importance of interdependence will be a great asset.
Reaction #2: Lizzie Calo
Ms. Sondra Myers, Senior Fellow for International, Civic and Cultural Projects at the University of Scranton, spoke to us about the importance of interdependence. She believes that we have a civic duty to act for our society. As citizens of the world, we must employ our civic duty and engage ourselves in the issues that present themselves today, whether political, economic, or environmental. We must do things for others instead of ourselves. In today’s society, greed has pulled us away from working toward improving the good of society. Ms. Myers believes we must get back on track by becoming civically engaged in society. We have a civic responsibility to help others and we must fulfill that responsibility.
Ms. Myers emphasized the importance of a democratic government. Under a democracy, we, as citizens, have a say in what happens in our own country and in other countries across the world. As citizens of the world, we each have a voice that we must use to uncover and eliminate the injustices we witness. The United States is at an advantage because of our democratic government. We must use this opportunity to get our words and actions out there to benefit the good of others in other countries as well as our own.
Martha Nussbaum, writer of Liberal Education and Global Community, in the Interdependence Handbook, focused on the benefits of a good education. Ms. Nussbaum wrote that, “we need accurate global knowledge and habits of self-criticism”…she also believes that, “it is urgent that all undergraduates should be led into the rudiments of world history and a basic understanding of the major world religions.” Ms. Myers agrees with Ms. Nussbaum in that an education is necessary to learn about the world. Courses in history, literature, foreign language and philosophy both broaden our horizons and teach us about the world around us. A well-rounded education decreases ignorance and allows us to view with sympathy the lives of people in different situations around the world.
We, as communication majors, have a chance to strengthen interdependence in society today. With modern technology, interdependence is easier to achieve because communication is now possible internationally. We must apply the skills we learned in classes like Logical and Rhetorical Analysis. These skills, such as the power of debate, articulation and persuasion, should be used in our future careers and for the good of society.
Sophomore year I went on a service trip to the Appalachian Mountains in Kentucky. The area was severely impoverished and most of the homes were run down. Although it was a domestic service trip, after seeing what parts of my own country is like, I can’t even imagine the impoverished areas outside of the United States. Learning about interdependence has opened my eyes to the fact that I hardly know anything about what is going on in the world around me. Now that I have this new knowledge, I want to educate myself more on current events, both national and international. I plan to watch the news more often and to hopefully squeeze in a class next semester that will put me on the path to interdependence.
Reaction #3: Casey Pavlick
I really enjoyed Sondra Meyer’s lecture; throughout her speech she emphasized the concept of being a good public citizen. We all have the right to be responsible for the public good—to be a global citizen. Unfortunately greed has trumped the private good; there is now a culture of “me-ism” in America. As Sondra mentioned “democracy is not a spectator sport.” We are all responsible to know what’s going on outside of our private world. We can no longer afford to be naïve about what is going on in the rest of the world. We must begin to share our knowledge, resources and wealth; we must increase peace through interdependence.
As stated in the introduction of the readings, and reiterated in Adwan’s article: Interdependence is what we have become. Geographical boarders no longer mean anything; we are all dependent on one another “whether we like it or not.” The only way we can survive as a planet is if nations start to realize this so we can work together to conquer big issues such as disease, immigration and terrorism. With two oceans separating us from the rest of the world it is easy for Americans to think we are self-sufficient; but that is far from the truth. Adwan noted that as the world becomes smaller the need for recognizing, and understanding differences among peoples and cultures is of great importance. Human and natural resources are distributed unevenly all over the world; no nation has them all. This makes interdependence among nations and individuals a necessity. We have always been concerned with establishing equality among people within the same country; now it is time to being establishing equality among all people worldwide.
Bill Clinton is a strong believer in interdependence. I found his theory that interdependence goes beyond economics to be an interesting—and very true—concept. Clinton proves this by noting that there is both good and bad interdependence. With such easy access to communicate it is easy to have a social network that expands the globe, or to keep in touch with family and friends who are half way around the world. But there is also bad interdependence, like Al Queda leading to 9/11; the easy access of travel and information allowed our country to be devastated. Clinton notes for interdependence to work “we need a strategy that builds up the positive and beats down the negative.” A lot of America’s power comes from power of our example; we must continue to “prove America works,” so other countries can continue to follow our example.
Liberal education is a more important concept than ever in our interdependent world. An education based on the idea of global citizenship has the possibility to “transcend divisions created by distance, cultural difference and mistrust.” (Nussbaum) Ever since 9/11 we live in a time of fear; but fear only narrows the moral imagination, which makes it difficult to have sympathy with people who live in other countries or who look different than ourselves. Because America is so dominant is it easy to go through life in a bubble of American-ness. “Liberal education is attractive to both American and non-Americans because it emphasizes analytical thinking, argumentation, and active participation in debate.” We must become more curious and more humble about our role in the world. Liberal education requires opening the personality to change, to the possibility of moving out of the security of one’s own comforting habit.
I agree with the speaker as well as all four authors on the importance of interdependence. America cannot survive on its own; we need the resources and knowledge that comes from other countries. It is important for everyone to step out of their Americanized bubble and being to learn about other countries and cultures other than their own. One cannot be a global citizen with out having knowledge and respect for the world around them.
Personally, I do not think I will do anything differently. I will however try to get others around me to better understand the importance of interdependence. I have always believed in the value of interdependence. I have been traveling outside of the United States frequently since the age of 10. Ever since I began traveling my parents have instilled in me the importance of not only having knowledge about a foreign country before you visit it but to also be respectful of their culture both while on vacation and once we return home.
It is not always easy going into a different country that does not share the same cultural values, and in most cases language as you. It is extremely important to remember this when you return home; just as you were guests in another country immigrants have the same feelings once they come to America. While you may have a different cultural background than someone else it does not mean it is necessarily a bad thing we can—and need to begin to—learn from each other to grow. Every country and culture has something to offer; once we are all able to realize this and utilize each other’s strengths the world will only be a better, more sustainable, place.