Tuesday, August 04, 2009

World Without Walls

Many of us tend to inhabit a very narrow slice of real estate and we do not think globally. For those of us living in Singapore, that's very easy to do. We tend to get caught up in our own lives here on the "wired island," we focus on our own work, study, family and friends and we forget about the other six billion plus inhabitants of this planet.

Why is thinking globally important? Well, for starters, just consider the old cliche: no man is an island. We all depend on each other, and in many ways, are affected by the actions of others. The recent H1N1 outbreak and our vulnerability should demonstrate this very clearly. Add to that the fact that Singapore is dependent on Malaysia for its fresh water and food stuffs and on China and a number of ASEAN countries for the bulk of its other raw materials, and then on places like the US and Japan for its export market, and you get the picture. And then of course there's our obvious interconnectedness via the World Wide Web. No island is even really an island in today's world.

There is another reason why thinking globally is important that I'd like you to consider: Doing so for the sake of improving the lives of others, and in that way, enhancing your own humanity. Those readers who are NUS students may wonder how they can do this, but within our "global university" (or so the advertising goes) there really are a number of ways. For one, there are numerous university programs that allow you to visit countries in the region to do volunteer activities. Some of you may have already been on one of these. As an example, at least one of my former students went to Sumatra after the Boxer Day Tsunami and contributed time and energy in that major relief effort. Others have gone on trips to Cambodia, China or Myanmar and participated in community development projects. In a very real sense, your NUS education puts you in a good position to gain the experience and develop the understanding and skills necessary for helping better the lives of the less fortunate among our global neighbors.

For volunteer programs outside Singapore, cleck out these sites: International Student Volunteers, the Habitat for Humanity, and Doctors Without Borders. If you're reading this and you happen to be an NUS student, and you're looking for a way to study abroad, check out this link.

One platform for developing the skills and understanding needed for being a more complete world citizen is the course that I am fortunate to teach: ES2007S, Professional Communication -- Principles and Practice. For those of you soon to be or now enrolled in the course, I welcome you. It really is a world without walls that we're talking about when we start our journey in refining communication skills. But that is a journey whose very first step begins with you acknowledging that there is a heck of a lot more to life than what we see out our own front door.


Michelle said...

Hello Brad,

I am surprised nobody commented on this post yet. I agree that it is true most of us do not think globally, and yet somehow most of us are inter-connected via the Internet. However, there are still many people in the world who do not have access to the Internet; many are, in fact, illiterate. They have more important things to consider and worry about, such as their safety, food issues etc. I went to the less-developed states in Indonesia several times. They touched my hearts not by their intelligence, but it is through their warm hospitality, their laughter and their wisdom. They were just happy that we visited them, some even gave us fruits they grew; they did not ask for anything in return for they do not foresee that we were there to better their lives. While I was helping them by donating books and clothes, they helped me by bringing joy and new perspective into my life. I strongly agree with you that there is really a lot more than what we see outside our front door.

Geok Ting said...

Hi Brad

I believe that most of us understand the importance of thinking globally but not many people actually do it. For one, the education system in Singapore simply doesn't encourage global thinking. Students are only required to study within they syllabus in order to pass the exams and it's not surprising to find that most of us do just that.

As for your suggestion for volunteering overseas, no doubt it would enlighten us on worldly views but one aspect to consider is the finances required. Not everyone has the ability to do so. Perhaps a simpler way of thinking globally would be through the use of technology.

Anonymous said...

Hi Brad,

I can't agree with you more that most of us tend to get too caught up in our own lives to think globally. Apart from the few reasons you mentioned; such as the interconnectedness of the world today, and how thinking globally would enhance our own humanity, I think another reason that would sum the whole "think globally" concept up would be: for sustainability. In recent years, the term sustainable development has been appearing frequently due to the scarce and rapidly depleting environmental resources. So, while we acknowledge the fact that we are dependent on each other and affected by the actions of others, we should also exercise our touch of humanity to take/use only enough resources of the world today so that people of the future would still have sufficient to get by.

Brad Blackstone said...

Thank you for the responses!

Michelle, I'm impressed by the experience you've had in Indonesia. Was this through an NUS program?

Geok Ting, You're right in saying that finances may stop some of us from volunteering. But there are a number of volunteer programs and service learning projects that would cost no more than the money required to live, eat and travel in Singapore for a similar time period.

Jasmine, I really appreciate your added reason and the perspective that you have.