Reflections on Internationalism

Elif Safak, one of my favourite authors, defines herself as a ‘global soul’. This internationalist interest and solidarity is something with which I highly identify with. Internationalism not in the dictionary definition of cooperation between different nation states, but internationalism in a more individualized sense of being part of a global community where cultural differences abound and are valued. Interpersonal relationships, languages, literature, music- there is so much to learn, try to understand and importantly respect about other peoples. It fascinates me that an 18 year old in Pakistan has lived through the exact same time as me but their life experiences- from the view from their window to the colloquial phrases they use- are astronomically different from mine.

I do often have to check myself from becoming an orientalist and romanticizing different cultures. Thinking that travelling to these countries, reading the literature and learning the language can really allow me to ‘understand’, I believe is flawed. I criticize the ‘gap year’ mentality but in a conversation with my father that we had just this evening I found that hypocritically I manifest a lot of those stereotypes. It seems to me it is important to internalize one’s ‘foreignness’ and know that with your ‘privilege’ you are transplanting your own western framework of understanding on a mode of living which is independent and equally (if not more) fecund and valuable than yours. Not to homogenize experience but to be able to flow with new information being presented to you. To observe- not impose.

People fascinate me, national divisions perplex me. They seem arbitrary as the groups within them are so diverse in their practice and geographical location that lines on a map become reductionist. When it comes to social justice and humanitarian work, understanding the humanity of diverse populations plays a key role. It’s hard to leave the universe of oneself and inhabit that of others.

I am , and always have been now I spend time reflecting on it, very much a ‘global soul’. Travelling through books, film and music is what is sustaining me during lockdown. I want to reach the point where I feel comfortable being Murakami’s Nakata who is ‘not all that smart’, to allow me to get over my ego which hinders my communication with strangers who I wouldn’t normally interact with. I think I am generally optimistic about humanity, evident in my university course choice, and I hope that what I do in the future allows me to interact with a wide diversity of individuals and experience and cultivate my internationalist outlook .

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