Author: Jared Sipes
“The more I learn, the more I learn how little I know.” – Socrates
In 2005, I was barely into my 21st year of life. I didn’t know anything about the world I lived in, outside of a mild beginning of interest in U.S. politics. And then I made my first trip outside of the U.S. Germany, to be exact. When making plans with the person I was going to visit, they also mentioned a visit to Prague. I told a coworker, who said, “Oh, the Czech Republic, huh? Cool!” I agreed, “yeah, definitely!” What I didn’t admit, was that I had never even heard of the Czech Republic before. I was a product of a small-town public school that didn’t put much stock in teaching kids about the world and focused more time on practical things and when it came to social sciences, tended to focus more on the American side of things, and I was never curious enough to seek out any additional information. I thought I didn’t need to. I thought it didn’t matter.
Before I go bandying about throwing around superlatives about the life-changing experience that travel to a foreign country can be (and which likely everyone has heard before), I will say this: it is not necessary to travel to learn about the differences and similarities in the world around us. I’m personally never one to berate those who don’t have a passport or don’t express interest in international travel. It’s expensive! It’s overwhelming! It’s different! But it’s not that different, really. And this is why informing yourself and having a global perspective of your life is important.
Let’s look at the concept of Globalization, which by definition is “a process of interaction and integration among the people, companies, and governments of different nations, a process driven by international trade and investment and aided by information technology.” What this means to you, Ordinary Citizen, is that we as a planet are growing closer by the day, so why not try to understand that world a bit more, especially when it is easier now than it has ever been in history? You can find newspapers, magazine articles, and blogs from around the world detailing every bit of news everywhere – and just like travel, it can be overwhelming.
However, knowing these things, knowing about other countries, cultures, political systems, and societies, not only can make you a better person, it makes you a better global citizen. If you seek information on your own, you’re less likely to rely upon an “article a friend posted on Facebook” and can instead fight misinformation, and offer a different perspective from those who may not have thought otherwise.
I know this is a lot to ask, and it’s hard for a lot of people to relate to people, places, and things that they consider to be “foreign” – but I have a feeling (and maybe a bit of knowledge from my own personal experience) – that the more you dig around, the more you understand, the more you’ll see that we’re all not so different after all, and you’d be surprised how much better it feels to be able to relate to someone else’s experience, rather than point out our differences.
“We go on and on about our differences. But, you know, our differences are less important than our similarities. People have a lot in common with one another, whether they see that or not.” – William Hall