Shah: Under the Same Moon

In the Dartmouth community, it’s easy to feel small in a large world.

by Rachna Shah | 9/26/17 12:30am

Dartmouth encourages and aspires for us to become citizens and leaders of the world, and an international perspective is a critical indicator of an enriching education. Yet gaining this perspective begins with how we read the world. To read it insightfully and critically, we require intercultural competence, knowledge about one’s own culture and other cultures and the ability to bridge these divides through dialogue. For many of us, especially those not fortunate enough to currently be studying abroad or completing an internship, our source of literature is the news. When we watch the news, we should consider issues in an international perspective to achieve our goals, to fulfill our civic responsibilities and to expand our minds.

We naturally tend to focus on domestic news. Yet in doing so, we are often closed off from international news that reflect similar realities to the ones we face at home. The devastation inflicted by hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria have global implications that can be understood in the broader context of destructive South Asian monsoons, which caused the deaths of over 1,000 people over the past year. By understanding the devastation that occurs at home and abroad, we in the United States can collaborate more effectively internationally through initiatives like the 2015 Climate Change Conference agreement. We must remember that no country is an island.

In the healthcare debate, many arguments are based around the idea that the United States should be more like the “rest of the world.” This is an overgeneralization. While many countries’ healthcare systems have a larger percentage of government control than the United States’ does, each is multifaceted and unique to the country’s political, economic and societal context. By debating the trade-offs and alternatives that exist in other countries, we can use their examples to improve our own health care system and health outcomes. For example, we can examine America’s opioid epidemic in conjunction with the influx of Fentanyl, a painkiller, in Wales. Both countries are attempting to increase awareness and improve treatment options, and by working together we may find a better solution than we could in isolation.

In the financial sector, cryptocurrencies will stretch our definitions of traditional (economic) borders. Financial centers and international banks currently allow for goods and services to be exchanged across borders, but cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin act as a medium of exchange that can be recognized by all and, according to cryptocurrency consultant Michael J. Casey, have the ability to “challenge the power of the nation-state.” Developing an international perspective will help us understand the role it can take. A starving boy named Saleem became the face of the suffering caused by the Yemen War. Today, he is surviving, but barely, and he is one of millions for whom calls for ceasefire and sanctions have done little. In a similar light, the Rohingya refugee crisis has not resulted in broader international actions aside from aid efforts, yet the crisis is considered by some to be the beginnings of a genocide. From the United States, these events may seem distant and unrelated to our day to day lives. Yet they are more connected that one might believe. In such situations, the cryptocurrency Bitcoin, which uses a public ledger that tracks the flow of money, can be used to combat corruption and bring aid to those it is meant for.

Echo chambers also exist in the disconnect between our perspective of global events and the events themselves. Familiarity with a foreign language can enhance your understanding of news in a country, but even without that knowledge simply reading a larger variety of publications can help. The Economist focuses on policies and political implications rather than on breaking news. The Financial Times is a business publication that is free for Dartmouth students. Der Spiegel provides perspective into European news. Haaretz in Israel, Yomiuri Shimbun in Japan and El País in Spain provide English translations of their articles. Online media sites also provide international news, from the World Economic Forum or Dartmouth’s own World Outlook. The Council on Foreign Relations and Chatham House also provide publications and in-depth analyses on policies and policy issues. This is not to say that the news is perfect — these news outlets are not perfectly unbiased. For instance, RT, a Russian English-language news channel, portrays a government-funded view of Russian news. Nonetheless, reading through a wide spectrum of news sources will allow you to challenge each interpretation of events and understand multiple perspectives and sides of a story.

West Germany’s first chancellor Konrad Adenauer once said, “We all live under the same sky, but we don’t all have the same horizon.” The world is not just America. Ethnocentrism without acknowledging other cultures leads us to unfairly presume American superiority and supremacy. In analyzing events in the world and in our communities, try not to think in terms of right or wrong or in us versus them. Each culture and its value system brings a fresh look and perspective to policy debates in all fields of work, ranging from healthcare to business.

We are citizens of a global community, but worldwide events that should bring us together often do not. Broadening your worldview takes time — it is certainly more difficult than relying on scrolling through your current Facebook feed or glancing through the top highlights on Google News. However, we must take advantage of our college years and the resources we have here to set a foundation for the rest of our lives. While expanding your worldview is not limited to the news, in reading the news, you will be reading — and better yet, understanding — the world.