Exploring Empathy and Empowerment Through Global Issues Class

May 20, 2013
by AJ Sonmonu, Spring 2013 student

All through my stay at Woolman I have been educated on social as well as environmental issues occurring throughout the world even here in America. This especially rang true in Global Issues class, where one week after the other we learned about crises happening around the world. At first it was very sad, but towards the middle of the semester we began to analyze non-violent resistance movements and their work to end these malpractices. As a class we learned about alternative economic systems that are inclusive, rather than exclusive such as: Time Banks, Co-Ops and urban farms.  What surprised me was that not only did these systems function efficiently, but also were used as a means of building community. What really impressed me was, the way people took initiative and created a world that they wanted to live in. 

The week where we read from the book "Walk Out, Walk On" really helped me to understand direct activism. The citizens of Zimbabwe and Santo, Brazil virtually were receiving little to no help from their government and instead waiting for help they took power into their own hands and forged a community they wanted to live in. This is especially important because this serves as inspiration for other people who are being subjugated to this oppression, shows them how much power they really have, and motivates them to make a positive change.

Due to Global Issues class, and its contents I have grown both emotionally and mentally. Prior to coming to Woolman, I was not fully aware of the impact  that my life had on others. Through this course, I was able to gain an insight on where my clothes, food and electronics were coming from, specifically speaking who was making it and for how much they were being paid. Finding out that children younger than me are working 9-5 jobs with horrible conditions so that I can  have a chocolate bar whose price did not mirror the labor was devastating! But, in a way, learning this was liberating. Although I cannot go back and change what I purchased, I can from now on make a conscious effort to by fair trade chocolate. This is the case of Global Issues class; I have been induced into wondering who made this t-shirt, or how this chocolate bar found its way into this deli. And instead of buying it, I am empowered in finding moral alternatives.

If someone had told me that I was going to grow emotionally due to a class, I would have laughed. Before entering Global issues class I was not aware someone could grow emotionally. Prior to Woolman, when I learned about problems happening in other countries I would be sad, but I could not empathize with the victims. For example when finding out about sweatshops I was sad, but I still went and bought clothes made in china. Coming to Woolman has really shown me what these people endured in their daily lives, and really helped me empathize with them. Essentially, Global Issues class has taught me the emotion of empathy, it has taught me to make decisions that do not affect others negatively, for example, buying fair trade products. I don’t want to say I was taught to buy fair trade, but Emily really did a good job on exposing to me at least, these issues.

The final thing that really impacted me positively was seeing how much power an individual has. Specifically in the Walk Out, Walk on, when individuals abandoned their current systems and created new systems that were sustainable and are now providing for themselves in a more viable way.



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