As the looming obstacle of finals approaches, so does the eventual date when the College’s campus will shut down for Winter Break.
Our community will break apart, and most students will go home to the four corners of the world, though mostly in New Jersey.
Leaving the campus means more than just leaving a particular place, but a whole little society composed of classes, assignments, clubs, parties and people.
I mention this because it’s easy to forget during the school year that there is a world outside of the College, and during the break we get thrown back into it.
We all get wrapped up in the lives we have carved out for ourselves here, yet we are also always part of a wider world.
In fact, that world is so large that it is scary to even think about trying to learn anything worthwhile about it.
However, we should all be aware of what goes on in the world, because we are a part of it and we affect it no matter how little we know about it.
Think about everything you buy on a daily basis. Every time you buy a sandwich at a local restaurant there is a whole series of complex relationships.
Some farmer grew grain and then sold it to someone else to make it into bread. That bread was then shipped to Ewing and combined with other food products that had similarly complex backgrounds.
Purchasing that sandwich supports certain people and does not support other food producers. The same goes for all our goods, and for the most part, we do not personally know who made the things we use.
Perhaps, though, we should know something about them.
For instance, where does the money I pay for a $1.50 cup of coffee go? Who gets paid what amount for their work, and is that something that I personally think is fair? And if I disagree with something, what should I do instead?
It might seem daunting to consider such things, but we owe it to ourselves and to the people who are often getting paid very little to make the things we consume.
Hand in hand with the economic underpinnings of our world are the political ones.
A little over a month ago it was reported in the Washington Post that the CIA had secret prisons in Eastern Europe.
No one knows what goes on in these prisons, but given the present administration’s attempts to gain exceptions to legislation banning the use of torture, and the many prison scandals involving torture, it is not hard to guess.
That there are even such prisons was, “known to only a handful of officials in the United States,” and that is a dangerous proposition. The CIA is a part of our government, which is supposedly an expression of our collective will as a people.
That’s our government out there doing things to people with our silent approval. Regardless of your particular feelings about the president, it should strike you as odd that our government does things in our name in the “interests” of the American people, and we have absolutely no idea about it.
It is only possible for us, as citizens of this nation, to question whether we should do something in response.
How else can we make our government accountable for the actions it takes in our name?
Once we know about something, we can question it, and ourselves, to see if we really support it.
The world does not have to be any particular way. We can change it and make it into whatever kind of place we think is best, using reason and compassion.
Our abilities to gain knowledge and then to question what that knowledge means are the most important tools we have to form opinions, and then to act on them. Without those abilities, we are intellectually blind.
Of course there is never going to be enough time to learn everything that goes on in our huge world every day, but we should not let that be a reason for apathy.
It is dangerous to accept anything as dogma without a second thought, including our own personal beliefs. Question yourself, and why exactly you believe the things you do.
We are all taught beliefs growing up by parents, teachers and others, but there is no reason to accept something just because an authority figure said so. Think for yourself.
I realize I sound like an arrogant prick, so feel free to disregard everything I have written. Remember, though, that by doing so you are exercising the very abilities that I have been mentioning.
So think about this over the break, when we once again leave our little community.
Only once we have some kind of idea about what is going on in the world can we decide if we like the way things are. And only then will things start to change.
Information from – hrw.org/english/docs/2005/11/21/usdom12069.htm, washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/11/01/AR2005110101644.html