Think locally, act globally. This has been a phrase which has stuck with me over the last four months. The global sociological imagination is something which has been and still is a large part of my life, although before I had no understanding of the concept. In our own communities we can work to make substantive and sustainable change which, through cause and effect, can ultimately have an impact on a global scale. It is true that a few drops of water make a mighty ocean. One of the greatest ways to make a significant difference is through raising consciousness or creating awareness. Being aware of the far reaching consequences of ones actions is an important piece of this. Intersectionality has been very interesting in understanding this. Ones place in society is the result of many contributing factors such as age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, class and so on and so forth. There are many ways in which an individual can be oppressed in some ways and hold privilege in others. I am an example of this, holding privilege as an individual with European ancestry and middle class however am oppressed in many ways due to being a woman. The social construction of reality has held its weight as well, the way we perceive and shape our experiences is fundamental to being in my opinion. I have grown a keen awareness of the systems of domination around, often systemic, which are rooted in social structures. Oppression is internalized and institutionalized into every encounter of being it seems. The presentation by the organization “Under the Same Sun” was reflective of this, showing how people can indoctrinate others for monetary gain and at the expense of people of albinism. The reality of ways in which groups of people oppress others is alarming and the more aware I become the more able I am understand ways in which I can make a difference. As discussed by the presenters, the term “Albino” is often perceived as derogatory and “people of albinism” is preferential to such. There are consequences for the words that we use on a day to day basis, such as how slut-shaming ultimately perpetuates rape culture and racial slurs ultimately perpetuate ethnic inequality. My group presentation also helped me to understand the global sociological imagination and the importance of communication, cooperation and teamwork. By having a set of principles in mind as a reminder of the reason why my group and I worked to fund raise, we were able to commit ourselves entirely to our cause. A few hours out of my day is not even remotely the slightest inconvenience and provides children in rural areas of Ghana with an education and a future. It is empowering for myself as well, to be able to give the gift of knowledge by my own labour. It doesn’t take much to make a difference in someone elses life and it calls on human compassion and empathy, characteristics which create a better world for all. In my opinion, human suffering, no matter where, is human suffering and as we all strive to thrive on this planet, it takes the best of each and every one of us to care for each other. By collecting bottles my group was able to keep litter off of the streets of our communities, commit to an ethical standard which respects nature and the environment and give someone a future. It has been a fantastic semester and I look forward to doing what I can in the future to empower the disenfranchised and extend my hand to others.
FACE is a foundation which seeks to provide youth with education opportunities, especially those in rural areas of Africa. Education is a powerful tool for empowering the disenfranchised, who through knowledge can gain the skills to adequately gain independence and break through the constraints of poverty. Funding creates opportunities for growth and the empowerment of a few can ultimately mean the empowerment of the many. Children in Ghana are given funding to pursue education and the money provided is used to give them access to the necessary tools such as textbooks, backpacks and learning utensils. Other things can range from money for lunch to shoes to get to school. Cause and effect is a major part of this, as those who are given opportunity can in the future pass on their knowledge and extend a helping hand to others. This is a large part of the global sociological imagination.
The organization Under the Same Sun presented in class about the dangers for people of Albinism in Africa, with specific activism in Tanzania. Before this presentation, I was completely unaware of the fact that 1 in every 2000 people in Africa is indeed a person of Albinism and that this physical difference causes vast inequality. This is indeed a notable social justice issue. The presentation discusses the daily lives of those living in Africa, the fear and tragedy they encounter. Anyone seeking to make a buck in Tanzania can use so called magic, sorcery, witchcraft or “voodoo” to do so, at a cost however. People of albinism are hunted for their body parts, which are used in sorcery practices, valued highly for creating potions or spells for wealthier individuals who believe that using such will give them luck or privilege. Children are murdered and it is terrifying to imagine. Parents often abandon their children if they are born with albinism or worse, at some lengths kill their children. These individuals are viewed as ghosts by others, often as eternal beings, or not human at all. Under the Same Sun is raising awareness of the atrocities in Tanzania. I answered a question and received a DVD to further explore the issue. After watching the film, it went straight to the heart. It is very inspiring to see an organization working to keep children safe and provide proper healthcare and education bursaries.
Human Rights have been created to ensure governmental protection of minorities and to give them a voice and are defined by this chapter as “universal moral rights that all people possess by virtue of being human”. This cries for the universal qualities we all carry and to protect these. Social Justice is a large part of the battle for equality, ensuring that inequalities are tackled through dignified measures. It would seem that there are still issues of human rights violations in todays day and age ranging from the protection of ethnic minorities to the fight for acceptance and tolerance of the LGBT community.
Two types of privilege are defined in this chapter, one is unearned privilege and the other conferred dominance. Unearned privilege is the unearned or immunity granted to or enjoyed by persons in a dominant group and conferred dominance denotes giving one person power over another. I am a member of a dominant group being of European ancestry and am therefore privileged over ethnic minorities in Canada. I come from a middle-class family and am therefore privileged over low income households. On the other hand I am a woman and therefore face gender inequality. Each of these factors provides different types of privilege, often unearned and in other ways disadvantages. I live at home for free and have my education for which has a lot to do with coming from a middle-class Caucasian family. I also come from a community which is vastly Caucasian where the majority of households are middle-class.
The social construction of difference is a social process which can be described as otherizing or othering. Stereotyping reduces human beings to labels, often negative, so that when someone sees you they instantly view you in those negative terms. This negative stigma is the driving force behind what marginalizes minorities. “You are Jewish, therefore cheap and I don’t want to associate with someone who is cheap”. Disassociation is a simple form of prejudice held by those who determine peoples identity through stereotypes.
Again, applying social theory, the social construction of difference in this instance, to the Ocuppy Vancouver movement is adequate. And again “lazy hippies” marginalizes protesters, through generalizing them, creating a sense of otherness. This is exactly why people don’t take the time to listen, because they have preconceived notions and view protesters as others not reflecting their views. People do not want to associate with the movement simply because of the negative stigma of otherness it holds. Interesting.
Social constructivsm seeks to explore how we as individuals and human beings socially construct our own realities. It assumes that there is neither nothing natural or normal about our world and instead views that human beings reflect a world not necessarily of their making. This understanding of the world can be used to describe how as children we internalize prejudice, notions of justice, of morality, or gender amongst many other things. Critical thinking allows us to peer more directly and deeply at the causes of such an understanding of the world, opening us up to more than one paradigm of knowledge. The phrase “One person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter” (using person instead of man in order to not assume that the default human being is a man) is an adequate representation of the social construction of reality model. What may be one thing for us, is entirely different for another persons worldview, paradigm or understanding of the world. Cultural differences are a part of this as well.
Hegemony is a large part of being a critical constructivist. Hegemony is the “process of control and domination by the ruling elite through consensus of the controlled/dominated”. Through social injustice issues of economic inequality, victims internalize the idea that their position in society is their own fault and accept that this is true. However through an understanding of hegemony and social construction of reality, an individual may be able to understand that their position in society is the result of many things and not particularly their fault.
I would apply this to the Occupy Movement, something that has been very interesting for me to keep up with. I have spent time at the gallery myself talking to people only to find enthralling conversation, genuine compassion and understanding and intelligence to boot! These people are using grass roots initiatives to wake up the rest of the 99% to the fact that their inability to secure economic independence is more than laziness, it is a result of many factors intersecting. Calling thousands of people lazy hippies is an example of victim blaming and in my opinion sort of an unconscious denial of the truth. Prejudice and stereotyping fuels the opposition to the movement, generalizing the entirety of it and its diverse supporters as lazy drugged out hippies. Through my own engagement in the movement I have to come to find that it’s supporters are union workers, members of the 1%, high school students, entrepreneurs, visionaries, 84 year old activists etc. etc. In conclusion, it is interesting to see how society internalizes certain things and projects them onto other people.
In Chapter One of “Social Justice in Local and Global Contexts” a key element is opening your mind to critical thinking. Critical thinking is the ability to see through more than one paradigm and adequately deconstruct, debunk and thoroughly understand an issue. Rather than basing your opinion on the surface level or your first impression, critical thinking gives the individual the power to unveil entire new levels of understanding. There are many ways in which critical thinking can be applied. By understanding concepts such as ethnocentrism, positionality and dialectical materialism, you can bridge the gap between your own personal privilege and your place in society. For example, historical materialism from Karl Marx’s theory shows that history itself is a story of evolving societies that progress whenever there is a new arrangement of power. This new arrangement of power happens whenever a threshold of synthesis is met, following the thesis and antithesis. Through this understanding we can critically think about how the struggle for power can often enable growth as conflict over legitimacy is formed.
What sums up this chapter for me is the global sociological imagine. The GSI seeks to understand cause and effect and the rippling consequences of our actions. As well that we have a direct impact on people internationally. A main aspect of social justice is the idea of thinking globally and acting locally. Empowering someone in your own hometown could mean empowering someone far away, you never know if that person you helped out could be helping somewhere far away in the future. We are influential beings with the love of humanity in our hearts.