INTERNATIONAL WOMAN GLOBAL CITIZEN: HOW TO BE EFFECTIVE IN TODAY'S GLOBAL WORLD
By Dr Moni Storz
Recently, I was invited to be the keynote speaker for the International Women's Day celebration dinner, organised by the Southern Metropolitan Region , Department of Education , Employment and Training. The region has 248 schools and there were 263 people from the teaching professions being represented at the dinner. I would like to share this speech with all of you, as I believe it has some meaning for everyone regardless of their professions or gender.
All of us here know what international woman means. However, the phrase 'global citizen' requires a little explanation. In the accelerating globalisation of today's world, what are the challenges for all of us, first as men and women, and secondly, as global citizens?
For me, as an international woman as well as a global citizen, globalisation of our world presents four challenges amongst many others. These are chaotic changes (known more appropriately as a revolution), information overload, cross-cultural communication and spiritual jetlag. Let me elaborate on these four challenges and what they imply. Having done this, I will discuss how we can be more effective as human beings while maintaining the status of a global citizen, as international men or women residing on planet earth.
FOUR GLOBAL CHALLENGES
* Chaotic changes a revolution
This refers to a revolution rather than an evolution. A revolution has hit us as teachers. Our classrooms have no boundaries with the 'Internetting' of knowledge and expertise.
Our classrooms are no longer ours but they belong to everybody who knows how to surf the Internet.
* Information overload
We feel we have to know so much to keep up with ourselves, our children and our students. With everybody, in fact. Sometimes we have the feeling that our 7 year olds know so much more than we, their teachers or their parents. A very humbling experience for some us and for others, it is a threatening experience. (Wether we experience humility or threat depends largely on our self-esteem. Self esteem is how we value ourselves - it is the motor that drives our confidence level, our motivation, our actions and our successes in who we are and what we do.)
* Cross-cultural communication
In a global world, our encounters with each other are always cross-cultural. In a cross-cultural or multi cultural classroom, for example, we face a bigger challenge than ever before. Compared to a mono cultural classroom, our multi cultural classroom requires changes, e.g our increasing inter-cultural sensitivity and our skills in listening and speaking, and our knowledge of other cultures needs to be rapidly expanded.
* Spiritual Jetlag
All of you know what physical jet lag is. Well, spiritual jetlag is an analogy of that. It refers to our bodies and spirits not synchronising, our spiritual biorhythms are out of sync. so to speak. This creates stress and despair, a sense of powerlessness that often spirals into helplessness. This is an issue that strikes us as teachers more frequently than we care to admit. The dis-association of our body from our spirit is a global problem that requires a universal solution. In short, our bodies or our material lives are running ahead of our spiritual needs. When there is incongruence, a disjunction between body and spirit, then an existential despair is the result. This manifests itself in a restless longing for the nameless and the unnameable. That which has no name and that which is too easily named is the result. That which has no name is usually a longing for meaning. That which is easily named is addiction to: drugs, food, sex, romances, alcohol, anger, repression of sexual needs and unfulfilled desires, etc. etc.
These are the four challenges amongst many that I face as a woman and a global citizen. These are challenges, not necessarily problems. Challenges enlarge our lives. Or kill us. When we take all four challenges together and mix them together in a random fashion, we can get very, very busy, confused, frightened, and stressed. Or exhilarated and excited by the opportunities and potential to grow.
In the face of these four challenges, how can we become effective human beings?
WHAT DOES BEING AN EFFECTIVE HUMAN BEING MEAN?
I am sure all of us in this room have a different answer to this question. As a cross-cultural person, let me draw from two traditions to form a context wherein I can answer the question. To be effective means to live a whole life, be a whole person. To live body and spirit. The language of wholeness in any culture is informed by love: love myself and loving others. The path of love is not new and can take several forms. As an Asian Australian who is truly living as a cross-cultural person in a globalised world, let me draw from two traditions:
From the Christian tradition which informs a large part of western culture let us retrieve a picture of Jesus Christ dying on the Cross and his words to the Romans who crucified him: Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing. That is the ideal of Christian love, unconditional and forgiving of enemies.
On the Confucianist side which informs the Sinitic or chopsticks peoples of Asia the Chinese, Taiwanese, Japanese, Koreans and Vietnamese, we have the concept of ren.
It has many meanings but for me, it symbolises two things: first, that all of us are human beings. As a human being, we have an inner being and an outer body. So just as we need to feed our physical body with food and water so the inner person, the spiritual side of the biological human being also requires food and water. The food and water for the spirit of the human being is found in music, poetry, art and aesthetics and nature.
The second meaning of ren is that as a human being, I am forever connected to other human beings. It is only in this connectedness with others that I realise my human-ness. So what does this implies. The view that I am connected with you forever and ever implies that whatever good or bad that I do unto you will bounce back on to me. So if I care about myself, I also care about you
For me, to be effective means I am successful in these two spheres of my being Me. These are my biological and my spiritual spheres. If the body that houses my spirit is OK, then I am whole. When my body and my spirit are OK, I am confident that I can make meaningful my own existence and that of others. I feel connected to my Self and to You as the Other.
To achieve meaningfulness and therefore effectiveness as an international man or woman and as a global citizen, I leave you with TOSS as a guideline for living our days.
One way of remembering how to be effective as a human being in the global context of our lives is recall that culture is an answer to four universal human problems. These human problems are:
1. Time how to manage time. It is to do with deadlines, budgets, dying and living, standing on queues, traffic jams, changes these are some examples that are time related. To be effective, make time for yourself to be with your inner Self.
2. Others how to manage people and relationships, eg. In-laws, out-laws, students, clients, difficult people, your children etc. To be effective, practise unconditional loving as a conscious routine through virtues taught in any great Spiritual tradition be it Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, etc.
3. Self - how to manage your individual self - the inner and outer you- eg. your health, your sleep, your habits, your mind, your attitude, your self esteem, your spiritual life, your inner Beingness. To be effective, use a wholistic paradigm that integrates body, mind and spirit/soul.
4. Space how to manage space, the ecology of your life and those around you. This the physical environment that houses your body, To be effective, be deeply aware of the feng shui ie where your body is sited and how this as a body of energy or chi is affected by spatial elements such as pollution, light, climatic changes, etc.
In learning to manage TOSS, in learning to love in the midst of these four challenges, perhaps we will be redeemed as human beings on planet earth and in our redemption, re-discover the lost pieces of ourselves and re-build who we truly are as human beings.