What is global engagement? Why does it matter?
A simple phrase composed of popular buzzwords has a special impact on its target audience – whether positive or negative – and “global engagement” is no exception. However, despite how often this phrase is used in slogans and university recruitment messages, morning talk-shows, etc.; it is fairly common for the meaning of the phrase to be overlooked in favor of a sense of omniscience.
The educated enjoy feeling informed, and they should. Being an informed citizen of the world is a tremendously important thing. Truly, it would be almost impossible to live successfully in the very global world we have created for ourselves without such a skill. Nevertheless, what is generally regarded as being “informed” is not the same as being “globally engaged”.
Informed people are your hipster cousin Deborah who’s newest reinvention of herself involves only wearing “authentic” hand-embroidered saris or your brother’s new girlfriend who is “just so shocked” by the underage sex-trade in Russia, the fact that Klansmen still roam the streets of the American South, and every informed citizen’s favorite – starving children in Africa. (Obviously, these are all terrible issues in modern society and I am in no way belittling them. My point is that your brother’s “informed citizen” girlfriend doesn’t care about those children being sold to predators in Siberia or infants dying of hunger in Burundi or any of the other hundreds of human atrocities that flash across her phone screen.) Merriam-Webster’s definition of engagement is as follows: “to be involved or greatly interested in an event or cause. synonym: committed”.
You see, it isn’t enough to acknowledge that these issues exist. On the same note, reading the Wiki page about a culture and extending your wardrobe to include new garments will not make you a “citizen of the world”. There’s an amount of effort required to understand and appreciate or consider things from many different perspectives. It’s easy enough to sit in your living room in Norman, Oklahoma and watch a news story about how teen pregnancy is on the rise in Britain and an entirely different one to think, “How could they take steps to instigate change? Why are children as young as twelve getting pregnant? What could be the catalyst for this? What is the sexual education like there? Do they have access to contraceptives?” It is important to understand the many facets of a situation or culture, not just the surface that is presented to us all.
In short, being “globally engaged” means looking at the world around you and actually giving a damn.