Yuexin Zeng (China, AC 10-12)
In the past two days, the campus has been filled with an atmosphere of enthusiasms and excitements – the Atlantic College Peace conference, a program of workshops and lectures related to global issues, has been successfully held during the 25th and 26th January.
The conference, mainly organized by AC students who are taking the Peace and Conflict course, intends to bring certain concepts out of the classroom, and expand them to the discussion of current global issues. Meaning “successfully held”, I do feel the impact brought to AC students during the conference – including the pleasure of a two-day code off (people, admit it…), but more importantly, in further aspects, it provided a platform to discuss and communicate current global issues from different angles and views.
From my personal perspective, the conference provided me an entirely new angle to critically discuss the political issues back in my country, China. I would describe the fresh feeling as “outside of the wall” – when government censorship doesn’t block my eyes any more, there is an entire different political view outside of the barrier.
Under the influence of media and education propaganda, peace and conflict issues appear to be pure and simple in the screen of politicians giving speeches, rather than the bloody pictures of families being wiped out and villages being razed. Media monopoly goes hand in hand with violence of silencing individuality – people back in China live in sound of the conveyor belt of government’s lies, in which they are told conflicts, particularly in Tibet, are brought by the “evil terrorists” who tend to destroy the peaceful situation; therefore, the only solution to bring back peace is to completely wipe out the terrorists, and long live China!
I used to be one of them – one of the people that believe government is the bright and glory side while terrorist should be colored by dark and evil, with hatred and anger. However, when I try to jump out of the position of government to view the issue, I find a different version of the story. From the perspective of “terrorists” – regardless of the colored word “terror” – isn’t government the source of conflict against peace?
Bringing out individuality of the ones dissent from the authority by actions of extreme terrorism, indeed, is considered as violence. But in further aspect, “what is the crime of robbing a bank compare to the crime of founding one?” Isn’t the existence of a government that prevents the expression of individuality another form of violence as well? How could we – citizens, being the masters of our nations – critically view the domestic issues related to conflict, and come up with the solutions of keeping peace?
“Include everyone, and listen to the voices of both sides.” This is how the conference influenced me.
When I look back to my motherland outside of the “speech wall”, I finally realize that unity and loyalty do not depend on absolute homogeneity. Media monopoly in China, along with government propaganda, makes it so difficult for us as a nation to get rid of our fear that difference implies, even guarantees, animosity and opposition. But denial of difference is not the road to harmony. It is the road only to a kind of false unity that is so fragile it will splinter at a touch. Listening to all those voices at once can be confusing, but silencing any of them puts in danger the very meaning of the historical pursuit.
Granted, every ideology – no matter in the aspect of different political views or religious believes – has a sense of exclusivity as part of its core identity, which eventually becomes the source of conflicts. Even so, I believe there is genuine potential for mutual understanding. While preserving faith toward one’s own tradition, one can respect, admire and appreciate other traditions. Harmony among the major faiths has become an essential ingredient of peaceful coexistence in our world. From this perspective, mutual understanding among these traditions is not merely the business of religious or political believers — it matters for the welfare of humanity as a whole, and it defines who we are, and why we are here, UWC!
-United World Colleges Student Magazine-