BY JULIE KNUTSON
Originally published on Nomad Press website
“Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew,” wrote the novelist Arundhati Roy in an April 3, 2020, Financial Times column. Roy continued, “This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.”
In all corners of the world, as Roy points out, the COVID-19 pandemic has set in motion a moment of rupture, a moment of potential transformation. But what waits on the other side?
What happens is up to us as a global, human collective. We can choose despondency, isolation, and inaction . . . or we can choose hope, engagement, and action.
Global Citizenship: Engage in the Politics of a Changing World is a book that I began writing nearly two years ago. It was intended as a guide for young adults who wanted to better understand the forces and factors that shaped our present, so that they could, in turn, act for a more just, humane, and sustainable world.
It was also intended to be a resource that built not just “future-readiness,” but present engagement with intersecting human rights, environmental, social, cultural, economic, and political justice issues.
As a new school year begins, kids around the world—in the United States, Brazil, France, Spain, India, Kenya, Australia, Mexico—return to classrooms that look strikingly different than those they left behind in March. These re-envisioned, reconfigured spaces might be virtual. They might have desks spaced multiple arms-length apart. They might be outdoors. Students and teachers may rightly enter with a sense of powerlessness and uncertainty, feeling alone and adrift in uncharted waters. Those feelings are valid, not unwarranted, and wholly worthy of exploration.
But for these young people and those who guide them, remember this: you aren’t powerless, and you aren’t alone. You can act to effect positive change, locally, nationally, and globally, just as people have done in the past and just like people are doing in the present.
Work to understand the biases and injustices that led us to this moment. And follow the examples of so many of the children and adults alike profiled in this book who set out to find solutions in the face of naysayers and obstacles, to pave a path toward a future in which the promises of the United Nations’ Declaration of Human Rights—the promise that, “the inherent dignity and of the inalienable rights of all members of the human family”—be upheld. In the words of UN Secretary General António Guterres, commit to “building back better;” to mending human rights and dignity in our broken world.
You can create conditions that promote the UDHR’s strived-for “freedom, justice, and peace in the world.” Don’t wait. Start now.
Because, really? There’s no time like the present.
IMAGE: New twelve inch terrestrial globe (ca. 1891) by Rand McNally & Company. Original from Library of Congress. Rawpixel.