When Meeting Strangers

by Jesper Damberg, UWCRCN
January 18th, 2018

[aesop_content color=”#000000″ background=”#ffffff” component_width=”600px” columns=”1″ position=”none” imgrepeat=”no-repeat” disable_bgshading=”off” floaterposition=”left” floaterdirection=”up” revealfx=”off” overlay_revealfx=”off”]With the ambition of changing the world, we march forward to the rescue and liberation of the suffering. We have taken it upon us to be the knights of peace and sustainability. But have we claimed this task for only ourselves? Do we forget that others too can share these ambitions with as much passion as we do? I believe so – and it may even have contributed to some alienation between UWCers and non-UWCers fighting for the same principles.

Imagine the following. You are going to catch up with that friend from primary you last saw years ago. Finally, you will have that coffee you both tried to schedule for eternity. At the café, you talk about the good old days, but soon the conversation drifts to more interesting, significant and worldly matters. As the exemplary UWC student you are, you feel the need to remind her of the actual importance of combatting gender inequality, world poverty and corruption, because there is no way she was already aware of these issues to the extent that you, a unique product of the UWC movement, are. In fact, you do not only explain to her the complexity of these issues, but you also feel the need to clarify how little everyone else cares about these problems. It is inevitable, you say, that we are heading for ruin if these issues are not addressed. But worry no more you say! There are 17 high schools out there determined to tackle these problems head on!

Perhaps, this situation relates to you in some way or another. It surely does to me. But do not misunderstand, I try not to marginalise the magnitude of global issues nor to undermine the effort of our movement. But though our non-UWC friends may find such a conversation enlightening, and it may even have motivated them to join in on the struggle against despair, it may also have been an alienating experience. For some reason or the other, she too may have felt passionate about tackling a few of these issues, but now, instead, she feels too ‘small’ and belittled to dream of having an impact. After all, she does not have the UWC education which took you ten minutes of conversation to cover back to back.

On the other hand, when meeting another UWC alumni, you feel no need for clarification. You share ideals and perspective. Indeed, you assume, they already know the seriousness of the state of our world. Not unlike a war room, you plan in great detail how to transform our world into one that is more fair, caring, and inclusive. Finally, someone who understands.

But may one not discover the belief in a peaceful and sustainable world, to the same extent as we, outside of the UWC movement? Or is it our burden to bear alone? Assuming sole responsibility for such great tasks seem like the wrong way to go, and it is not in the inclusive spirit we like to claim we have. If we are to have an impact we need to encourage like-minded to join us shoulder by shoulder, instead of looking at them as the victims nor perpetrators of the problems we aim to solve.