Outside in and inside out! A place to store ideas about education.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Peace, Security, and Identity: To Be like a Bee

(This is the last part of the 4-part essay Peace, Security and Identity: A proposal for the youth of Southeast Asia

(read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3)

So in this era of accelerating growth and uncertain futures, only those who are secure in their identities can peacefully navigate the currents of change. It is but practical for the youth to start gaining this knowledge while still young. This also means that for the youth of today the need to learn does not start and end with school and university, but we must be able to travel through life as a bee in a rainforest: to collect tidbits of knowledge from any and all the variety of communities we encounter, and in return, to pollinate these communities with fresh ideas and new directions. In the end of the day, we come home to our hives and make honey, propolis and royal jelly: our provisions for the next day, our strength potions for the future, and our contribution to the next generation.

Peace, Security, and Identity: Security and identity

(this is Part 3/4 of the essay Peace, Security and Identity: A proposal for the youth of Southeast Asia)

(read Part 2)

Indeed, the question of strength boils down to a question of identity. Finding our own identity -- as individuals, communities, nations, and now, as a region -- is a task that we have to collectively undertake. For to be secure in our own identity and in our capacity to uphold such an identity is the one prerequisite to peace. We tend to think of security as security of livelihoods, of food, of homes, and economies, security based on environmental and material conditions. As a result, we tend to define ourselves within the context of what we can do and who we can “be” within such conditions. This kind of security is put into question when communities are under the state of war or under poverty. Thus, such communities define what to them is essential and develop value systems that enable them to obtain these essentials.

Even during peacetime, we can experience circumstances when we lose our sense of security. One such experience is travel. When one travels, one leaves security to indulge in being in the thick of new contexts and cultures, and thus one loses security (and therefore, security in their identity) for a spell and can therefore look back at their lives with a new perspective. Thus, travel, whether for business, pleasure, or as a religious requirement, is a necessity in the quest to define our identity.

There is, however, another kind of security. Communities who have endured, nay thrived, in centuries of protracted war have found security not in their capacity to control their environment but in their capacity to know of their inner selves. Such communities value knowledge of self and of the relation between the whole and its parts, and how things come full circle, above all kinds of knowledge and possessions. Happily, the ASEAN region has a rich spiritual tradition. This kind of knowledge – and thus, this kind of security and identity – is not so inaccessible for the ASEAN youth, specially today. 

Indeed, peace is not a characteristic of institutions but is an effect of internal peace within individuals, communities, and nations, but it is important for institutions such as the ASEAN to create mechanisms to encourage it. If likened to a deck of cards, institutions can create the Spades (governance), the Clubs (military), and the Diamonds (economy), but only communities can hold the Hearts.

(on to Part 4)

(to add: Another situation where one finds lack of security is during a severe or prolonged sickness in the family, which is one of the reasons why sickness is considered a blessing.)

Peace, Security, and Identity: Coming from strength to strength

(Part 2/4 of the essay Peace, Security and Identity: A proposal for the youth of Southeast Asia) (Read Part 1)

Diversity is the strength and banner of the ASEAN. It has in its own backyard different types of government, at least five major religions, a multiplicity of races and cultures and their even more numerous combinations. Indeed, aside from our common addiction to rice, there seems to be no single unifying element in all the ASEAN. However, barring Thailand, all of the nations of the ASEAN have come from a recent colonial past, and have built their current formal structures of government, economy, and education based on colonial institutions.

The colonial nature of our governments has given us Southeast Asians an inferiority complex. We have set our sights to the standard that our colonizers have created for themselves, painstakingly training ourselves to speak as they speak, value what they value, and practice as they do. This has put us at a distinct disadvantage. Not only have we turned our back on our own culture which encapsulates our strengths and ways of knowing and doing, we are setting ourselves to fail consistently, as we are acting still in behalf of our colonizers and not as stewards of our own future. Thus, the first challenge to the youth is to make use of the freedom and opportunity to find our strength and our place in the post-colonial world, by building our own perspectives and paradigms, so that we can move from strength to strength, taking our rightful place in the community of nations.

(on to Part 3)

Peace, Security, and Identity: Peace and Privilege

(Part 1/4 of the essay Peace, Security and Identity: A proposal for the youth of Southeast Asia

When asked what the youth can do to contribute to the development of the ASEAN, it is at once evident that the successor generation – our generation – has a lot to contribute. For one, we were born after the founding of the ASEAN, at the period when most, if not all, armed conflict between nations have already been on their way to resolution. Thus, we are fortunate to witness the fruits of peacetime, where looking for mutual goals and meeting mutual needs are high on the negotiating table, and when fear and suspicion has been replaced by openness, friendship, and trust. This is furthered by the growth of the Internet and affordable regional travel (as well as the removal of tourist visa requirements for ASEAN nationals), which has allowed for online and real-life seeking and meeting of minds and cultures for everyday people.

We are a privileged generation, free of the insecurities of conflict and restrictions of distrust, and we are called to make the most of this privilege to celebrate and explore and innovate on the diversity of communities that the ASEAN has to offer.

(to part 2/4)

Peace, Security and Identity (Overview)

This series was written as an essay for my application to the ASEAN Youth Workshop on ASEAN Community “Unity in Diversity” organized by the CENPRIS, USM this December. It is actually a conglomerate of the themes that I have been puzzling about for the past few years (yes, Virginia, years) and I am here presenting them in four parts:

(1) Peace and Privilege

(2) Coming from Strength to Strength

(3) Security and Identity, and

(4) To Be like a Bee

Many thanks to my supervisor and CENPRIS Director, Dr. Azhari Karim for the encouragement, and of course to the better half (at itago na natin sya sa pangalang "Direk").