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Wednesday, May 29, 2024
The Observer

A common future

As today’s youth, we are coming of age when the world faces serious existential challenges which require new thinking and a new basis for transnational cooperation. Otherwise, we may have no earth or human life to talk about in several decades to come. Neither new thinking nor a new basis of collaboration is possible if we remain beholden to, and entrenched in, parochial ways of thinking about the world. If we are to avoid the mistakes of the past and secure a different future for ourselves and those to come after us, we must make a deliberate effort to understand how others see the world and to explore room for collaboration for mutual benefit. Benefit should be for legitimate interests. Attempting to impose a way of life on other people in the name of ‘national interests’ is not a legitimate interest.

When I started out as a columnist for The Observer about two years ago, I chose my tag line as ‘On the other hand’ because I wanted to introduce into the public discourse here at Notre Dame alternative interpretations of reality or different views of the world. Naturally, public discourse on this campus — in classrooms that I was part of or columns that I read — was circumscribed by the experiences, knowledge, interests, and identity — the vantage point — of the predominant voices in our community. Obviously, this vantage point was self-reinforcing and had many blind spots that I felt made it inadequate for the role that public discourse on a college campus can play in deepening our understanding of each other and of the world both of which are critical to the new thinking and collaboration needed to combat the challenges we are faced with.

Through my columns, therefore, I hoped to expand and shift, even slightly, the contours of public discourse at Notre Dame in the hope that if a critical mass emerged with a radical commitment to change, Notre Dame could be the place where a transnational coalition of future leaders is born that could potentially remake the landscape of international politics and cooperation as we know it. This is because as a white, wealthy and Catholic institution, Notre Dame embodies the power alliance that runs the world which could be used either to enable the status quo or to transform it given an awakened political and social consciousness of the members of our community. So, I wrote about Africa and the African view of world affairs. I challenged popular interpretations of issues in public discourse in America and even dared to challenge the legitimacy the American empire and its perceived exceptionalism. Of course, the natural response was to push back, and to even insult in some cases. But democracy as a contestation of ideas demands that both correct and wrong ideas must be given room for expression. Otherwise, politics dies. We must struggle against wrong ideas but to suppress them is to suppress democracy. But the aim was not to bash the United States, its shortcomings notwithstanding, but to bring home for the white, wealthy and powerful American audience the perceptions of America and interpretations of American society and America’s role in the world as well non-American centric views of the universe.

So, as I thought about what to write about for my final column, I decided to return to where it all began. What can we do together as young people today to move the needle ever closer to a more harmonious world? A harmony embraced by all and not dictated by a few. In a word, we must banish forms of chauvinism. We all have an equal claim to this earth as the land of our ancestors. No one can lay exclusive claim to the world because we all found it here. As such, no single country should feel more entitled to or even aspire to have greater claims to ownership of the earth than others. Such a mentality born of a superiority complex is what has locked the world in perpetual conflict. There is absolutely no need for one to desire to live in a way that requires that they dominate others. If it is how the past was built and how the present has been maintained, it certainly will not be how the future is secured. It is embarrassing to brag about living in material prosperity while more than half the world wallows in abject poverty. It is like thanking God for sparing you from death as if those who suffered those misfortunes deserved them. It is a contradiction in terms to claim to stand for reason on the one hand and to pursue military might as the underwriter of one’s power. It reveals that one’s confidence is not so much in the reason that they profess so profusely but in the arms that they pile up so anxiously. And if arms remain the priority, we should expect that the resultant unjust ordering of the world will be always challenged by those who feel marginalized.

So, I hope the columns I wrote provoked some of you to reconsider some hardcore positions premised on illegitimate interests. Arrogant disdain for these concerns means that the peoples of the world who feel cheated have no option but to continue agitating and challenging the system with all tools available to them. And they will succeed because their cause is just. The world has enough in it for us all to live comfortably in it. Let us strive to forge a common future together because it is possible and desirable. Thank you for indulging my mind and for being patient readers. Kwa Heri ndugu zangu.

Trevor Lwere is a senior from Kampala, Uganda, studying Economics and Global Affairs with a minor in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE). He is a dee-jay in his free time and can be reached at tlwere@nd.eduor @LwereTrevor on Twitter.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.