Everything got a lot less jovial in the past week. It’s hard to celebrate our newfound freedoms when over a million people have had to flee for their lives. We, however, are evidence that it can be otherwise.
Not that it was particularly jovial before then. For two years, we were under the yoke of a global catastrophe. We saw harrowing images of suffering from near and far. We also witnessed acts of incredible compassion – in our lovely city, and across the world. If there was one thing that ought to have brought the whole world closer, it was that.
It hasn’t. At least, not for everyone. In this case, a lone man’s political ambitions come at the cost of hundreds of lives, the future of his own people, and a return to a civilisational angst that our generation had, until now, only read about in textbooks.
As a student of few means, you can’t help but feel powerless in the face of such massive crises. The most we can seemingly do at this moment is to pray, and to make our protest heard. In the meanwhile, we have little choice but to go about our lives. Yet, that might be of help in more ways than we realise.
It’s harder to be a jingoist when you’ve shared a pint with ‘those people’
If you study or work abroad, you’re sure to have friends with different nationalities. It frees you of the many misconceptions about ‘those people’ that you might have had, and more importantly, gets you to appreciate other points of view. It’s harder to be a jingoist when ‘those people’ are people you respect and have shared a pint with.
The university too, is a beacon of hope. As a repository of history and a nursery of science, it plays an important role in helping us avoid disaster. It also helps create educated citizens of countries across the globe, who form a bulwark against warmongering, irrationality, and oppression.
While this all might sound a bit sappy and self-congratulatory, especially when families are being shelled at in Kiev and Kharkiv, it does indicate that we at this university are far from mere passers-by. That in educating ourselves, and engaging with others, we can be a small blessing to our own societies, and humanity at large.
It’s hard not to take life very seriously when confronted with something so horrifying. Perhaps we can make a difference, if not immediately, in the tenor of our lives. All friends of progress, no matter where they’re from, are friends of Ukraine.