Working toward one world

Written by Muleskinner Staff


(WARRENSBURG, Mo., digitalBURG) — For thousands of years, countries have struggled with the concepts of nationalism and internationalism as they established their foreign policy. When they chose nationalism, they put the security of their people ahead of their global alliances. When they chose internationalism, they put global stability ahead of their national identity.

As millions of refugees leave Syria to settle in other parts of the world, the United States and the European Union are trying to find a balance between global unity and national security. Andrzej Wilk, a renowned Polish professor and international journalist, visited the University of Central Missouri to discuss the current refugee crisis and the European Union’s attempt to promote internationalism in the face of nationalist struggles.

Wilk said globalization has brought the conflict between nationalism and internationalism to the center of European politics.

“Globalization makes nations contact each other and realize their differences,” Wilk said.  “We get in touch, and we see that they are different, and sometimes that difference will be received in positive ways and sometimes with suspicion. There is also another factor, which is a close need for identity.”

Despite widespread fear and dissatisfaction with the government, Wilk said internationalism has helped the EU become an economic and political powerhouse.

“I think that the European Union is not doing enough public relations work, not advertising its real accomplishments,” Wilk said. “Some European achievements – peace, freedom of travel, freedom of movement for education – are taken for granted but it was not always the case. This is something that should be preserved, but it is not that appreciated…there is a propensity to say, ‘Those bureaucrats from Brussels want to impose their will on us,’ but the bureaucrats from Brussels work together with the representatives from all governments. So we cannot say that we have nothing; we have a say if we are active.”

Wilk said the global refugee crisis has led to a rise in nationalism within the EU.

“This influx of refugees from the Middle East, particularly from Syria, caused a feeling of insecurity,” Wilk said. “The main reason is that it is taking place so fast, that so many in a short period of time are getting to Europe. So they were disillusioned with the progress, with the capitalism, with European integration.”

Globalization has made nationalism an international problem. When countries abandon their international alliances, they impact the regional stability and security of other nations.

After Great Britain voted to leave the EU, CNN Money reported the Dow Jones Industrial Average Index dropped by 900 points in only two days. The long-term consequences of the Brexit are still unknown, leaving politicians, economists and global citizens concerned about the stability and security of their own countries.

The United States has also seen a rise in nationalism. As immigration, war and partisan politics force Americans to reassess their role in a global society, scholars like Wilk encourage students to embrace the ideals of internationalism and reject nationalist policies.

Charlie Ambrose, interim adviser for the study abroad and exchange office, said he believes in internationalism and the impact it can have on American students.

“As Dr. Wilk said, the world is getting smaller and more interconnected as we face questions of nationalism and how international we should be, and he also (said) that education is so key,” Ambrose said. “Here at UCM we want to support internationalism. Our campus is growing very much more internationally. We’re having more international students on campus, and we’re sending more students to study abroad to get an international experience themselves.”

Wilk spoke to students, professors and journalists across campus about the principles of internationalism and the dangers of nationalism in a globally connected society. Gregory Streich, department chair of government, international studies and languages, said Wilk’s visit reminded him of the importance of working with other countries and cultures.

“One of the things that I came away from that talk with was being open to learning about other countries…even if you don’t agree with another country and what other people from other countries are saying, it’s important to try to understand their reasons,” Streich said. “Another was the importance of learning a language and studying abroad. If you get the chance to do it, you should take it.”

In the end, Wilk said education is the answer to nationalism, xenophobia and widespread fear.

“I think that there is a need for, firstly, improved education,” Wilk said. “It is an underestimated and very powerful instrument. In Europe we have deeply rooted nationalistic prejudice (and) stereotypes…it’s difficult to eradicate, but it is possible to weaken this by proper education, by cross incorporation in UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) and outside of UNESCO (and) by a large exchange of students.”

After an eventful week in Warrensburg, Wilk traveled back to the EU to continue sharing the values of internationalism and global unity with his students. In his absence, UCM students will continue to wrestle with the principles of internationalism as they search for solutions to this global struggle.

The UCM website says there are more than 2,000 international students on campus, and Ambrose said nearly 300 students study abroad each year. As we travel to other countries and talk with people from other cultures, we can learn to find a balance between our national identity and our role as global citizens. With education and a willingness to embrace our differences, we can hold onto American principles as we become part of an interconnected world.