Alice’s Reflection: Peace and Justice – ESEM150: The Perfect Human

Do I think about power: who has it, and how it should be used? Am I careful to use my own power for just and constructive ends?

Just a few months ago, I had a very different view on power from now. I used to though that there are two kinds of power: the power of each and power of someone has authority.
I used to think that individual only has the power to change their own lives and not others. Only people with authority have the power to influence others life. People with authority can be divided into two groups: holding jobs which have legal or economic authority and being high orders in the social hierarchy. In Vietnam, it is the norm that people holds important jobs in the government are people who are born into families with high social positions and many connections. Vietnamese people have the tradition of respecting older people and thus, this tradition gives some people the power over others. The tradition is taken seriously to the point of not encouraging people from lower orders to raise their own opinions. While there are many exceptions to my observations, in general, I believe that these understandings have turned into truth in life. One may argue that helping others is essential; however, I used to think that individual’s power and influence are insignificant.
Now, I see that one person can have an unimaginable power. Reading stories and watching others, I realize that the smallest action such as a smile can influence and potentially change someone life. I once read a story about a man say that he was going to end his life if it wasn’t for a boy he rides the bus smiling at him every day. A small action can change people’s perception, prejudice, and stereotypes. I am taught that blue collar jobs are for lazy people who did not work hard in school. When I look at workers in Vietnam, they always look so tired, unhappy and they always talk in a hostile tone. Also, those people never say or act like they love their job. Thus, I have set a stereotype on blue collar worker. But this change when I start seeing documentaries of Japanese people saying how and what they love about their jobs. Then when I came here to Earlham, I see how all the faculty and staff love their job and seem to have fun doing it. They all change my perceptions.
Now, I see that the thing we do every day has an unintentional effect on people around us. I now understand that we all have power. This power manifests in the shape of our actions, interaction in everyday life. We should use it to improve the life of those around us. Life is difficult, life is hard and fills with conflicts. However, each person has the power to change it.
Now that I notice my own power, I see myself as responsible to speak out against the unjust I see and help others. Though I can see my power helping to construct a better society, there are still questions that I ponder. I am scared of being judged and rejected by society. Also, in Vietnam, having opposing ideas is usually considered a bad thing or something unimportant both socially and legally. Therefore, I just can’t help but think that though I have the power of helping those around me, I am limited when I want to do something bigger, greater. Unjustly is not uncommon in Vietnam. We usually read articles about how people with power or money can get away with most of their demeanor. Most of the time, I see that people will just speak aggressively on social media and not do anything in reality. Those who do stand up and take actions are considered to be disrupting the community. Thus, currently, I do not see how I can help to create a community where justice is present. I believe I need to learn more and develop my ability in order to address such problems.

One thought on “Alice’s Reflection: Peace and Justice – ESEM150: The Perfect Human”

  1. Great reflection. You’re encountering a lot of different cultures at Earlham. Sometimes that can be overwhelming! I’m glad you’re able to think about what you see and hear and how that is different from your home. Some of it will be better, and some of it will be worse. I agree that it’s scary to go against the cultural norms. Simply recognizing power dynamics is the first step to changing yourself and helping others – you’re doing a great job.

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