I remember, sometime in the spring of my grade 11 year, signing up for my grade 12 classes. I saw a class called Social Justice. I debated signing up – it seemed interesting – but ultimately decided against it since none of my fiends seemed interested. I remember feeling a bit regretful that I had let the chance pass, but I soon forgot about it.
And then, last spring, as I was planning out my years at Kwantlen, I once again saw a class called “Social Justice” on th course sign up sheet. Even though, from what I heard, that class ended up being a complete failure, I still wanted to try this one.
And now, at the tail end of this semester, I’m glad I did.
Not all the concepts we talked about in this class were new to me. Cultural relativism in particular was something I had heard about in a communications class during my first year at Kwantlen. However, when we discussed it then, it did not strike me as anything special. I read about it, memorized it for the exam, and then promptly forgot about it.
When I heard about it again this time around, I had the same initial reaction. However, as we watched the video about the court in Rwanda, and during the discussion afterwards, I got what I had missed the first time around. It finally got through to me that even though the way the Rwandans were doing it was no the way it was done here, and quite possibly would not even work here, it worked for them. In their close-knit community, still trying to heal from the ravages of all the fighting, it provided them with what they needed most – healing. Our justice system here is impersonal; that it considered one of it’s strengths. However, the personal nature of their outdoor court was one of its strengths. They were deciding on the punishment for those who had committed murder. There was no way to undo the crimes these people had committed, but just the fact that both parties – both the offenders and the victims – were involved made it a little bit easier for the victims. Even when they did not get the results they wanted, they could see that the whole community was trying to help.
Another thing that struck me during this semester was just how easy it is to make a difference in the life of another person even when that person is on the other side of the planet. It’s easy to see how donating a can of food to the food bank helps a person here at home, but it’s much harder to see how raising money here can help someone on the other side of the world. However, having fundraised over $800 for kids in Africa, I can see how even little things here at home can help those in need abroad. It’s insane to me that a pub night can do so much good, and help so many kids get the education that they need to break the vicious cycle of poverty. It helps to have a face for who your helping – I sponsor a child through World Vision, and the occasional letters make me feel like I’m actually doing something. Knowing that our money was specifically funding a child going to school and the school supplies that they’d need made it seem achivable. It made it seem like we were really making a difference. The most important thing I’ll take away from this class is that the tiniest action here at home can have enormous effects far abroad. The praxis component of this course was the most useful and will have the most far-reaching concequences.
It brings to mind a quote by Margaret Mead that I saw in a music video when I was a kid. “Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”