Volume 93, Issue 43

Tuesday, November 16, 1999


Memorial not in style on campus

An out of this world anniversary

Convention not always so rational

A time to look at the real world

Maximum passion for gettin' laid

University a scary place

We musn't forget the Holocaust

Best things in life free?

Sharks coming up for air

A time to look at the real world

To the Editor:

So here we are, thousands of young men and women studying rigorously to become tomorrow's movers and shakers. After passing through this final threshold of higher education, each one of us will at last be thrust upon the "real" world.

The notion of this fast-approaching world excites many students. It frightens others. Those who are not quite ready to tempt their destinies with corporate America may find comfort in the university lifestyle if a three-year degree ends up taking five years to complete.

To me, the perception of a North America's "real" world is nothing more than smoke and mirrors.

This past year I spent four months travelling and working in several African countries. The situations I became a part of in the Third World broadened my focus to realize there are completely different societies out there. They differ not merely by the condiments chosen for french fries or the preferred side of the road on which to drive, but rather in their fundamental social fabrics. The majority of the great continent functions without any percolations of Ricky Martin, nuclear weapons, or artificial breast implants. I argue that these easily forgotten social systems are in fact the "real" world.

In cities with populations more suited for an entire country, I have seen a few people with wealth beyond my wildest imagination – I have also seen the rest living in poverty worse than my darkest nightmare. Based on its majority share of the world's population, the "real" world is a desparaging place. It's a place where governments, police, social institutions and next door neighbours may have absolutely no concern for the welfare of an individual.

In South Africa for example, thousands of children are born each day into a country that hosts the murder and rape capital of the world, a place where close to one-quarter of the population is infected with HIV. It is a divided society where the shadow of apartheid is still vivid.

Goals for success, in all societies, are fundamentally the same. They usually involve (to varying degrees) the achievement of a comfortable standard of living and the ability to pass this on to the next generation. Many social systems simply do not offer any ability to ever achieve such goals and for hundreds of years have beat down particular groups through oppression, corruption and broken promises.

In Western culture, it is easy to slip into the frame of mind that when we work hard, we deserve what we receive – studying hard = good grades = great job. From a larger picture, North Americans are already 90 per cent of the way towards any goals we have set for ourselves and it is up to us make sure we don't "fumble the ball" with such a head start.

Most importantly, when I was overseas I realized that being from a developed country does not make me better – it makes me lucky. When it comes time to live the next life and the cards are shuffled and dealt differently, I aspire to have the strength needed to put food on the table in such a world.

At the risk of being too self-reflective, I just wanted to share a quick thought with anyone who might be reading this. Whatever life should hold for each of us, we must never lose sight of the wonderful opportunities that university life has put forth. So next time you find yourself cursing at Friday's 8 a.m. class or the 30 minute lineup in front of the Ceeps on a cold Thursday night, give yourself a little smile because there are millions of people from the "real" world that would trade places with you in a second!

Neil Brown

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Copyright The Gazette 1999