How far is it important for people to be aware of current events in countries other than their own?

The interaction between countries, in this day and age, is never static and unchanging — countries are constantly scurrying to build diplomatic, economic and military relations with one another. This is because governments recognise that events within one nation can inadvertently lead to other events elsewhere, so they have an interest in influencing events in other nations to their own benefit. Similarly, individuals can be influenced by events in other nations, and being aware of such events can be helpful. At the same time, it should be noted that not every event affects the individual, which would mean that knowledge about them is relatively unimportant. With this in mind, it is important for people to be aware of current events in countries other than their own, insofar as these events interests them, be it because it affects them, because they are able to influence and change such trends, or because information about that event brings them intellectual stimulation.

Some claim that events occurring outside the country in which one resides are not important to the individual, because he is not directly involved in the event. If the person was not directly involved, they claim, then there is no benefit in him knowing about the event because such knowledge does not impact him in any way. However, such a view is parochial and does not consider the fact that events in other countries can affect people directly. Recent cases of fruit contamination in the United States and melamine contamination of milk in China have caused an uproar, precisely because these products are exported to other nations for consumption. The question implicitly assumes that people living in a country should be aware of events occurring within the country they reside in. This is often the mindset that is adopted, because events within the country are more likely to affect us, in that such events hint to us potential gains and losses we may experience. For example, it is regarded as important for people to know about governmental policy in their own country, because such policies are directly tailored towards them and would necessarily affect them. However, as Thomas Friedman, American author, put it, the world has become “a global village”. It follows that it is indeed important for individuals to know of events outside just their geographical surroundings, because the increasingly interconnected world means that events in a single country can in fact affect those living elsewhere. Information about a lack of control over oil production by OPEC would warn Singaporeans of impending price hikes at petrol stations, simply because Singaporeans do not live in a bubble, disconnected from the rest of the world. In essence, many current events outside of the geographical boundaries of an individual can have an impact on his or her behaviour — it is thus important to hold a wealth of knowledge of such events.

Others may then argue that even if some events may affect one’s life, these are far and few between — the majority of events occurring abroad are completely unrelated to one’s life. Such claims disregard the fact that information can affect individuals’ actions, which in turn affect current events or set off new ones. People make decisions based on the knowledge they have, not just from the experiences they themselves have garnered, but also from the information they have about events they may not have experienced themselves. Thus, the knowledge of events elsewhere changes the way people respond to their everyday lives. This was exemplified in the aftermath of the collapse of Rana Plaza in Dhaka. As a result of this, the problem of poorly constructed garment factories and poor working conditions for workers came to light. As a result, many individuals boycotted brands which used employed such garment factories, leading to large-scale improvements in the enforcement of rules and regulations. With such cases, individuals need to know of the event before they can pledge support for a certain cause. This can be further extended to completely live-changing decisions being made. For example, during the Arab Spring, Tunisia’s citizens rose up in protests against their governments. Information about this event eventually reached the people in neighbouring countries such as Egypt and Libya, who were experiencing similar oppression from their dictatorial governments. As a result, the information about the initial uprising in Tunisia gave people in Egypt and Libya the inspiration to do the same, rising up to challenge their governments for greater liberties. In this instance, information is important to these individuals because it gave them hope, motivating them to make life-changing decisions they previously did not have the courage to undertake. The amalgamation of many people making similar decisions change current events or trends completely. Clearly, keeping up to date on information in another country can affect one’s life markedly, making such information important.

In addition to this, some individuals feel a sense of intellectual stimulation from certain new events, which may or may not be within the country these people live in. For instance, many individuals in Singapore caught onto the killing of Michael Brown in Singapore, not because police brutality or trigger-happy policemen are problems in the country, but because these events trigger a sense of moral outrage in many. For such individuals, who constantly seek to question social structures and better understand the environment around us, knowledge of current events is never divided according to geographical distances, but according to specific issues and areas of interest. Such knowledge scratches an intellectual itch, by informing them of the developments in societies across the globe. Further, such information helps them better understand the world better, and to reconsider the positions they have on issues like economic policy and international relations. These non cost-benefit analyses are ends in themselves for some individuals. Therefore, insofar as certain events and issues in other nations help to stimulate individuals to rethink their stance on the world, it is important for people to be aware of these events.

Ironically, it is difficult to discern and differentiate events which are relevant from events which are not without first being aware of both. This is because there are events which may only lead to direct consequences to an individual later on, and so people can only decide that knowledge of a particular event was important to them in retrospect. For instance, knowledge of the disease Ebola is largely irrelevant to most individuals living in Singapore now, as the disease has not spread to the country. However, given that there may be possibilities of this happening in the future, one cannot objectively decide that knowledge of how the disease spreads and how to cure it is completely irrelevant and unimportant to Singaporeans. 

In essence, current events in other nations are important to know about only if they affect the person or interests him as a sentient and intellectual being. However, one must be careful not to claim that any particular news event as being important for everyone to know about, because relevance is subjective — every individual is different and are affected to different degrees by the same event. Hence, while it is important for people to know about only certain types of news events, it is best that each and every individual keeps abreast with current events in countries other than their own.


Unknown 25 October 2018 at 21:55  

well done

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Hi guys, I'm a student in Singapore, and this are some thoughts and essays I have written over the years.