Welcome back! It has now been more than three months since our last edition of International Wednesdays, our weekly series of English articles, written by international students. The past few months haven’t been spent idly, however. Instead, my team and I have been working hard to rebuild and restart the International team.
Our goal has always been to provide you as a reader with articles written from an international perspective, however, it is not always immediately clear what makes it stand out as ‘international’. To make this clear, I decided to dedicate this edition of International Wednesdays to defining the ‘international perspective.’
After the election of Donald Trump in 2016, the term ‘filter bubbles’ started popping up a lot. These bubbles are not physical, but more information-based. Facebook arranges people by their mutual interests, and thus, they only receive news that their peers are also interested in. This way, people never, or rarely, get to hear opposing views and automatically assume that theirs is the right one. In the context of the 2016 US elections this prevented people with opposing political opinions from seeing the points of the other voters. While these bubbles are usually used in the context of social media, they arguably also exist in other contexts, even in entire countries.
A personal example of an experience with a national bubble is my first visit to San Francisco time in 2015. I attended a conference, and for our breakfast buffet we had a choice between ‘cronuts’ (a crossover between donuts and croissants, two of the most calorie-rich foods in existence), cupcakes and Pepsi cans. Now, I’m not a dietary expert, but that didn’t seem like a healthy, varied breakfast to me. As a Dutch guy who is used to eat cheese sandwiches and drink a glass of milk for breakfast, the thought of having even one of these options for more than a day sickened me. After asking some of the American people there though, they seemed to think it was okay. Amir, one of my friends from the Bay area told me he “needed an energy boost like this to get him through the day.”
Now, this is quite a practical example, but it shows that even between two Western countries, there are different cultures, and different people with very different habits. People tend to take the things that are prominent in their surroundings for granted, just like they can start taking the news around them for granted. Take for example the story of ‘Zwarte Piet’. When the issue first reached major international attention in 2014 after a UN report on its racist background, it went viral. People from outside the Netherlands were shocked by the fact that ‘blackfacing’ was still happening, and that the Dutch didn’t think of this as weird. However, if you would have asked a majority of Dutch people at the time, they would have told you it was a very normal habit. As a matter of fact, a 2015 research by RTL showed that at the time three-quarters of the Dutch still wanted the tradition to remain the same. This number has since gone down roughly ten percent, but it’s still a majority of the country.
It’s a perspective that is not tainted by the traditions and cultures surrounding the news, and it is one capable of looking past the predetermined opinions formed in the ‘bubble.’
I think both of these instances show the essence of an international perspective. It’s a perspective that is not tainted by the traditions and cultures surrounding the news, and it is one capable of looking past the predetermined opinions formed in the ‘bubble.’ At Red Pers, we don’t take anything for granted, and we want to tell you the essence of the news, not the derivative. I really think that this year we will be able to bring you some more interesting content, and I hope to see you next week on International Wednesdays.
Klaas Schoenmaker, the new managing editor of Red Pers International, and his team welcome you back to International Wednesdays.