By Alfredo Calamari
An introduction by GA: The following short article was written by a young foreign student. It provide us with an astute criticism of British fake pluralism and tolerance. It conveys a sad image of the cynical method in which class-division and cultural segregation is maintained in this country.
Naivety can be expressed in various forms. Its definition in the dictionary is ‘lack of experience, wisdom or judgement’. One form of expressing naivety can be to assume the Model United Nations (MUN) conference is an ideal portal for young people to criticise and share innovative approaches to global issues. Why? Let me explain:
An opportunity was extended to the state school I attend: we were invited to a Model United Nations. At first I was intrigued by what this event was and what it entailed. Therefore I researched it. The first website I went to was Wikipedia (no surprise there), and the definition given is as follows:
Model United Nations (also Model UN or MUN) is an academic simulation of the United Nations that aims to educate participants about current events, topics in international relations, diplomacy and the United Nations agenda.
The participants role-play as diplomats representing a country or NGO in a simulated session of a committee of the United Nations, such as the Security Council or the General Assembly. Participants research a country, take on roles as diplomats, investigate international issues, debate, deliberate, consult, and then develop solutions to world problems. More recently, simulation of other deliberative bodies, such as the United Nations Security Council, has been included in Model United Nations, even if they are completely unrelated to the UN or international affairs as a whole. In general, the participants that the executive panel considers to be most contributing are given awards, such as 'Best Delegate award'.
Brilliant! I mean, could we ask for more? As young teenagers, we often tend to have rebellious ideas, question authority and discuss amongst friends how unsatisfied we are with the present political condition. Hence, through the MUN we obtain a catharsis for our thoughts and emotion, as well as the chance to ‘debate, deliberate, consult, and then develop solutions to world problems’. How utopic and idyllic it was the possibility of us making a change, or at least brainstorming how it could be done. And that was what I call an idea derived from naivety.
I arrived at the MUN with such optimism. To me, the schools and young people there were all keen on making a change. All of them (with the exception of us) were from British private schools, and some due to British class cycle were the politicians of tomorrow. Nevertheless we were there, the only state school invited. It seemed that contrary to old beliefs there were bridges being built, I thought I was observing an attempt to eradicate the old ‘dysfunctional’ system. So I proudly researched Yemen – the country assigned to me and my fellow colleagues, in order to accurately represent the Country. I learnt all I could in the short amount of time we had prior to the conference. Being the only state school there seemed a privilege and honour. But it was not. It was a joke. And I do not refer solely to the fact we were probably some kind of charity to them –as if having us there was their charitable work of the year– or receiving a country unjustly ignored by the rest of the states, I refer to it as a whole. A bloody joke.
As it was my first time at a MUN, I wanted to learn and adapt as fast as I could. Therefore I made mental notes of things I observed around me. My conclusions were disturbing. First, there was no one in want of change, or eager to exchange ideas of how all these countries could actually reconcile. And I’m talking about young teenagers. The youth: a stage in an adult’s life known for its passion and energy to rebel against the system. No one there even cared to pretend they had this energy. Actually no one even bothered to know what the country they were representing stood for. My friend, who is Saudi, was in the other committee and was shocked at how they ridiculed Saudi when they stood up to speak, not because they did not know about Saudi, but mocking what they were supposed to be standing for seemed to be their way of getting attention. Not to mention it was mostly bad and tasteless humour. Sorry, I mean English humour. Then the next thing I noticed: you could send notes. Interesting, this way negotiations and exchange of opinions could be made during the sessions.
But that was not the only thing they did. They sent sweets to other ‘countries’ and the chairs wrapped in their notes; this was their way of getting more time to speak. Brilliant! Is there a better bribe than sweets? Corruption of your values and moral integrity for sweets, wouldn’t you do the same? I mean it is not like we were serious anyway, and it was just for more time to speak. Not to mention that is what counts anyway, how much you speak. Also it was not what, but how. A whole system rooted in the core of British education with close links to the creation of debating club. Instead of people wanting to ‘deliberate’ essential questions and problems in the world, they tossed that away in order to achieve the ‘Best Delegate Award’.
The only state school there, and after the initial mild curiosity and politeness, they ignored us. They talked amongst themselves. ‘Oh your brother used to study with my sister!’. ‘Oh do you know…’. I could see the bubble they surrounded themselves within. It was a frustrating experience; to literally see British class system working its methods of exclusion. But I appreciate it altogether. It taught me many things. There is not going to be an efficient solution for the upcoming problems unless we tackle the real problem. We need to attack the progressive and continuous nature of the problem. Switch from representational political discourse to an ideological reflective discourse. Perhaps this may be achieved by trying to pop that bubble. Would that truly safeguard us against alienated politicians? I for one would be happier if the M in the MUN stood closer to role model than to a model mimicking the real situation, presenting the same constant answer to our problems: no answer. But then again, is that not being a little bit too naïve?