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“A Young Commonwealth: the case for idealism"
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“A Young Commonwealth: the case for idealism"

alvin maIn keeping with the Commonwealth Day theme for 2015, Alvin Ma, 23, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Canada, encourages fellow Correspondents to be ambassadors of idealism.

“It’s a beautiful day, don’t let it get away” goes the chorus of my favourite song from the Irish rock band U2. While I recognize the privileged space of Canada from where I am writing this article, I nonetheless call upon members writing for this website from around the world to continually serve as idealistic global ambassadors in light of the 2015 Commonwealth Day theme of “A Young Commonwealth.”

This call does not mean that we should ignore problems or ignore opportunities to critique ineffective solutions, but to reiterate fellow correspondent Carl Konadu’s argument in his article about media negativity, cynical framing of news coverage can cause a vicious cycle of perpetual pessimism. It has been two years since I started writing articles for the Commonwealth Youth Programme, and in the articles I have written, I have attempted to critically analyze issues, primarily revolving around sport. My very first article addresses my observation that writers on this website are too uncritical of the role of sport in society. I did not intend to come from a pessimistic perspective, but rather a pragmatic one that would inform international audiences in a constructive manner about ways to improve sport. To an academic audience, I similarly attempt to constructively raise different perspectives for respectful discussion. For example, I am the only idealist in a weekly seminar class regarding sport for development. Despite my critical analysis of this topic on this website, I genuinely attempt to offer optimistic solutions rather than tearing down the concept of development altogether.

Some streams of academia can be excessively pessimistic. The theme for one academic conference I recently attended called for academics to be engaged in activism for social change, but many passionate speakers simply repeated problems that fellow peers already recognize without adequately offering solutions. I could not help but wonder about my place as a moderate figure at the conference, attempting to reconcile the pessimism of established scholars in the field with my youthful idealism. I try to learn from many groups of people to find practical consensus-building solutions, and if these consensus-building solutions are summarily dismissed, I should feel a personal sense of disappointment if I am to have the “skin in the game” about which Bernard Lim has eloquently written.

Despite prominent names Lim has listed, I’m sure that numerous diplomats who work for international organizations such as the Commonwealth and the United Nations do treat their diplomatic work seriously and genuinely want to unselfishly create a better world. In a recent visit to the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, a Congolese tour guide fervently discusses the imperfections that have led to conflict in his native country but offers hope for a better future through United Nations initiatives. One consistent theme in the tour is keeping an open mind to humanize people who have different backgrounds and viewpoints. This theme is displayed through many pieces of artwork including an escopetarra (a guitar made from a gun), with some working models being used by musicians such as Bono from U2, and a grand mosaic of the Golden Rule with the inscription “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” engraved on the surface.

We know that certain values and cultures across the 53 Commonwealth countries may be different, but as young writers who want to contribute to a better world, we must remain optimistic that such a better future is possible. This year’s theme for the Commonwealth is “A Young Commonwealth.” I hope to see our young writers serve as delegates in The Commonwealth chair of the United Nations General Assembly soon.

photo credit: Equatorial Guinea Foreign Minister, Pastor Micha Ondo Bile via photopin (license)

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About me:
I’m currently a student and research assistant for the Centre for Sport Policy Studies at the University of Toronto. I also teach English at an ESL language school and serve as a private tutor for various other subjects. Passionate about teaching, sports, and politics, I hope to blend these interests and one day teach university-level courses on the politics of sports.
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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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