Peace (My Royal Commonwealth Essay Competition Piece)

Today’s post is a little different. The result for The Royal Commonwealth Essay Competition were recently out so I decided to share with you guys my piece 🙂
P.s If you were wondering, I received a certificate of participation. 
P.s.s Thank you for supporting the poetryandproze.com and have a great week ahead! 🙂

In January 2015, my family and I had to leave Singapore, a country we had called home for 12 years. Although no official explanation was provided for refusing to renew our respective visas, the socio-political and economic atmosphere was telling. Not long after the 2008 financial crises, a significant number of locals started to complain about the worsening economic situations, from the depressed incomes to the decline in the availability of high-paying jobs, from the overcrowded public spaces to the perceived spike in crime rates. For all these, a growing number of people blamed the immigrants, and the government’s soft position on immigration. The results of subsequent elections were generally interpreted to be a rejection of relevant government policies. The government was quick to respond with corresponding change in policies.

While a government has the duty to listen and act on the wishes of its people, the ramifications of doing so, even though unintended, can be more than expected. The shift in government policies may be too sudden for families, especially the youth, such that they may experience psychological dislocation, including self-doubt and mental stress. With this essay, I speak for the numerous youths like myself who have been in similar situations and the many more who would, as governments across the world respond to the increasing denunciation of globalisation and the wave of populism. My take on Peace is that it is not just about the relation among the constituent parties within a Country, or among the individual Countries; but also about the emotional and mental calmness of the different peoples who call the country home.

Peace, in this sense, is often lacking if not ignored when individual governments enact their policies. In my experience, I faced the risk of overstaying and forceful deportation within the period of one month. I had to deal with the fact that I would not be able to complete my GCE ‘O’ level examinations. I felt that I was being abandoned by the country that I had called home all these years. She had expected me to suddenly undo all that I had been accustomed to in those 12 years, to untangle myself from our relationship, to bid farewell to the friends that I had made and to instantaneously separate the part of her culture that had become intertwined with mine. Most importantly, she had left me in a dark cloud of uncertainty for the future.

Unfortunately, my experience is one of many. In fact, I am considered one of the lucky ones as I have managed to move on given other opportunities elsewhere even though it still brings back tears whenever I think about it. The same however, may not be said about others. Some youths are undocumented in the countries that they call home, thereby facing the constant threat of dislocation. Some had ran away from their motherland with their parents in fear of prosecution. Others had to brave the high seas because home had become a battlefield. For those who fall under the above categories, the threat of or actual dislocation is a much larger and longer crisis.

Across the world today, there is an increasing desire for stricter immigration regulations. Whatever adjective we may use to describe it or whatever name we call it, be it ‘Brexit’ or ‘Make America Great Again’, this country-first sentiments devalue globalisation and create tension in many parts of the world. Despite the numerous outcries against populism as a political rhetoric, there is still an increase in the immoral political campaigning and the religious discrimination it motivates. There has been a spike in the alleged cases of discrimination and targeted-attacks against people who are perceived to be different thereby creating a constant atmosphere of fear for personal safety.

Britain’s apparent exit from the European Union, a decision made primarily because of her desire to take back full control of her borders, is creating a cloud of uncertainty for the youths of European citizenship living in Britain. They are in a complex situation because they aren’t sure what exactly the outcome of Britain’s negotiations with the European Union shall be. However, the possibility of not having their student visas renewed and of having to pack up and leave Britain is very real.

Recently, in the United States, with the excuse of keeping borders safe and with just the stroke of a pen, youths, who had been hoping and praying that their grandparents from war-torn countries could join them safely in America, were overwhelmed by the fear that it would not be so. Even as, youths from some Muslim-majority countries under the travel ban were filled with the nerve-racking fear of having to return to their war torn or politically unstable countries.

In conclusion, governments need to understand that their policies could have serious ramifications such as psychological dislocation, self-doubt, constant fear and mental stress on youths especially, foreigners who call the country home. Hence, it is crucial that individual governments ensure that a voice is given to the youths that their policies could affect before they consider a policy change. In turn, we as youths have a part to play by making the effort to have our voices heard. By a collective effort of not only the commonwealth, but the rest of the world, we can bring about lasting peace!

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