How do you conceptualize “interdependence” and how are you a product of it? Think about the histories, cultures, communities, places, and people who formed you
Interdependence makes me think about the World Systems Theory as it splits the world’s nations into three categories: core, semi-peripheral, and peripheral. Core countries are industrialized nations(U.S), semi-peripheral countries are partially industrialized and also extract raw materials(Brazil), while peripheral countries are the most underdeveloped and often used for their natural resources(DRC); all three types of countries are dependent on one another to thrive. The incredibly interdependent world we live in today highlights the thin line between some of the most incredible milestones of humanity, while also being the cause for some of the fundamental problems in our international community.
Especially as an American, the number of everyday products that are made possible because of global supply chains— from tasty pineapples and bananas exported from Costa Rica, cheap raw materials from China, and premium salmon from Norway —are incredible. However, aside from the human rights violations inherent with many of these supply chains, our international community has also become dependent on them for financial capital and this has resulted in many countries dragging their feet when attempting to implement equitable policies. Interdependence within the frame of the World Systems Theory is both a tool to connect the world, but also a weapon to abuse the most vulnerable.
In America’s case, it has been an excuse to invade countries and extract their resources. Often using the claim that they’re freeing nations in order to create an international community of interdependent democracies, its evident that the concept is easily and often abused. However, I believe that interdependence will be one of the main tools used to bring the international community together in light of climate change. Though, I have yet to see how it will be done.
I have previously thought of interdependence as a symbiotic relationship between communities and individuals within those communities. However, based on our recent conversation about the topic, I now think of interdependence as more similar to an extended family that all live under one roof in a collectivistic society. In such a household, each family member is related to each other in a different way. The ways they are related each other prompt different types of treatment and often, each family member also has a specific duty. All family members work together to ensure the function of the household and care of family members, however, depending on what the treatment and duties, some family members may be ‘better off’ or have better jobs/responsibilities than others. Overall, in such a system, anything that one family member does impacts all other family members to a certain degree. In a more global context, different communities would stand in the place of individual family members and everything that one community does affects all other communities.
My different relationships to things, people, communities and environments makes me a product of interdependence. Whether or not I am aware of it, all these things are working together to impact my personal experiences which in turn impact who I am as a person. For example, my relationships with my family members impact how I view myself within the family while my relationship with school impacts how I see myself as a person. Together, these two views, along with others such as my understanding of my cultural heritage, the area in which I grew up, etc., impacts who I am overall. In this way, who I am or how I perceive myself is dependent on my relationships with the different factors in the environment I grew up in and I, in turn, have likely impacted the same factors that have impacted me.
At no time has the interdependence of the human race been clearer to me. Right now as the world fights a pandemic and the United States enters a financial crisis our reliance on one another is clear.
The pandemic has brought the world together to overcome a common challenge- COVID:19. While the US has been a little less than cooperative, countries have been working to help one another by sharing their experiences, doctors, and scientific research. Within the US the work of essential employees has allowed life to continue. Medical staff have been putting their lives on the line to treat affected people while communities have rallied to donate gowns, gloves, and masks.
Jobs that are typically overlooked have received attention and gratitude as the pandemic has illustrated how much we depend on them. As those with flashy or more appealing jobs have been stuck at home, others such as farmers, those who work in packaging and shipping, and grocery store staff have been clocking in. While it is normally easy to overlook these employees and remain apathetic to their wages and working conditions, the spotlight now shines on them as heroes. Our society is dependent on them to keep store shelves stocked and people fed. Similarly as international imports and exports slow with COVID, the imported items we typically take for granted are now much more appreciated. While our interdependence has not changed our perspective has.
The economic situation in the US also illustrates how deeply interdependent we are. With nonessential businesses closed it has become crystal clear. Small businesses are struggling without their customers while consumers must find new ways to navigate life without all of the usual resources. However, communities are coming together and supporting one another. I think our nature of interdependence creates relationships and bonds so that even though the need for support is no longer mutual- ie a hairdresser needs clients for income but right now clients don’t NEED a haircut- we still provide for one another.
I hope once the pandemic passes our appreciation for essential workers remains and our interdependence is more visible than before.
Within the last century, as a result of globalization, communities have become more connected, and consequently more dependent on each other. Interdependence is part of every sector of society, and on an individual level part of every aspect of my life: whether it is food that I eat, the education I receive, or the healthcare that is available to me. Interdependence involves every living being on this planet, including the planet itself – though not every individual might consciously recognize that they are a part in the web of interdependence. I believe Parker Palmer explained it in an eloquent manner: interdependence means that individuals are “dependent on and accountable to one another” (as referred to on the Global Solidarity and Local Actions website). Specifically the accountability is an important factor to consider. Individuals are not only responsible for issues in their own communities, but through the web of interdependence also for issues in other communities that individuals indirectly contribute to. As a result of this interdependence, injustice anywhere threatens justice everywhere.
Throughout my life, I have become a product of this web of interdependence, as I have been influenced by various cultures, communities, places, and peoples. First of all, having grown up in the Netherlands, I believe Dutch culture has been partly influenced by its colonial past, trade (in goods, but also trade in ideas), and European integration. Besides interdependence in the Netherlands, I have been influenced by many cultures and peoples after coming to the United States for college. I think through learning from another, and with one another, I have become more interdependent. Additionally, through study abroad experiences, I have further interacted with different communities in different places, from Bologna, Italy to various places in India. All these experiences have made me realize how every living being is involved in the web of interdependence – perhaps even more than I have ever realized, or will ever be able to comprehend.
Interdependence refers to the actions of a group of people and its effects on another, who are separated by something, whether it be distance, culture, or other relevant differences. These effects can be positive or negative and they may be significant or less-so. In thinking about how interdependence affects me specifically, visualizing interdependence as a 3-dimensional web of interactions is helpful.
If observed on an XYZ grid, the X-axis refers to physical distance, the Y-axis to cultural distance and the Z-axis refers to historical distance. This streamlines the thought-process behind the ways that I am a product of interdependence. At point zero would be myself, with all of the privileges and disadvantages that affect my livelihood at a current point in time (in 2020).
So, here I am, sitting at my parent’s dining room table eating home-made lentil soup with a prepackaged piece of naan. At the first level, there is a chain of farmers, factory workers, transportation workers, designers and engineers (among other professionals) to thank for even being able to cook in an efficient and healthy manner from home. Additionally, scientific advancements such as the development of vaccines, medicines and psychological treatments allow me to live in a relatively enjoyable way.
On a second level, I like to place the socio-political phenomena that affect me until now. From the civil rights movements and the riots for LGBTQ rights in the 60s, to my parents’ advocacy for my US citizenship in the early 2000s, my rights and responsibilities are a product of decades upon decades of hard work by other minority groups. Of course, the same can be said about the disadvantages when keeping in mind white supremacy and the patriarchy. Nevertheless, interdependence is an important concept to keep in mind as we move-forward with actions intended to make a change because it forces us to think about how these actions can affect others in the future.