The idea of reflecting on what I have learned thus far is at times a trying struggle for me due to the fact that I habitually contend that I have learned little. Regardless in the end, I am fully aware that I have learned several things about myself and others, the impact of social forces on everyday life, because I have experienced new thoughts, ideas, and insight to new experiences. This paper is a reflection paper from a sociological point of view.
According to ( ), sociology is the study of the society and sociologists focus on three primary areas: what holds the society together, what are we, and why there is inequality in the society and its consequences. In the beginning of this course, I had a preconceived notion that people make up society, however, through the course, I discerned that a person cannot survive without socializing, thus, people need society as part of their lives. What I discovered while undertaking this course that absolutely blew my mind about culture was that culture is practiced by a group of individuals who share the same views, beliefs, and so on, and pass it to their generations, and it is not only connected with race. A significant notion that appealed to me since the start of the course was sociological imagination. Before starting the course, I did not even know that such a word existed; however, understanding sociological imagination notably changed my views.
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Mills ( ) asserts that sociological imagination is the capacity to see and understand the effect of social factors and changes on the private and public lives of people. Sociological imagination plays a crucial role in the life of a sociologist, because it is only when we have the capacity to look beyond and view the world with a different view, then do we have the power to destroy or escape our traps. In simple words, sociological imagination is the ability, a capacity, a quality of mind, which allows a person to connect and understand his/her life with the social forces and dynamics that affect or impact it. We simply do not view the changes in our lives as being part of the bigger picture; instead we tend to view them as our individual private troubles. Sociological imagination has allowed me to reflect on my life with what surrounds me, and this has made me able to embrace my society and its ways while putting aside my personal problems or issues. Sociological imagination does two tasks fundamentally: differentiating personal problems from public problems, and understanding the intersection of social structure, biography, and history. I acknowledge that as a person, I apply sociological imagination to myself and numerous other elements of my life such as: my socioeconomic status, the structure of my family, gender, and minority status.
Mills ( ) states that individuals are seldom aware of the social forces behind life’s ups and downs. People fail to connect their lives to this bigger picture frequently falling short of coming to the realization that shaping their lives also shapes the society they are in, and it also resolves the historical changes occurring. Just like the way a butterfly flapping its wings can affect the weather, any changes in our lives are liable for historical changes no matter how small they are. Sociological imagination has allowed me to take a critical look at what I have assumed to be true or what I have constantly taken for granted, observe the infinite range of human diversity, and understand the opportunities and constraints that affect my life and to see the strange in the familiar. The latter basically means that we should not restrict ourselves to seeing only what we identify or recognize, however, we should observe what else is present and debunk the situation ( ).
When people see something they are not familiar with, then it should not be observed in a manner as if it was something that they knew, by doing so, people would be able to understand and relate to it instead of simply overlooking the situation. When I initially started my course, I was a bit skeptical and did not expect to understand some of the concepts, but as I continued with my classes, I was able to relate my experiences with the experiences of other people, instead of just focusing on my issues. By doing so, I was able to see the issues the society at large faced and I discerned how I related to me personally and also other people around me.
In order to have an active social imagination, an individual should have the capacity to think from a broader viewpoint and think of how it might affect the society. Looking back, I realize that I have often used the phrase ‘why me’ whenever I am experiencing life’s challenges. However, rather than feeling hopeless whenever things do not go the way I want them to, I have learned to reflect on the factors, which may have led to problem or issue. Without a doubt, things can affect our life’s experiences and we are all aware that the world has changed and undergone several stages.
Therefore, each time is different to the one previously and the one coming after and each time comes with its own elements, which affect our lives in that particular time. It is also important to consider the society that we live in: are the individuals in our society the same as people in an African or Indian society? Do individuals have the same social values, norms, and opinions in each part of the world? It is normally social norms, which affect our personal lives and behavior the most because we all reside in communities, which are part of the society as a whole.
Before embarking on this course, I had a notion in mind entailing the connectedness between individuals all around the globe. And it was quite interesting to have that confirmation that the way we connect in extremely important in our lives today. Connecting to individuals all over the globe through the exportation and importation of products and foods is a way of connection, however, in present contemporary times, people from all over are connected on a more personal level ( ). The internet and technology has given us the capacity to empathize and sympathize with individuals all around the globe. That capacity to connect to others around the world has personally helped me to relate with other people from different cultures than mine, and to relate to their personal problems. In addition to this, when individuals are able of empathy due to global sociological imagination, instrumental changes are more probable.
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Personally, I have had numerous preconceived ideas in relation to global sociological imagination and these notions were mutual to the theory. Of course, initially, I was not aware of the concept of sociological imagination and was merely hoping that individuals felt or at times reacted in the same way I reacted to situations. I have found it rather comforting to think of the degree of connections to other people everywhere can help us solve problems, merely due to the connection forged between personal problems and issues.
The first time I experienced racism, I felt that it was a personal issue and as most individuals, I kept pondering on the question ‘why me’, however after reading and comprehending Mill’s theory on sociological imagination, I actually forced myself to think afar and understand the issue in a bigger perspective. Even though it is quite easy to tell a person to think from another person’s viewpoint or to have a social imagination, in reality, it is very challenging to achieve this because, as human beings, we are all born with the penchant of pitying or feeling sorry for ourselves. The result of this is that it holds us down or prevents us from looking at things at a broader perspective; still, as I have learned, it is important to push ourselves so as to attain social imagination.
Looking at the issue of racism that I experienced from a broader perspective, I have come to the realization that because of the harsh times we are all living in, racism is sort of like an inbuilt element in individuals because of the numerous factors like the media, and the manner in which it influences our minds. I have also realized that racism is common in the society because most individuals have been brought up in a way, which teaches them to look down on others or people from other ethnicities. Although grasping this might not have a significant effect on the society as a whole, on a personal level, it has made me feel less trapped and made me understand that being racists was once considered a social norm for some individuals.
Furthermore, I have learned that the way a person views his/her personal troubles affects his/her everyday life. Reflecting back on my life this far, I have realized that the way I handle my personal problems also affects those close to me. Mills ( ) discovered the fact that people function in their personal lives as actresses and actors who make choices about their friends, groups, family, school, work, and other issues within their control. In my earlier days in University, I used to party four nights in a week, at times I rarely attended class and this made me have personal problems, which obviously interfered with my studies. However, making a turn-a-round was easy after I realized the negative effects of these habits, and this made me become a better person and student.
Sociological imagination plays an instrumental role in life, and it is only through it that we have the capacity to look beyond and view everything with a different perspective. Reflecting on my journey since I began the course, I must say that everything that I have learned about sociological imagination has enabled me to have a different view on everything that I personally come across, and whenever I judge a situation, I now attempt to look beyond and try to understand the other side of a problem, before, coming to a conclusion.
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