“I have no country to fight for. My country is the Earth. I am a citizen of the world.” –Eugene Debs
Citizens of the world: People who place their identity with a “global community” above their identity as a citizen of a particular nation or place.
It goes without saying that the world has become increasingly smaller and cohesive over time. With the advent of modern technologies such as the Internet and transportation that can rapidly take us to all corners of the globe, we now have access to other worlds that are very different from ours. The Internet has given us a common platform where we can bond over the mutual interests and beliefs we share.
But long before the age of the Internet, the values of global citizenship were espoused by many prominent historical figures, from Socrates to Albert Einstein. Einstein was passionate about creating world peace through the creation of a single, unified world government, after witnessing how excessive nationalism in his native country, Germany, was used as an excuse for violence and discrimination.
He wanted to combat the disease of excessive nationalism by erasing political boundaries between countries and instituting an international government with sovereignty over individual states. In the World War I era, he encouraged the formation of the “United States of Europe” and the League of Nations, which later became the United Nations. According to Einstein, world peace can only happen when leaders of individual states are held accountable by a single governing international body.
Einstein’s causes were a result of his identity as a citizen of the world. Having lived in several European countries and traveled extensively to far exotic lands before settling in the US, his true allegiance was to the human race. He said, “I am by heritage a Jew, by citizenship a Swiss, and by makeup a human being, and only a human being, without any special attachment to any state or national entity whatsoever.”
As a Third Culture Kid who was born and raised in a foreign country and has traveled to over 35 countries, I can relate to Einstein’s perspective on global citizenship. For the longest time, I felt guilty about not having any patriotic sentiments towards my home country. The people around me reflected this guilt by reminding me about my lack of loyalty and my unwillingness to practice cultural traditions and norms.
It was not until I left for college in the States, where I was exposed to an international community, that I was able to make peace with my lack of affiliation to a specific country. I began viewing my global identity as an asset that can give me leverage in a time when core social, economic, environmental and political realities of the world can only be appropriately addressed when viewed through an inclusive lens.
Even if you are someone who feels a sense of solidarity with your country, you can still cultivate an identity as a citizen of the world. You have the choice to contribute as a global citizen by embracing diversity and participating in seeking solutions to pressing challenges that our world currently faces. Traveling and learning about other cultures and customs is one way of opening your mind.
But a global citizenship requires a lot more than a well-used passport. A true global citizen needs a panoramic outlook of the world and the role he or she plays in it. You can intelligently deal with societal issues once you’re able to think critically, take on leadership roles, stay up-to-date on information and news about the current happenings, and be proactive about making your contribution towards change.
When you consider yourself a member of a planetary community that’s essentially one, you’ll be galvanized to take action to alleviate important world problems such as inequalities, climate change and extreme poverty. You can be a role model who inspires other people to look past their ignorance and prejudices that create obstacles in the unification and coming together as one big human family.
If you aren’t convinced yet, here are additional reasons why it’s important to be a citizen of the world:
1. You’ll feel a sense of belonging everywhere: One of our fundamental emotional needs is to feel like we belong somewhere. Not everyone is born into a nation, community or family where they fit in. Perhaps your values are more aligned with other entities that lie outside your immediate surroundings. Or maybe you just don’t want to be boxed into a relatively small world that you’ve grown comfortable with. You may want to broaden your horizons and feel ‘at home’, no matter where you are on the planet. You’ll feel differently about your place in the world by being connected to the world community.
2. You’ll be able to bond with anyone: When you’re a global citizen, you’ll have the inclination and curiosity to connect with people all over the world, even if you don’t know them personally. You’ll naturally embrace both the commonalities and differences that you have with the various types of people that you encounter. You’re okay with stepping outside your social and familial comfort zone so that you can befriend individuals from other neighborhoods, cultures and countries. I’ve written extensively about how you can reach out and learn about other cultures in this previous blog post.
3. You’ll be concerned about major social problems: Most individuals and governments get so caught up in their local affairs that they might neglect pertinent social problems that exist on a global scale. Fortunately, we’ve established various governing bodies that implement global policies and enforce accountability, but there’s so much more that we can do on a personal level. When we’re aware of the gaping holes in our social fabric, we can use our strengths to fill in those holes.
As a world citizen, you’ll care about important issues around gender, economic, social and racial equalities, world hunger, human rights, because you value the lives of all human beings and you’re willing to step up to these challenges through innovation, collaboration and creativity, which goes beyond borders and traditions. You want to use your gifts and conviction to bring about change and progress through your efforts.
4. You’ll feel responsible for protecting the planet: It’s a known fact that our planet faces imminent threats of destruction caused by the neglect of our civilization. It’s our duty to conserve and protect the only home that we have and this can only occur once each of us takes responsibility for how we treat the environment. A globally conscious person will have no problems with shifting to a sustainable and Earth-friendly lifestyle, and spreading this awareness to the people around him or her. They would want to recycle, volunteer in environmental groups, protect animals from extinction or engage in any activity that will contribute towards conserving all the bounties of nature for the future generations to come.
If nothing else makes you feel like a world citizen, look up at the night sky. Considering the billions of planetary neighborhoods existing in a vast community of billions of galaxy systems, we should feel lucky to be a resident of planet Earth – our beautiful home, which gives us nourishment and vitality.
All my best on your journey,
Question for you: What does it mean to be a citizen of the world according to you? Would you consider yourself one?
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