A global citizen is someone who has a sense of solidarity with everyone on the planet. To develop this identity we need to open our minds and see our role differently. Becoming citizens of the world motivates us to contribute to global issues and enriches our lives. (Estimated reading time: 5 minutes)
“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.
The world has become increasingly smaller and cohesive over time. With the advent of the Internet and transportation that can transport us to all corners of the globe, we now have access to other worlds that are very different from our own.
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 felt strongly about these issues because he considered himself to be a citizen of the world. Having lived in several European countries and traveled extensively 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 my personal and professional life.
Even if you’re someone who feels a sense of solidarity with your country, you can still cultivate an identity as a citizen of the world. As a global citizen, you can make a difference by embracing diversity and participating in seeking solutions to pressing challenges that our world currently faces.
Here are four reasons why it’s important to be a citizen of the world and how it can enrich your life:
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 feel a sense of belonging. Perhaps your values are more aligned with 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. Broadening your horizons and will allow you to feel ‘at home’, no matter where you are.
2. You’ll be able to bond with anyone: When you’re a global citizen, you’ll have the inclination 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.
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. You’ll 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 proven fact that our planet faces imminent threats of destruction caused by our neglect. When we see Earth as our home we’ll feel a sense of responsibility to conserve and protect the only home that we have. A globally conscious person will have no problems with shifting to a sustainable and Earth-friendly lifestyle, and spreading this awareness. They are more likely 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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