Are you a Global Citizen?

I’ve always thought the concept of patriotism and especially nationalism to be a very weird and most likely stupid and illogical idea.  It just makes no sense to me that people from any individual country can believe on whatever level that they are in the best country in the world or that they are in some way superior to everyone else merely by the virtue born into a country that they themselves had no part in its history or past achievements.  Even if these achievements are huge and there are undoubtedly some countries that have achieved more than others, it has absolutely nothing to do with those alive today.

Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind. – Albert Einstein

Living near London, the very idea of being proud of our country is almost laughable, borderline rude and even racist.  A sense of nationalism or any sort of superiority is quite unheard of.  There is no way in the world anyone here would ever say our leaders are glorious, we’re generally indifferent or embarrassed by our history and we would never ever sing our national anthem or salute our flag.  In fact the 1 in 100,000 people who have a British flag flying around there are widely thought to be racist, that doesn’t count for all the Indian, Pakistan, Russian or European flags I see on a daily basis but I do indeed think flying a flag from the country of your birth or heritage in another country is even more weird than flying the local flag.

I’ve always liked the idea of a World Government.  Maybe it’s because I’m such a Star Trek fan but it really does seem the only logical choice in the long-term.  Think of all the resources that are wasted in petty competition between countries and all the bad things that happen in the world because people think their country, political or religious belief is better than someone else’s.

There are really two basic things stopping substantial progress towards a World Government.  The first is that rich countries and even more importantly, rich people, would have to voluntarily (or be forced) to sign away their advantages whether obtained naturally, through hard work or by force to those more deserving of them.  They’d also have to be prepared to be governed in part by people from vastly different cultures and ways of life.

The second reason is just as fundamental in its own way in that the poorest countries would have to start acting responsibly and accept direct rule in part from people with different cultures and viewpoints.  No-one from the richer parts of the planet are going to give up power or re-allocate wealth to people like ISIS.   And so, the world quietly or not so quietly meanders towards the inevitable world government whenever that may be.  The world has to come closer together in wealth, stability, tolerance, education and many other things before we can really start putting our house in order.

Of course as with so many things in the modern world, nations and governments are now being superseded by citizens, the ordinary people in large parts of the planet.  With improved education, the internet and television allowing improved communications and an ever increasing level of political sophistication or at least cynicism, ordinary people no long routinely classify their identity of primarily being tied in with their country or nationality.    Other reasons for these changes is that so many problems facing everyone today are large planetary ones that can only be entirely confronted on a global scale.  Issues such as global warming and climate change, poverty and mass migration of refugees, abuse of power by multinational corporations can not be tackled effectively by any one person or country.

When I first looked at this in the 1990’s, only around 1% of people saw themselves as a Global Citizen with loyalties and allegiances outside their own group of people.  For the first time, a recent survey by Globescan suggested that 49% of people consider themselves citizens of the world.  Or at least those in the 14 countries surveyed. Once this number increases towards 100%, then the formal structures of government and commerce will have to change.

It has been a long movement to reach this point.  One of the early adopters of the Global Citizen mantra was that of the Ancient Greek, who in 412 BC as stated  ‘I am a citizen of the world (kosmopolitês)’ from which modern cities like London and New York take the word Cosmopolitan.  I always liked the work of Thomas Paine, the English-American political philosopher who maintained “my country is the world, and my religion is to do good.”

19th Century Iran took it one step further with the founding declarations of the monotheistic Baha’i faith which state “The Earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens.”

 

BBC2016-chart1

Interestingly, throughout the graphs below, Spain consistingly ranks highly as being a country where the people see themselves primarily as Global Citizens than of their own country.

BBC2016-chart2

 

BBC2016-chart3

Sadly but perhaps predictably at least in the case of Russia, both Germany and Russia fare terribly on their views on not only Global Citizenship but on immigration and refugees too which in a way is the opposite of being a Global Citizen.

BBC2016-chart5

65% of Spanish strongly approve of accepting refugees fleeing countries though perhaps tellingly, it is not a country of choice as an end destination for refugees.  However neither is Russia and yet only 4% of people there would strongly approve of welcoming refugees.

Interestingly some countries that are targets for refugees, still are very open to receiving more.  Canada sees 78% of its population as approving receiving refugees.   71% of those in the U.K. agree and 73% of Australians despite their famously strict immigration laws.

BBC2016-chart6

BBC2016-chart7

It’s interesting that Chile in the chart above and below both strongly welcomes refugees but simultaneously defines itself through its nationalism.  The African countries and Russia all very strongly have a national identity whilst most surveyed Western and Asian countries have a less defining role of National identity.

Another interesting point below is that China fares relatively well for not being constrained by National citizenship and yet only 13% of its people would be happy to receive refugees from Syria.

BBC2016-chart8

Not entirely predictably but sad nonetheless is that 43% of Pakistanis define their identity through their religion with only 2% seeing themselves as people of the world.   India and the USA  also see significant numbers of people who primarily identify themselves through religion.

How do you see yourself?   I actually don’t know anyone who I think defines themselves through their religion or race.  It’s a mixture of feeling British, English, Global and not really at all European at least not politically speaking.   When it comes to things like culture then definitely more European than African or even American but when it comes to things such as business and economics, not really and ethics, perhaps more on the American side than European and maybe that is what British is all about.  What we would say as picking the best of both worlds whilst perhaps having the absolute best of neither but then not the worst of either too.

For lots of things to do way of life and faith, I’ve got much more in common with many Asian countries at least in the traditional sense and not the money first hyper-capitalism becoming so prevalent in China or Japan and so all in all it is a complicated existence.    When it comes down to it, though I feel allegiance to several different identities, I also feel very little to all of them as well. Contradictory though it sounds.  I’d rather identify and indeed sympathise with a goat herder in Kazakstan or a homeless person in the slums of Rio than a selfish, rich banker in London or New York.

Whilst I’ve never found Spanish people to be global citizens, at least on the outside, it seems clear that more people are following their lead and that can only be a good thing so long as the positive differences between cultures can be retained.  It would be very awful if the one-world government settled on hard-core capitalism as the way of life.  The equivalent of all the European countries singly badly in English in the Eurovision song contest rather than embracing their own language and culture and sadly that happens all too often as well.

At the end of the day, being a global citizen makes sense and it’s a step towards the Star Trek style paradise which is surely better than all the other alternatives.

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About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including a #1 seller, I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
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14 Responses to Are you a Global Citizen?

  1. Boyer Writes says:

    Stephen, I find the charts in this blog to be quite interesting. As you know, I read your thoughts regularly and appreciate your writings. I think there are some real problems with wishing for a one world government. It is ideological, but probably not practical when one considers all the varied people in the world. Throughout my travels around the world from Mongolia, Japan, countries of Europe and limited travels in the Middle East, I have found that there is a beauty in the individualism of varied cultures. Each country and its people have to find what works for them. Lumping them together under “whatever leadership” would probably be disastrous. History gave us a warning about those who would desire to take over the world and put everyone under one leadership. Look no further than the Nazi government. There are radical elements today that would want to put us all under one religion. My country fought for independence and gave us freedom to choose one’s religion whatever that may be. Everyone everywhere were first made in God’s image. No government or movement should ever dictate how one worships. Who is to say that a One World Government would not do that or ban religious worship all together?
    Part of my recent novel, The Seeds, deals with the one world theory. Of course it is fiction, but might play into some of the thoughts on the charts. Yes, I do agree that the modern age has brought societies closer together…as has world travel. We effect each other whether it is pollution, global stock markets etc. There is no getting around that. Look back over the last 200 years and see where most of our inventions, that people around the world depend upon, such as electricity, airplanes etc. It was those who lived in areas of the world that were free to invent and explore ideas without government intrusion. The people who are living now did not play a part in these things, as you mentioned, but it is up to this generation and those in the future to uphold the good things that come from their nations and in doing so make the entire world a better place. Yes, I too identify with the average, hardworking people of the world. When one is not rich, it is hard to identify with that lifestyle.
    We are all people of the world and can also be citizens of our own country. Every country has its failures and drawbacks, but it is hard for me to understand not feeling a sense of patriotism. Maybe it is because we are taught from an early age to appreciate those who have carried the flag and died to keep us free under its banner. It does not make us better than anyone else but in some cases maybe a little more grateful. I hope our future generations strive to make the world better all round, but never lose that gratitude.
    Keep writing, Stephen, for you make us all think. That is a good thing.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank-you for your wonderful comments Nancy, I always enjoy reading them as they are so thoughtfully put. I do agree that it does seem to myself and others that one of the important things to safeguard in such a future situation would be the uniqueness of cultures, practices and religious beliefs. I would hate it if the entire planet became a quasi mixture of British-American-Chinese cultures. It’s very sad in some ways how large historic areas of the great modern Chinese cities were destroyed to make rather soulless though massive and bland western style cities rather than both find a way to maintain their heritage and find a distinctive way to progress but in a Chinese style.

      I’d definitely be hoping for a world government that respects individual freedoms and regional traditions that have allowed countries such as our own to prosper rather than a dictatorial regime. It would be hoped that when people are ready to move to such a system that everyone is wise enough to realise that our best countries today such be the foundation for a just system for the entire world and not in anyway embrace or allow a system which might give us a Saddam or Putin style of government.

      I think the patriotism area is one where if I had to choose, I would feel more European than American. Perhaps due to the different experiences that each continent has had with patriotism and nationalism. I think it is still possible to be grateful for the sacrifices of our own ancestors without the patriotism but I agree that it is probably something that is decided from birth and in the schooling system.

      From what I can tell, the most progesive politicians from various leading countries would definitely be want to take good values and spread them rather than ones we’d all rather stay away from. I think it is telling that despite all the problems in the world and that though there are now nations such as Dubai or China that are richer than many or Russia that is more powerful, most refugees or people wanting a better life seem to forgo these places and go to those with better values and a stronger foundation iin freedom.

      Thanks again for commenting, I always think I’d rather have as a friend someone who has a different but well-reasoned point of view than someone with no view or no support for a view at all.

      Like

  2. daulaguphu says:

    I am not a pessimist but not sure of world citizens getting any better emotional, but we can be hopeful. I have never understood when a citizen of a country become so hostile and violent in the name of being a ‘patriot’. I am happy to read this viewpoint being reiterated.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, it is a big jump to assume that in a global world, regular people are more rational and less emotional. We can only hope that without artificial divisions and competing governments that try and cause unhappiness and excessive patriotism that many of the reasons behind wars and unequal distribution of resources will lessen. Thank you for commenting 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Ankur Mithal says:

    Resonates. I think the concept of “nationalism” or any “ism” stems from the desire of a small group to be powerful and relevant. If you are a nationalist, you should sing the national anthem so that we can say that we made you sing it and you recognize our visionary leadership.
    Why is there so much chest-thumping around nationalism, and not state-ism or city-ism? Because there is no recognized higher authority perhaps. There is no check. No accountability. The only thing I need to do is ensure I can be elected again.
    There are instances of antiquated sedition laws being used to muzzle “anti-national” thought.
    While demarcation of areas may be required for governance, national boundaries seem like artificial lines meant to create divisions among people.
    With greater information, communication and interaction, citizen activism needs to rise.
    The time may not be far for a new “world order”.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think you’re right. SO many times national boundaries are entirely artificial and created to help those in power rather than those living near the borders. I think nationalism is a false construct which in a way can be seen in the European Union where the majority see the EU as at least equal to their own state if not above it with their state or birth relegated more to simple administrative division. I think naturally people have allegiances to their immediate area than there country and I think the longer things progress as they are, people will feel that in a global sense too.

      In Britain at least there are several accounts of enemy ships coming to remote areas before the navy would come to chase them off and the locals would be very unfriendly to their countrymen outside their neighbourhood. Maybe nationalism is just a phase in between localism and globalism. I do hope so.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. gpj103 says:

    Really interesting post with loads of facts. I agree with most of what you say for sure. With your mentioning Star Trek, I wondered if you had read the Ender’s Game series of novels by Orson Scott Card which also go into a united world idea…very good read.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. bennythomas says:

    Map of Europe has been rolled back in the past and it has always come back; Napoleon as he went on conquering carried nationalism that gave Italy to fight Hapsburg Empire. It sounds fine but it is unworkable. One only need look at the ethnic minorities that made the Balkans a powder keg. Two World wars have been fought and yet the evil of nationalism there has not been cleared. Nature shows how impractical it is to rely on it. Each part in the globe is secured by the health of the whole globe. Remove rainforests in the Amazon basin or in the Far East and see how resultant climate change affects elsewhere. Nature does not put all her eggs in one basket. It makes sense if we widen our horizon and think of others as our safeguard to survive ravages of Nature or cosmic impacts. I consider myself a Global citizen.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, you can see even today how nationalism has flared up with so many of the Eastern European countries proclaiming their rights as new members of the EU and then immediately getting homophobic when Syrians appear on their borders though many of them were more than happy to seek a better life themselves by going to Germany, Britain or France. Apparently it is vital for Hungary to retain a strongly Hungarian culture without Syrians but it is ok for western Europe to have a culture with Hungarians in it! It’s all so petty and hypocritical and not at all ‘European’ and yet typically European. It definitely does make sense to take a more global view on the bigger issues related to our planet. I think Global citizens are still a minority but hopefully through debate and education one day more will come to this viewpoint.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. You are so versatile! I’ve spent years on just one book about my pioneer immigrant North American parents. Thanks for the like.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank-you! I am sure it is more down to luck than talent 🙂 I try to be versatile though as I think it is good to be stretched a little. I enjoyed your blog post earlier today, for some reason I have several friends from Oregon in Seattle and a place called Beaverton. I bet it took a long time to research about your ancestors with all the travelling that they must have done. Congratulations!

      Like

  7. Bazz says:

    Very interesting reading. I don’t feel at all comfortable with the whole nationalism deal. Living in Australia it worries me to see how much more conservative and nationalistic we’ve become in recent years mostly brought on I feel by politicians playing the fear card. Even travelling around the country as we are at the moment you see and hear examples of this daily. Funnily enough it seems to be those that have never ventured away from Australia that are the the biggest proponents this line of thought. I think Mark Twain hit the nail on the head when he wrote ‘Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.’ ……Thanks for checking out our little blog, new to this but finding it very enjoyable.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank-you. Yes Australia is a curious case as like the USA, Canada, New Zealand and most of Latin America, the country is largely built by foreign immigrants. From a point of view it is more understandable for a small European country with a strong identity to be more protective than a Australia with its history of immigration and comparatively uncrowded country.

      I think Mark Twain did hit the nail on the head. I can’t think of a country I visited where I didn’t like the people and culture. Even the one that is borderline, I wouldn’t think negatively of the place generally.

      I hope you have lots of success with your new blog and perhaps more importantly. you enjoy it 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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