What Makes a Global Citizen?

The term, Global Citizenship, has been defined as being, “The concept of an overarching one world government system in which all humans are joined as citizens of earth such as to not replace but supersede current nation based government citizenships.” This idea is put perhaps most eloquently by Daisaku Ikeda who says, “Earth was originally a green oasis with no need for national borders; it is the venue for the shared existence of humankind, the embodiment of our common destiny. The times demand that we rethink the questions: to what end national identity? to what purpose national borders?”

My personal definition sees being a global citizen as focusing first and foremost on becoming a responsible human being. A global citizen places the common good above selfish interests, and constantly is weighing the effects of their actions before putting them into motion.

I think there are two important questions that first must be asked to discern whether or not someone is a global citizen. The first question posed must be, “Before you pass a judgment or make a decision that affects others, do you first try and look at things from a different perspective to make a more informed decision?” The second question that must be asked is, “If you do try and view things from another person or another culture’s perspective, do you actively take steps towards positive action to create a beneficial outcome for the good of the global community?”

The ideal global citizen constantly seeks opportunities that expose him or her to the world outside of their personal experiences, and they are always challenging their own beliefs and values by looking to others and expanding their perspective. A crucial part of being a global citizen involves giving just as much attention to issues, conflicts and disasters abroad as one does to those that occur at home. For instance, as one writer for the Guardian puts it, “(After the destruction of Hurricane Sandy) everyone saw the disaster in New York, but what about Haiti?” (King)

a U.N. soldier delivers clean drinking water in Haiti, a country still ravaged by destruction from natural disasters that occured years ago, though today garners little media attention

 U.N. soldiers delivers clean drinking water in Haiti, a country still ravaged by destruction from past natural disasters,  though today it garners little media attention

It is easy to be an active and engaged citizen in one’s own country – the devastation, the human rights issues, the struggles people face, are all tangible and seen every day right in front of us. When trying to become a global citizen however, it often times becomes hard to comprehend the issues that are taking place overseas, where all we have is news reports to rely on.

When we do take action however, we would do well to heed a warning that Dr. Arcaro gives would-be do-gooders about how and why they seek to aid others. Arcaro says, “We must be careful though, in our desire to become active global citizens, and not to frame our actions as ‘helping the poor and downtrodden’ around the world.” (Arcaro) It is important that we recognize that in order to solve a situation, one must first rid themselves of any preconceived notions, or desires to save the day in one fell swoop, and instead simply seek to do all of the good that they can, while never forcing one’s own view or way of doing things on another.

Good intentions are not always enough to outweigh arrogant and stubborn attitudes, and Linda Polman makes this particularly evident in The Crisis Caravan. She describes how international aid efforts, although they themselves maintain a policy of neutrality, are taken advantage of by militias and military groups who tax the aid items, or steal supplies and sell them to raise money for weapons. (Polman) These humanitarian efforts often times end up indirectly financing starvation or even genocide, all because they refuse to recognize that their current system is not working despite their good intentions.

I feel that as I stand right now, I probably rank at about a 6 on the global citizen scale from 1 to 10. Although I feel that my intentions are good, I don’t think I quite have the experience to consider myself a perfect global citizen. I think that I have to first continue to see the world and other cultures, and also better dedicate my time and talents to influence positive change along the way, before I can count myself among the true global citizens.

One of the people that I most consider a true global citizen is Kaj Larsen. Larsen is a former Navy Seal who later became a correspondent for Current TV and CNN. He is always asking questions and trying to immerse himself in other cultures. He is unafraid to enter situations that most journalists won’t. He was the first Western reporter in Mogadishu in more than a decade which was instrumental in giving an inside look into the city and its struggles. When “enhanced interrogation” became an issue of controversy in the media, Larsen had himself water boarded on television to show the American people exactly what the effects of these torture techniques look like. Larsen has also created a charity called The Mission Continues that provides fellowship and aid to veterans. He has reported on everything from the drug wars in Mexico, to devastating floods in Pakistan. Larsen uses his presence in mainstream media to focus on how he can benefit the world, even if that means taking risks and challenging his pre-conceived views.

Kaj Larsen reporting on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan

Kaj Larsen reporting on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan

The PSA does an excellent job of highlighting the connectivity of every individual’s actions in the world. Global citizens must find it within them to rise to the challenges facing the world at large, and make it their personal concern. As one interviewee puts it, “Each person must have something to contribute to make the world a better place.” As great and uplifting as this PSA is however, it is important to remember that the issues discussed in it are still a very present part of today’s society. According to the U.N, despite the 1948 Declaration of Human Rights, 67 million children are denied education each year, and 65 percent of the world’s victims of starvation belong to just seven countries. (U.N.) It is vital that we not forget our duty as global citizens to resolve these issues, and continue our pursuit of one unified world.

 

Works Cited:

United Nations. “Resources for Speakers on Global Issues” July 2010. June 4, 2013. http://www.un.org/en/globalissues/briefingpapers/food/vitalstats.shtml

 

Ikeda, Daisaku. “Words of Wisdom: Quotes for Global Citizenship” June 4, 2013. http://www.ikedaquotes.org/global-citizenship/globalcitizenship456

 

Arcaro, Thomas. “Beyond the Pledge of Allegiance: Becoming a Responsible World Citizen”

http://elonwp.wpengine.com/soc376ol/files/2012/05/utgearcaro10.61.pdf

 

King, Richard. “10 Tips to Promote Global Citizenship In the Classroom”

November 9, 2012. June 4, 2013. http://www.guardian.co.uk/teacher-network/2012/nov/09/global-citizenship-10-teaching-tips

 

Linda Polman. The Crisis Caravan: What’s Wrong with Humanitarian Aid? New York: Metropolitan, 2010. Print.

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3 Comments

  1. Posted June 8, 2013 at 5:21 am | Permalink

    Your use of the Daisaku Ikeda statement, “Earth was originally a green oasis with no need for national borders; it is the venue for the shared existence of humankind, the embodiment of our common destiny. The times demand that we rethink the questions: to what end national identity? to what purpose national borders?” is excellent and puts the entire question into a deeper, more historical context. Nations are human creations; we collectively agree to pretend imaginary lines in the sea or land are “real” and this collective agreement is human made can be human changed one might think. How do we get from here to there? Is it possible for our human creations to “devolve” back to an earlier stage?

    Good start!

  2. Posted June 6, 2013 at 1:08 am | Permalink

    I liked your point about making the world’s problems our personal problems. This really puts things in perspective. As a global citizen, we have a duty to people across the world to help them if they are struggling. By recognizing that their problem should be our problem, we truly grasp the concept of global citizenship.
    I also liked your comment that it is difficult to “comprehend the issues that are taking place overseas, where all we have is news reports to rely on.” I agree that this is completely accurate, even with modern media outlets. In America, we are thousands of miles away from some of the areas of the world that face daunting problems. With the news as our main source of education on these issues, it can be difficult to know for sure what the situation is like, without reporters’ skew.

  3. Posted June 5, 2013 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

    I really liked your personal definition of a global citizen. I didn’t think about a global citizen as actually putting people and their needs before their own. I thought of a global citizen more as a person who just helps others but still keeps their own interests above everyone else. However, I would definitely agree more with your perspective on what defines a global citizen. I also thought it was interesting that you said they think about their actions before actually following through with them. Again, I would agree because the person willing to help another has to make sure their actions will be beneficial in the end.