proportional responsibilities: defining global citizenship

I find it easiest to define global citizenship by using the preliminary definition provided in the “Approaches to Studying the World Today” section of “Understanding the Global Experience” and expanding on what is written there. Arcaro begins by saying that “global citizens understand, at a fundamental level, that all humans are born with rights; they share one planet, and thus one fate” (Arcaro 4). This implies that the alternative to being a global citizen is refusing to accept that all people are equal. This also means that a non-global citizen is one who believes that all people are not equal and would also believe that “all humans” do not “share one fate”. This prospective would then cause non-global citizens to be even less inclined to contribute to enhancing the fate of others because they do not believe the fate of all other’s will affect them or be relevant to their own life. In short, global citizens have an equal view of the people in the world community making them automatically invested in the “fate” of others which is at least in part because other’s fate is the same as their own. Next, Arcaro explains that global citizens “embrace an ideology of human growth and potential based upon the assumption that all global citizens, especially those in positions of privilege, should work toward creating a global social structure wherein all humans are not only allowed to reach their full potential intellectually, physically and spiritually – but encouraged to do so” (Arcaro 4). This part of the definition not only reiterates the importance of viewing the people of the world as equal to each other but also emphasizes how important it is for those with more affluence and socio-economic advantage to align their life philosophy with this definition of a global citizen. This is especially important because those with “privilege” have the potential to benefit the global community exponentially, absolutely more so than some, but cannot and will not do so unless they adopt the “global citizen” mindset and accept that “all humans are born with rights” and “share one fate”. On page 5, Arcaro answers some possible confusion that may arise from his definition global citizenship. He clarifies that while a person must be responsible for their own well being first, the responsibility that people have to the global community, though secondary is no less important. On page 5 of Understanding the Global Experience, Arcaro quotes Nietzsche who said that “he who has a why to live can endure almost any how”. Applied to the topic of global citizenship, this quote implies those if one understands and believes that they have a responsibility to be attentive to, care for, and advocate for their fellow citizens of the world, then through accepting that responsibility one may gain the power to “overcome” any restrictive circumstances and make a positive difference in the world. After analyzing Arcaro’s definition of global citizenship, I find that the thread that runs most prominently through every part of the definition is that of responsibility. Jim Rohn a successful American entrepreneur said, “you must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself. That is something you have charge of”. While Rohn may not have been the model of global citizenship, his words ring true when it comes to taking hold of responsibility. One question to ask someone that might be helpful in determining global citizenship is this: You know that in order to be a global citizen, you must take ample responsibility in helping the global community, but how does one accept that responsibility? If they answer something similar to what Jim Rohn said, that the key is to “change yourself” or rather to take charge of one’s own identity to not only act like a global citizen but actually become one, then they have passed the test.


My definition then, it its simplest form, is that global citizenship is an individual’s appropriate level of participation in a shared responsibility to be aware of, involved in, and passionate about each living person in the world based proportionately on one’s own privilege and ability in addition to having an authentic investment in these endeavors as opposed engagement for the purpose of personal gain or other hidden agendas.


An “ideal” global citizen would then be one who, after fulfilling their most primary responsibilities to one’s self and one’s family would then use their remaining resources to monitor and make sure that others in the global community were also provided with basic rights and needs and in that way, fulfill their role as a global citizen to the best of their ability.


I am embarrassed to say that I do not think I often meet the requirement to be called a global citizen, much less an ideal global citizen. While I truly feel that I have an obligation to the citizens of the world, especially because I have been blessed with such a privilege life with many easily available resources, I find that when it comes to acting on these responsibilities I tend to fall behind. Even in giving myself some credit for the compassion aspect of global citizenship, my lack of organization with the resources I do have and general laziness lead me rank myself at only about a 2, if not a 1, in global citizenship currently. I honestly hope to change that soon.


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


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