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Global citizens
Sunday, 02 September 2012 18:46

As the following three quotes highlight, the concept of a global citizen is not new.

“I am a citizen of the world”, Diogenes Laertius, Greek philosopher (AD 220).  “The world is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion”, Thomas Paine, American revolutionary (AD 1776).  “I am not a citizen of the world.  I think the entire concept is intellectual nonsense and stunningly dangerous!”, Newt Gingrich, American politician (AD 2009).

But as Mark Gerzon argues in his book, “Global Citizens”, the world of today is in desperate need of global citizens.

We human beings are now challenged to realize that we are something more than citizens of separate nations, members of different races, and followers of different religions. 

We are also global citizens.  Our genes are global.  Our bodies are global.  Our societies are global.  Our economies are global.  Our environment is global.  Our possessions are global.  Our civic life is global.  Even our religions are global.  Narrow, exclusive human identities have reached a dead end.  As separate nations, separate tribes and clans, separate faiths and ideologies, we created the problems we now face.

The real problem we face today is the need for a global mindset. 

To develop a global mindset, we need four capacities: (i) witnessing: opening our eyes; (ii) learning: opening our minds; (iii) connecting: creating relationships; and (iv) geo-partnering: working together.

History shows that we human beings have the capacity to open our eyes, minds, hearts and hands.  Take for example when crisis strikes.  Japan’s triple whammy of a crisis – earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown – has given rise to massive outpouring of goodwill.  Japan’s arch-enemies of China and Korea have been particularly generous.

But history also shows that an equal capacity close once again open our eyes, minds, hearts and hands.  We have the capacity to build an interdependent, peaceful global civilization, and to splinter and fragment into endless conflict.

What’s the answer?  We need to invest in building our global intelligence (GI). 

Gerzon proposes twenty ways to do that: (i) be the change that you want to see in the world (as Gandhi said); (ii) use both sides of your brain; (iii) remember that ‘one’ comes before ‘two’; (iv) make sure your house has an open door; (v) think like a minority; (vi) increase your knowledge – including how to not-know; (vii) test your worldview against the actual facts; (viii) know your enemy – inside and out; (ix) transform stereotypes into relationships; (x) ask questions that stretch your mind; (xi) when the earth speaks, listen; (xii) focus patiently on what works; (xiii) do it across borders; (xiv) think both profits and values; (xv) travel far from – and close to – home; (xvi) seek common ground; (xvii) speak more than one language; (xviii) learn to see through walls; (xix) explore the mysteries of the sacred; and (xx) global citizens unite.

All of this stuff my Mark Gerzon may seem trite and obvious.  It may also seem like the thoughts of an ageing hippy.

But it really is more powerful than many think.  For example, his own country, the United States of America is in desperate of globalizing its thinking and mindset.  Only small numbers of Americans travel overseas or even have a passport.  While President Obama and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton are certainly very global, many members of the Congress are parochial, and combative international relations.  Americans’ knowledge of foreign languages and cultures is appalling.

Then comes China where nationalism and historical revenge are on the front line.  And the world’s third largest economy, Japan, is also very inward looking.  Looking over to Europe, one can be a bit more positive.  Among the continent’s youth, a European identity is slowly emerging, although the euro crisis has also pulled this somewhat apart, as responsible northerners are having to bail out financially reckless Mediterranean countries.

Ultimately, the citizens of smaller countries will always be better global citizens than the citizens of larger countries.  They have to be global to survive.

But for peace, stability and security to reign, we need the big countries to take global citizenship seriously.  It is a never ending battle.  But one worth fighting for.



Global Citizens: How Our Vision of the World is Outdated, and What We Can Do About it by Mark Gerzon


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