Implicit within humans is the evolutionary tendency to organize into distinct groups. Nowadays, one can see this tendency manifest itself in quasi-tribal affiliations with sports teams, cult fandoms and ,more importantly, in nationalistic identification; the last of which I hold to be the dangerous remnant of imperialist ideology and without which we would be much better off. For who can utter the word nationalism without invoking images of its quintessential champions, Mussolini’s fascist Italy and Hitler’s aggressive expansionist Nazi state? Yet nonetheless one can see glimpses of the nationalist mentality in our liberal democracies through the irrational sacrosanctity of national flags and the xenophobic vocabulary that seems to be ubiquitous in political speeches. For example, how many times must we hear American politicians use the phrase “in order save American lives” in order to justify or oppose foreign military intervention? This and many other like statements imply that mere nationalistic identification intrinsically adds value to life and therefore makes it more valuable over another. Up with this I will not put, and neither should you. It is time for us, as a global society, to repudiate this perverse ideology and instead espouse the inclusive characteristics of human solidarity, embodied handsomely in the ideas of the cosmopolitanist philosophical tradition.
Cosmopolitanism is quite simply the idea that all human beings are equal citizens of a single community. This idea dates as far back as Socrates and Plato, but is best represented by Diogenes the Cynic in the fourth century BCE when he famously replied “I am a citizen of the world” after being asked to which city-state he held allegiance¹. This “global citizenry” concept has since been advocated by the likes of Immanuel Kant, John Stuart Mill, and more contemporary thinkers such as Kwame Anthony Appiah, who accurately defined cosmopolitanism as “universality plus difference ” ². Now, this concept, because of its inclusive and reasonable nature, invites us to make it the strong foundation on which to judge political systems, social institutions and even our moral predispositions. Cosmopolitanism allows us to naturally extrapolate the natural rights of man, beautifully articulated in the preamble of the American Declaration of Independence,– or in Confucian humanism– to all peoples, thereby completely eliminating any implicit or explicit evaluative judgments based solely on someone’s nationality.
Personally, having the mentality of a “citizen of the world ” has taught me that universality is the only way to foster true multiculturalism and equality. The marginalization of women in theocratic states, the murderous homophobia in Uganda, the unbridled governmental corruption in Mexico, and the religious persecution in Pakistan are issues which equally demand my attention and action. To deem one as more important than another solely on nationalistic grounds is an archaic and barbarous proposition, especially in our ever-more globalized society.
1. Kleingeld, Pauline and Brown, Eric, “Cosmopolitanism”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2014/entries/cosmopolitanism/>.
2. Kwame Anthony Appiah, Global Citizenship, 75 Fordham L. Rev. 2375 (2007).
Available at: http://ir.lawnet.fordham.edu/flr/vol75/iss5/3
WANT TO READ MORE ABOUT COSMOPOLITANISM? GO HERE 🙂
-Immanuel Kant’s “Perpetual Peace” <https://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/kant/kant1.htm>
-Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers by Kwame Anthony Appiah (highly recommended book) <http://www.amazon.com/Cosmopolitanism-Ethics-World-Strangers-Issues/dp/039332933X/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8>
Never hurts to read Thomas Jefferson’s beautiful document. (the Preamble being the relevant section for our discussion)<http://users.wfu.edu/zulick/340/Declaration.html>