Understanding the Global Experience
eBook - ePub

Understanding the Global Experience

Becoming a Responsible World Citizen

Thomas Arcaro, Rosemary Haskell, Chinedu Eke, Robert Anderson, Stephen Braye, Ann Cahill, Brian Digre, Anne Bolin, Mathew Gendle, Duane McClearn, Jeffrey Pugh, Laura Roselle, Jean Schwind, Kerstin Sorensen, Anthony Weston, Thomas Arcaro, Rosemary Haskell, Chinedu Eke, Robert Anderson, Stephen Braye, Ann Cahill, Brian Digre, Anne Bolin, Mathew Gendle, Duane McClearn, Jeffrey Pugh, Laura Roselle, Jean Schwind, Kerstin Sorensen, Anthony Weston

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eBook - ePub

Understanding the Global Experience

Becoming a Responsible World Citizen

Thomas Arcaro, Rosemary Haskell, Chinedu Eke, Robert Anderson, Stephen Braye, Ann Cahill, Brian Digre, Anne Bolin, Mathew Gendle, Duane McClearn, Jeffrey Pugh, Laura Roselle, Jean Schwind, Kerstin Sorensen, Anthony Weston, Thomas Arcaro, Rosemary Haskell, Chinedu Eke, Robert Anderson, Stephen Braye, Ann Cahill, Brian Digre, Anne Bolin, Mathew Gendle, Duane McClearn, Jeffrey Pugh, Laura Roselle, Jean Schwind, Kerstin Sorensen, Anthony Weston

Angaben zum Buch

Über dieses Buch

First Published in 2016. In this anthology of essays for Global Studies students, the editors hope to encourage readers to live intelligent and thoughtful lives, not only as citizens of their native countries, but also as citizens of the world.

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Part I
Approaches to Studying the World Today

Beyond the Pledge of Allegiance

Becoming a Responsible World Citizen
Thomas Arcaro

Prelude to What May Be a Surprising Chapter

This first essay will be unlike most you have read in other texts. First, my words may anger you and challenge you to question some basic assumptions about your—and our—life. Secondly, I will not talk to you but with you. I will invite you to consider, to question, to observe, to research, to examine, and to reassess. I will invite you to wrestle with ideas and to join me in conversation about those ideas. I will even give you a way to contact me so that we can, indeed, share thoughts together. I will respond. However, I will not give you answers, or the “Truth.” That is for you to create for yourself. You can contact me at [email protected].
I offer you the words of the Spanish philosopher and theologian, Miguel de Unamuno. He conveys everything I want to say by way of introduction to this chapter, only more poetically and powerfully. This statement was in response to those who came to him looking for answers:
My intent has been, is, and will continue to be, that those who read my works shall think and meditate upon fundamental problems, and has never been to hand them completed thoughts. I have always sought to agitate and, even better, to stimulate, rather than to instruct. Neither do I sell bread, nor is it bread, but yeast or ferment. (1968, p. 8.)

Some Preliminary Thoughts on Being and Becoming a Global Citizen

I am happy for the opportunity to write this chapter, in part because it has caused me to reflect upon—and hence rewrite—my personal definition of “global citizen.” I want to share this definition with you as a way of starting a conversation about our place in this world.
Global citizens understand, at a fundamental level, that all humans are born with basic rights; they share one planet, and thus one fate. Further, these individuals 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 are actively encouraged to do so. This fulfilling of human potential is done in such a way as to honor the fact that humans are only one species among many, and that we must live in sustainable harmony with all life forms on the planet. Further, global citizens understand that just as they have certain rights as global citizens this role entails an array of important responsibilities.
However, although all of us are global citizens by virtue of living together on this planet, not all are equally positioned in their lives to either understand or to act on their responsibilities as world citizens. What I am about to point out may appear elitist, but nonetheless I feel it is valid. I can assume with some confidence that you are reading this chapter because it was assigned as part of a college-level class somewhere in the English-speaking world, most likely the United States. You are literate and, relative to others your age around the world, healthier, wealthier, and, in a word, more privileged. You most likely know from where and when your next meal will come. You don’t fear your home will be attacked in the next 24 hours, or the rape, torture, mutilation, or death that might come from that raid. I do understand that, relative to others your age in your country, you may not feel exceptional, but the fact remains you are probably in the upper one tenth of one percent in terms of material wealth among the 6.6 billion people on this planet. As a member of this class of people, your “carbon footprint” is, by a significant factor, larger than most others’ around the world. Very likely you consume more resources and create more pollution than 95% of those on Earth. For example, one average 20-year-old in the United States is “equal” to approximately 40 villagers in rural India in terms of their impact on the planet’s ecosystem. Among the reasons to stress this point is to present the aphorism that most of you have heard from your parents, your pastor, or from some other authority figure or moral guide: “With great privilege comes great responsibility.”
So, yes, though all of us are global citizens, we who have greater resources in terms of time, energy, and raw wealth have more responsibility to do something with our position, to partner with others and continue the struggle to create a more just world. Think about this assertion in terms of Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (see Maslow’s Motivation and Personality, published in 1954, for the original source) that you learned about in psychology class: Those who are struggling to simply survive have neither the time nor the energy to work as global citizens. But those of us who have our basic needs taken care of and are much higher on the hierarchy can, and perhaps should, embrace our role as global citizens more aggressively.
After I had written the above, I rescanned the Web site of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the largest private foundation in the world, with assets of 35 billion dollars and grant partners in dozens of countries around the world. I found this under their “guiding values” section:
There are two simple values that lie at the core of the foundation’s work:
All lives—no matter where they are being lived—have equal value.
To whom much is given, much is expected.
I can anticipate some of you right now are thinking to yourself: “I have enough trouble keeping my own personal life in order. Where can I find the time or the energy to be a responsible world citizen?” The short answer to that is: yes, your first priority is to stay healthy, both mentally and physically. You are no good to yourself, to your loved ones, or to the larger world if you are unable to function to the best of your abilities. But when you are stable and healthy you need to have your eyes open to the world. To be an engaged, and therefore responsible, world citizen you must be able to dream and to act on your dreams. Nietzsche once wrote, “He who has a why to live can endure almost any how.” Put more colloquially, “Where there is a will there is a way.” This chapter—indeed this book—is all about telling you how to become a more responsible world citizen. But that is not enough. You must have a why in order to act. Why should you care about your role as a citizen of the world? This is an important question you will have to answer for yourself. This chapter, and the others in this book, should give you plenty of stimulating ideas and, perhaps, help you find your personal “why.”
Before I end this section, let me pose some questions to you. Are good global citizens liberals or conservatives? Are they religious or are they atheists? Are they idealists or pragmatists? Are they the “elite” or are they the average Joe or Sue? Quite honestly, I see myself fitting, at various times in my life, into all the categories above (well, not the Sue one). Where do you find yourself? To answer my own question—but not to let you off the hook in answering it for yourself—I think a good global citizen can be any of the above. Here are some real-life examples just from the United States:
  • President Bill Clinton—The Clinton Foundation with a focus on HIV/AIDs
  • President George W. Bush—President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) monies, first 15 billion dollars in 2004 and more recently, in 2007, 56 billion dollars more
  • Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr—Leadership in the Civil Rights movement
  • Cyclist Lance Armstrong—Global outreach against cancer with the Livestrong Foundation
  • Anthropologist Margaret Mead—Championing of indigenous peoples around the world
  • Noted academic John Dewey—Educational reformer
  • Talk show host Oprah Winfrey—Building a school for girls in South Africa
Average Joe/Sue
  • Any of the 3,000 plus individuals who join the Peace Corps each year
These people at some point made the leap—or move, or step, or perhaps they simply stumbled—into global citizenship. Or at least that’s the way it looks to the outsider. However, almost all of them probably arrived at their worldview in stages—some short, some long, some sudden, and some gradual. I’m almost certain the journey or transition was not particularly easy or painless and I’m even more certain most people we think of as global citizens endure the tensions, anxieties, and uncertainties that we’ll explore in the rest of this chapter.

An Inconvenient Truth: We May Be More Racist and Xenophobic than Is Pleasant to Admit

Distance does not decide who is your brother and who is not.
The t-shirt I am wearing now as I write this is from the Diversity Emerging Education Program (DEEP) at the school where I am a professor. Its message is both clear and accepted as fact, I am sure, by almost all of the people reading this book; it states very simply “NO Human is MORE Human THAN Others.” Indeed, I am sure no person who is vigilant in his or her fight against racism and sexism would disagree at all with this sentiment and could even quickly point to various other iterations. These might be religious as well as secular: for example, “We are all God’s children,” or “All men are created equal.” But before I get to the heart of my argument, let me cite some recent history.
After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, there was a flood of donations to the Red Cross and other relief organizations from both ordinary American citizens and from citizens and governments around the world. In the end, the direct victims of this tragedy and their immediate family members were granted all manner of benefits, essentially securing them—at least financially—for the rest of their lives. Many people who lived in the affected areas of New York City received from the Red Cross cash awards for their inconveniences and many of these awards were in the six-figure range.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, in the late summer of 2005, there were many commentaries and reports that pointed out the glaring disparities between the relief efforts for Sept. 11 and for Katrina. Specifically, it was argued that because most of those affected in New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast area were poor and of color they did not get the same attention as the victims in Manhattan. To wit, spouses of the victims of Sept. 11 received as much as $1,000,000, whereas in New Orleans those who survived were lucky if they received even minimal relief from our government. Indeed, maybe some of you agree with rapper Kanye West’s observation that “George Bush don’t like black people.” In comparing the reaction to these two events, there is factual evidence that both our government and our nation acted as if some humans’ lives were worth more than others, and many media outlets and others were quick to point that out. Kanye West was not the only one to hurl the epithet “racist” at many of those in political power. But can the people of the United States really be racist in this way? Let’s think about it. If we were to try to explain “earth behavior” to a Martian, how would we explain the disparity between the aid given to victims of Sept. 11, 2001, and the aid given to victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005? What might that hypothetical Martian say in response to our explanations? One way we might choose to explain this disparity would be to say that the comparison is between “apples and oranges,” and that a natural disaster is different from a foreign terrorist attack.
Let us look, then, at yet another natural disaster and the response that followed. The death toll from Katrina was approximately 1,800, but just over a month later, on Oct. 8, 2005, nearly 80,000 people lost their lives during and after a record earthquake in northern Pakistan. This earthquake made four million homeless and as I write, over three years later, many of those people will probably face another year without adequate shelter from what promises to be a very long and cold winter. By comparison, Hurricane Katrina left about 60,000 without homes, and then only temporarily. It is estimated about 2,000–3,000 Pakistani and Kashmiri people have had arms or legs amputated because they could not get timely treatment for their injuries. To underline: Forty times more people died in the Pakistani earthquake and nearly 67 times more people were left homeless than was the case during and after Hurricane Katrina. But today, the American people—including American college students—continue to respond to ...