The Imprudence of Labeling Oneself a “Global Citizen”

Global Citizen Plaza at Chapman University

By John Loftus

A cadre of enlightened progressives – from affluent, beleaguered Western democracies – fancy themselves not as citizens of a sovereign nation but as citizens of the world (these are the kinds of people who get goosebumps when they think of pasty bureaucrats toiling in Brussels). At first, this idea strikes me as mildly amusing, and, yes, quite fanciful. Upon closer scrutiny, the idea seems insidious. For when an American Chapman University student identifies as a “global citizen,” he or she implies several things, and these things are not to be taken lightly. 

One, through this label of global citizenship, you inadvertently link yourself to another person whose culture is entirely different from yours, a culture which you do not – and perhaps never will – fully understand. With an inadvertent – or even calculated – linking between distinct cultures, one may feel entitled to discern on behalf of a culture, and such a feeling could very well foster hubris. Ah, it is beneficial and healthy to attempt to understand a culture different from one’s own! Is it not a boon for humanity? Of course! Indeed, it is sublime to understand the world, a culture, or someone else’s history in a non-political way. But what if globally-oriented politicians, journalists, and, lamentably, celebrities project a non-erudite, wholly-political disposition of having understood a particular people and culture in order to serve their political and ideological agendas? Would this not embolden them to intervene economically, politically, and naively, because they think they understand what is going on in Hong Kong, Libya, or South Sudan? From the heights of the Capitol Building to the depths of Brussels, they think a local community’s idiosyncratic problems can be solved through sweeping, top-down, naive interventionism? Look at the Iraq War. Neo-conservatives thought Iraqi locals would want a Jeffersonian democracy; the Iraqis rejected it.

Two, “global citizenship” implies that there is some global government to which you owe allegiance and through which your rights are protected by law. This is utter nonsense. “Nonsense on stilts,” to use Jeremy Bentham’s phrase. There is no such governing body, there are no such laws, and there are no such rights enshrined by law. Perhaps you would care to paint over your “American guilt” with a shiny, virtue-signaling veneer – bright, bold, flashing: “GLOBAL CITIZEN” – but fundamentally you do not make decisions in your life according to this lofty, nonsensical abstraction; you are, legally, a citizen of a nation, a state, and city or town.

Three, it implies that there is a monolithic culture which all humans share and cherish, and it blurs the distinctions between cultures that should be celebrated, and cultures that should be lamented or otherwise defeated (radical, fundamentalist Islamist culture, for example). The “global citizen” label creates an umbrella under which no hierarchy of ideas could exist, that is to say, it generates relativism. Suppose we are global citizens, and there is a corresponding government body governing the billions. We are therefore placed on equal footing, culturally and politically, with radical Islamic terrorists; bellicose enemies of the West, to be sure. Suddenly, under the relativistic umbrella, Jihadists and peaceful Christians are both entwined legally, entitled to the same rights, and compelled to the same duties as global citizens. How do you suppose we reconcile clashing cultures, religions, and ideologies under this umbrella? 

Tragically, identifying as a “global citizen” must be described as an act of self-deception. It is colossally abstract, a notion impossible to fathom, and nearly impossible to strive for; it is cold and reaching. You may slip the moniker into your Instagram and Twitter bios, but you cannot, in true fashion, structure a life around the title you superficially employ.

So, consider its opposite. A nationalism not of the belligerent, external sort, but something more introspective, far less concerned with imperial domination than civil unification. Not harsh and tyrannical, rather gritty and noble. Love directed inward for our states and territories, cities and towns. A love for our homes. This love of country is neither flag-waving jingoism nor populist xenophobia. It is not borne by a white, patriarchal hierarchy. It is borne by neighborhoods, our homes, and our dining tables. It is local. It is a concrete civic unity. It is patriotism. By no stretch of the imagination is this sentiment in vogue with Zoomers and Millennials. But at least it is not self-deceiving.

John Loftus is a senior Chapman University student pursuing a degree in Philosophy and Screenwriting. He blogs at john

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