The positive side of global citizenship

By Peter Truax

In response to Andy Pragacz’s articles on Global Citizenship, I disagree in full with his contentions. Global citizenship is not the embodiment of Western universalism, Greek rationalism, neo-liberal consumerism, or belligerent democratization, though some might choose to believe these things are global citizenship. They’re wrong and probably paranoid. Like universalism, rationalism, consumerism and democracy, global citizenship is an evolving concept that possesses the ability to transcend any one idea determined contextually. The global citizen of Europe in the 1600s was often a barely-literate racist xenophobe with bad teeth, content to rape their way to imperial glory and think it not only right and proper to do so but necessary for the glory of God. The global citizen of Macalester in the 2000s is different – I hope. So what is global citizenship? Global citizenship is the enterprise of participating in the creation of universal universalism. More specifically, to be a global citizen means that you embody, understand and act in accordance with a set of principles based on a common humanity. These principles include working to productively redress historic injustice, acknowledging the limitations of the present, and constructing a future that transcends those limitations without creating more.Universal universalism is predicated on the transformation of systems of inequality towards systems of equality. This means working to ensure equality is given and equality is earned. Not everyone deserves to be a global citizen by virtue of being, but that should not prevent anyone from working to embody global citizenship. It would be insulting for me to say who should get what but it is equally insulting to assume everyone exists in the same conditions. “Who am I to say what is right,” should not stop us from discussing what is right. Global citizenship and universal universalism are transformative processes and I argue that they are positive processes. One way to solve inequality is to move everything – wealth, rights, opportunity, etc. – to the lowest common denominator. I won’t even describe how often in history this has screwed everyone. Another way, which I argue is the way global citizenship and universal universalism work, is to lift everything up; to raise the common denominator to the highest point.

Is this practical? Yes! It requires time; time for discussion and a slow movement forward towards equality that doesn’t erode backward. Even though there are no quick fixes in life that shouldn’t leave us despondent. The idea of the global citizen and the universal universalism they actualize will change before the end of our lifetimes, but we will be the ones to shape that evolution. The discussion of our common humanity should not stop for fear of any one component being dominant, no matter from what context it arises. In uplifting our common humanity we celebrate diversity, not crush it. However, we must also acknowledge that common humanity and the rights guaranteed therein supersede difference. Global citizenship, through the creation of universal universalism establishes a common humanity, which in turn brings about equality while maintaining diversity. The work of global citizenship to resolve our unjust history is slow and damn difficult work, but it is work we must all share and engage in.