"My country is the world; my family the mankind". Mikhail Bakunin
This quote sums up what we understand today as being a "citizen of the world or global". They are the people who wish to transcend the geopolitical constraints imposed by the nation states. They are the ones who overcome all geographical, social, cultural, ethnic and religious difference... they define themselves essentially as human beings and consider themselves as part of the whole, the world, the planet or the cosmos. This idea hides a long philosophical tradition that encompasses concepts from Greco-Roman times to the present. Several authors have tried to explain the processes that an individual undergoes to achieve a global identity and universal consciousness. A conscience which poses political projects according to this thinking, a global and democratic governance.
Originally a shared idea by the Greeks and Romans
At first glance, the concept of "citizen of the world, global or cosmopolitan" may seem innovative, and in line with a modern globalization view. However, this idea was already discussed in the Greco-Roman period. Diogenes, born in the fifth century BC in Sinope, was the founder of a philosophical school known as "cynicism" (1), and was the first in referring to himself as a "citizen of the world". Conversely, this school rejected civilization, tradition, and conventionalism which were considered artificial and superfluous. They despised material goods and pleasures, and advocated a return to natural life based on self-sufficiency. The individual was a "citizen" of a community, or a member of a universal family, regardless of one´s origin. They thought that human beings could be fellow citizens, and learn from each other while respecting differences.
Many of these thoughts were adapted by the "stoic" philosophical movement (2). A school undertaken by Zenón of Citio which had a great relevance in the Roman Empire, especially during the Hellenistic period between 323 to 31 BC, and influenced later scholars such as Descartes and Kant. Divided into three parts (physics, logic, and morality), "stoicism" shared the idea that all individuals are part of the universe, without social or ethical distinctions. Happiness could only be achieved when living in harmony with nature, and accepting the fate dictated by the logical order of the cosmos. Furthermore, it was necessary to cultivate reason, through which one becomes insensitive to passions, pleasures and pain.
A universal democracy
These philosophical schools were the first to use the term "cosmopolitan", from the Greek "cosmo" universe, and "polis" city. Cosmopolitanism (3) collects the idea that all human beings in their diversity are part of a universal community, where coexistence through a mutual respect is possible. Born into a political dimension, it proposes a world government based on a direct democracy in which the citizens voluntarily exercise power in an assembly without political representatives. Moreover, Cosmopolitanism does not intend to abolish nation states, but have citizen participation and other international entities, such as non-governmental organizations, in the global restructuring.
The "Global Citizenship" project (4), however, raises a deeper change in keeping with the current times. They consider that nation states are obsolete structures, and restrict human rights in an age where technological advances, such as internet, facilitate global relationships. For this reason, they suggest to abolish these structures, and create a new world organization that allows free flow of people, ideas and commerce. The philosopher Jesus Mosterín (5), in particular, presents the idea of autonomous territorial division’s, non-sovereign and without military power. These administrations would be supported by global organizations to guarantee the accomplishment of human rights and peace. There are other approaches, such as libertarian paternalism or progressive rationalism (6), which postulate that the society should help the individual in their decision making base on reason and not on beliefs, in order to avoid deception or corruption.
From a cultural and psychological point of view, the citizen of the world would be the one who has the ability to integrate cultural differences as part of her own identity. At first, one might think that people who are exposed to cultural diversity have more possibilities to develop a global or multi-cultural identity. Accordingly, the potential groups from lowest to highest degree (7) would be: travellers and immigrants, who move voluntarily to other places for an undetermined period of time; refugees, who are forced to establish relations with the host country; ethnic minorities and indigenous people, who are born in that´s society culturally predominant; and mixed race individuals, who innately are growing up between cultures.
On the other hand, the host societies also need to face cultural encounters establishing contact with these groups. However, it is not only geographical differences that stand for diversity. Culture also comprises many many expressions to which we are exposed, such as religion, education, sexuality, art and fashion (8) ... either directly or indirectly through the media, institutions, cultural products, or internet. The way individuals deals with this diversity and integrates it as part of themselves involves many factors, which determine their predisposition towards to a global consciousness.
Facing uncertainty: global citizen's profile
When one is faced something new, either emigrating to another country, interacting with people from other cultures, religions, or different work and social environments; one experiences a feeling of uncertainty due to the lack of knowledge (9). This uncertainty may lead the individual to feel anxiety, insecurity and stress or, conversely, this can become an opportunity to grow and learn. The reaction will depend on many aspects such as: similar life experiences (10); the encounter conditions, for instance if the host society is cosmopolitan or more traditional (11); the family and social values; or the personal traits and goals (12).
Two opposite personality’s categories (13) has been distinguished. On one side, there are people more certainty orientated, with strong conservative and authoritative values. This personality tends to avoid ambiguity and risks associated with the unknown, and search for safety, comfort and a clear status definition. In contrast, there are those who have a better ability to handle uncertainty, with universal and human equality values, open to new experiences, and willing to take risks to learn. The second ones represent those personalities with smaller problems when they need to face cultural differences and new contexts, and therefore with more possibilities to generate intercultural and multicultural identity.
Multicultural Minds and Identities
Numerous authors have studied how individuals create multicultural identities. Hong (14) differentiates between mind and multicultural identity. A person can learn skills from other cultures: language, behaviours, traditions... and adapts to those contexts without problems, developing a multicultural mind. This does not mean the individual feels identified with this specific culture, and consequently integrates those cultural patterns as part of their own identity. However, there is the possibility that the individual could experience changes, and then integrate them into their personality over time and through coexistence, generating, as a result, a multicultural identity.
There are three strategies that explain how the individual would come to create a new identity. The first is called
Integration Strategy ´ orFusion Model´ (15), this consists of adding new cultural patterns to the ones which already exist in the personality without experiencing any conflict. The result would be a new consistent and mixed identity where the two cultures coexist. There are certain authors who question this model; they argue that no integration of the new culture occurs, but a cultural assimilation (16). Ethnic minorities could illustrate this point; in some cases they modify their identities by adding patterns of the dominant society, and eventually they end assimilating the host society culture losing their own in the process.
The second strategy is `Alteration Model´, the individual moves between different identities depending on the immediate context. This model has been also criticised, some scholars consider that this strategy does not define a multicultural identity, but a specific behaviour in line with the external circumstances (17). The third strategy is ' Synergy or Hybrid´ (18). Here a new identity appears, different from the original one, as a result of constant exchanges and cultural interactions.
Transcending differences: global identity
There are those who think that a multicultural identity does not imply to transcend differences and develop a global consciousness. This is the case of the ' Stress-Adaptation-Growth Model´ proposed by Kim (19) in which the individual goes through different stages in building an intercultural identity. In the first stage when encountering new cultures, the individual refuses to change their original cultural patterns, which generates stress. At the second stage, the individual deconstructs or unlearns their old patterns and adds new ones, this is the adaptation moment. As a consequence, a new and more complex identity arises with high self-awareness and cultural competencies, this is the growth stage.
This new intercultural identity is different from the multicultural identity because this is not a mere addition or subtraction of cultural components. The intercultural person manages to merge the individual and universal in a single identity. Having a clear idea of oneself and others as individuals, this person can transcend differences and social categories, and identify with the human values common to all cultures. Thus, the person develops a universal consciousness able to recognize the uniqueness of each individual as an expression of the whole, of mankind.
Similarly, Sussman (20) distinguishes between multicultural or hybrid identity and intercultural identity. The latter identity stands for a
Global Identity´ or theCitizen of the World´. This is a person with a clear definition of themselves, a high adaptation capacity and cultural knowledge, able to interact effectively in any context, transcend differences and empathize with human values. Other authors share this view. Adler (21) speaks about a
new type of man´, theMulticultural Man ´, whose identity is based on self-awareness and the ability to negotiate new forms of reality. This man transcends the sense of cultural belonging and "live at the border", is dynamic, versatile, and identifies with the common values of all human beings, as well as, their differences.
Other definitions and studies on multicultural or global identity (22), and citizen of the world traits can be found. However, there is a common denominator among all of them, human consciousness. Overcoming any difference and encounter with the unknown, this individual knows how integrate, or at least respect, the diversity due to their awareness of the essential and primary value: we are all humans. From this basic fact comes the dream of creating a real and more consistent global society, even if idealistic and maybe naive, it is made possible as it exists and is inherent within all those ' citizens of the world´.
Bibliography and references
(1) http://goo.gl/cZo0sY ; http://goo.gl/yrrj2Y
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