12/25/2003

Nine Paths to Global Citizenship

By Doug McGill
The McGill Report

Global citizenship, one might say, is a kind of super-citizenship – the familiar idea of rights and duties of membership in a civic group, only taken to a higher power, which is the power of the entire planet.

The central idea is that global citizens spend time each day thinking about their responsibility to maintain not only the health of their particular city, state, and country – but also about the civic and moral duties they owe the planet and its people.

Global citizenship has its own heroes and a history that runs parallel to, and usually just below the visible surface of the more prominent social and political practices and theories of every age. Today, thanks to 9/11 and global warming and many other striking contemporary proofs of our interconnected and endangered world, the idea may finally be coming into its own.

There are roughly nine major paths towards global citizenship. Any person who on a daily basis tries to reconcile the pressing needs of his or her family, career, and community with the inner urge to act each day somehow for global betterment, will find spiritual ancestors and some practical advice in one or more of these paths:

 

1. The Path of Reason
2. The Path of Faith
3. The Democratic Path
4. The Humanitarian Path
5. The Ecological Path
6. The Free Trade Path
7. The Feminist Path
8. The Corporate Path
9. The Perennial Path

 

Citizenship is membership, but it is also remembering, with the first and most essential memory being that of dependence for our lives as individuals upon the good health and the goodwill of the global community of human beings. And, upon the environmental health of the planet.

This is not always an easy thing to remember even within the cozy confines of family, city, or nation. It’s all the more difficult then when our fellow citizens – those with whom we need to vividly remember our connection -- live in foreign countries far away and out of sight of our daily lives.

Adam Smith remarked in an essay that if a European man lost his little finger in an accident, he would be thrown into a torment. Yet that same man, “provided he never saw them, would snore with the most profound security over the ruin of a hundred millions of his brethren” in China.

Today, thanks to CNN and a hundred other news sources, we would most certainly see in graphic visual detail the ruin of millions of Chinese, if God forbid that calamity came to pass. Yet we also know, for reasons Smith could not have foreseen, that our sleep usually remains undisturbed by the suffering of peoples half a world away.

Millions of human souls in recent years died violently in North Korea, Sudan, the Congo and a half dozen other hell spots on Earth in the 1990s, for instance, without disturbing American sleep much. Responding only to what their audience ratings meters tell them they should do, our TV news media interlinks reports of the war in Iraq with bulletins on Michael Jackson’s pedophile case and the latest other nonsense, and on an on it goes, distracting us hour after hour and year after year, until one day it’s too late.

Then a killer flu virus suddenly arrives on our shores from China, or a pollution cloud floats in from Canada, or a terrorist-piloted jumbo jet explodes on our own shores. Then and only then we pay attention.

To a large degree, those catastrophes are the direct result of not regularly remembering and acting upon the vital life connection we know exists between ourselves and the other inhabitants of our planet, especially those who live very different lives in a land far away, until it is too late.

Until recent years, pondering cosmopolitanism was mainly a pastime of the elite for whom it was either necessary business or diverting pastime, such as wealthy international traders, diplomats, or philosophers. The elites who ran the great European colonial empires all had a cosmopolitan view; as did the early explorers of Portugal and Spain; and the globe-trotting Jesuits who were as greedy for global souls as merchants were for gold and spices. Renaissance philosophers like Hugo Grotius spun theories of international law straight from their vision and genius, without having much practical daily application. Similarly, the Greek stoics, the first forefathers of anyone who tries to forge a cosmopolitan outlook today, philosophized on the equality of all mankind while blithely owning household slaves themselves.

Yet the inconsistencies and incomplete theories of these global-thinking pioneers make them no less useful to us today. No doubt we will have to update, modify, and ultimately transcend their example as mankind goes on, if it is lucky, to successfully complete the next step in its ever-expanding consciousness. We had better soon become global thinkers or all die as local ones. But one thing is sure, which is that whatever new global consciousness arises, it will grow out of the ideas passed down from those who have put them, such as they are today, already in our minds. The new theory will have to save what is useful to today from the global thinking pioneers, and kick away what is useless or false. The first step is to become consciously aware of the ideas that already move us and limit us from our own living past.


1. The Path of Reason

 

Patron Saint: Socrates
Main Idea: Reason and virtue are universal values of mankind.
Followers: The Stoic philosophers (Zeno, Seneca, Marcus Aurelius), the Cynic philosophers (Antisthenes, Diogenes, Crates), Hugo Grotius, Immanuel Kant, Martha Nussbaum.

“I am neither an Athenian nor a Greek, I am a citizen of the world,” said the sage of Athens (quoted by Plutarch). As such he was perfectly democratic in his application of the standards of reason across all borders and with all comers. Applying reason to belief, individually and personally, citizen by citizen, was Socrates’ way. For him good ideas could come from anywhere in the world. Spreading these ideas to the young men of Athens got Socrates killed; yet in submitting to the will of Athens that he be executed, instead of choosing exile, Socrates showed the limits of his cosmopolitanism. The Stoic schools took the cosmopolitical aspect of his thinking to greatest extreme, arguing that the entire world was entirely material and endowed with reason and soul, and it was thus every individual’s role, wherever they may live on the earth, to live according to the dictates of rational nature. The Renaissance philosopher Hugo Grotius built the first system of international law out of the notion that all humans are rational and social, and thus are bound in a moral world that transcends national boundaries. When Immanuel Kant wrote “perpetual peace is guaranteed by no less an authority than the great artist Nature herself,” he picked up where the Stoics left off. His essay “Perpetual Peace,” arguing for universal peace based on universal laws, is the manifesto of many modern cosmopolitans. Martha Nussbaum extends the theme in many writings, such as Cultivating Humanity, in which she argues for spreading liberal arts education (Socratic style) globally as a way to support the growth of freedom, democracy, and human rights.


2. The Path of Faith

 

Patron Saint: Albert Schweitzer
Main Idea: Service to God by revering and supporting all life.
Followers: Augustine of Hippo, St. Francis, St. Paul, G.K.
Chesterton, Reinhold Neibuhr, Mother Theresa, Habitat for Humanity

“As long ago as my student days, it struck me as incomprehensible that I should be allowed to live such a happy life while I saw so many people around me wrestling with care and suffering,” Schweitzer scrawled on a notepad only a week before his death in Gabon, Africa. “There gradually grew up within me an understanding of the saying of Jesus that we must not treat our lives as being for ourselves alone.” As a result, Schweitzer sacrificed a promising career as a concert organist in Europe to go to medical school and then move permanently to Africa as a medical missionary. By giving up his cushy life to follow Jesus’ call to live for others, Schweitzer both followed, and established his credentials, as a modern avatar of the path of the missionary – usually but not always in modern history, a Christian. Faith not reason is the motivational spring of these cosmopolitans. God’s plan, not man-in-progress, is the engine of human history. Humanist critics point to the many crimes of Christian missionaries and of the evangelical urge; yet the fact remains that missionaries more than any others, until the multinational corporation was invented, have overcome the gravity of local life in order to travel the world, to endure loneliness, to learn foreign languages, to befriend foreign people, and even to die in foreign lands having religiously converted others but been entirely culturally converted themselves. Religious humanitarian groups such as Catholic Relief Services and Lutheran World Relief are among the largest and most active NGO’s serving refugees and the world’s poor today.


3. The Path of Democracy

 

Patron Saint: Woodrow Wilson
Main Idea: Global political, legal, and trade cooperation.
Followers: Jonathan Schell, Vaclav Havel, the League of Nations, the United Nations, the International Court of Justice, the World Trade Organization.

These global citizens see global health primarily as the absence of war, with world peace arising primarily by individual action taken in the political sphere. The government’s role is to work with other nations towards global cooperation in all matters of common interest including health, humanitarian relief, education, the environment, and armed police actions when necessary. Citizenship to them implies individual action through voting, vocal political dissent, and other means of pressuring governments toward these ends. A few Wilsonians see the world ideally evolving towards a single global federalism; most favor continued national sovereigns working ever more closely through international treaties, protocols, laws, and practices that are backed by public opinion. To them, Woodrow Wilson’s idea for the League of Nations – especially his principles of democracy, freedom, self-determination, and the rule of law – was not proved fatally flawed by the League’s failure; rather it was a noble idea ahead of its time. The most prominent Wilsonian today is Jonathan Schell who argues in The Unconquerable World that the string of strikingly non-violent democratic revolutions that occurred in the late 20th century in the Soviet Union, Poland, Czechoslovakia, South Africa, South Korea, Indonesia, Spain, and other countries is evidence that America’s present military dominance goes against the grain of history – which shows the might of people power.


4. The Humanitarian Path

 

Patron Saint: Henri Dunant
Main Idea: Humanitarian action based on universal human rights.
Followers: Aryeh Neier, Paul Farmer, International Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International

In 1862, Henri Dunant, a French businessman in northern Italy, witnessed one of the bloodiest battles of the 19th century – Napoleon’s armies driving the Austrians out of Italy at the town of Solferino. Young Dunant, 34 at the time, walked through the battlefield afterwards and saw scenes of unimaginable suffering – soldiers shot through, their guts opened, missing arms and legs, but still alive and with no medical or nursing help at all. Writing up the experience in a small book called A Memory of Solferino, Dunant immediately poured all his time and funds into travels around Europe to get governments to send representatives to a conference to address the problem of wounded soldiers and prisoners of war. The 1864 conference drew up the Geneva Convention which codified rules for the treatment of wounded and prisoners, and formed the Red Cross. The phrase “human rights” would not become current for another 90 years, but the Red Cross became the first transnational humanitarian organization based on the idea of human rights. The group’s fundamental principles then as now were humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity, and universality. After World War II, especially after the United Nations General Assembly passed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, human rights groups have proliferated by the thousands, creating a global civil society composed of “non-governmental organizations” working transnationally through aid efforts and conferences. In addition, the language and law of human rights has become a pillar of U.S. foreign policy, used in the justification and adjudication of numerous foreign military and humanitarian projects. Human rights activists in the United States have given the movement special impetus by transferring to the global human rights movement many of the political, organizational, and ideological practices and beliefs of the U.S. civil rights movement of the 1960’s.


5. The Ecological Path

 

Patron Saint: Rachel Carson
Main idea: Living in harmony with nature is a key to peace.
Followers: Aldo Leopold, Sigurd Olson, Arne Naess, Edward Abbey, Wendell Berry, Bill McKibben, World Wildlife Fund, World Conservation Union, Greenpeace

Ecological consciousness is the Copernican revolution updated to modern times: it puts mankind not at the center of the universe but rather in one small if critical corner in the great web of life. Backed by the authority of modern science, the ecological view holds that the health of the whole earth depends on the health of all the parts, with a flaw or cancer in any part possibly leading to the death of all. Theoretically, this insight could lead to a humble politics, one that takes into account the possible consequences of every action not only locally but throughout that web of life, including the citizens of faraway lands. Aldo Leopold, the author of the ecological classic “A Sand County Almanac,” connected ecology and civics when he wrote of man being “a plain member and citizen of the biotic community.” Leopold’s friend and colleague, the naturalist Sigurd Olson, hiked in the wilderness of northern Minnesota and believed it offered lessons of global import: “Harmony of knowledge, will, and feeling toward the earth is wisdom, for it has to do with living at peace with other forms of life. Since the beginning of civilization, harmony with nature has been almost disregarded, though it has been recognized by a few great minds as the only solution to the problem of finding peace and contentment.” Sooner or later every environmental writer comes to roughly the same conclusion. Putting the earth first – biocentrism trumping anthropocentrism -- inevitably makes all men citizens in stewardship of their common home, the glistening blue sphere of Earth.


6. The Free Trade Path

 

Patron Saint: Adam Smith
Main Idea: Unregulated global capitalism improves everyone’s life.
Followers: Milton Friedman, F.A. Hayek, Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, libertarians, multinational corporations (except when protectionism suits them better)

The British liberal economist and moral philosopher Adam Smith theorized in 1776 that every man, “intending only his own gain” in making and selling goods, was actually working for the benefit of all men, whether he was conscious of this or not. In so doing, Smith invented a notion – the invisible hand of the free market – which remains one of the most powerful globe-encircling ideas to this day. The key notion is the price system, which magically finds a specific trading point at which parties on both sides of the transaction are satisfied. In other words, economics isn’t always brutish competition with a winner and a loser. In a free market, everyone can win. This idea became the foundation of “neoliberal” economics that, under the leadership of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, fueled the phenomenal growth of globalization in the post-war period. With Milton Freedman’s “Capitalism and Freedom” as their bible, neoliberal policymakers in the 1980s and 1990s drove vast global programs of government-led privatization. Global financiers used the philosophy to rationalize moving vast amounts of investment funds in and out of foreign banks in search of the highest returns. By the middle 1990s, the downsides of these policies, such as the destructive impact of investment funds suddenly withdrawn from an entire national economy, or the crushing financial terms imposed on foreign countries by the International Monetary Fund, had drawn thousands of protesters to annual conferences where global economic bodies (such as the World Trade Organization) met. The Nobel prizewinning economist Joseph Stiglitz and the journalist William Greider have both offered penetrating critiques of the free trade or “neoliberal” path, while also acknowledge the tremendous good that economic globalization has done. The enduring allure of the free trade path to the global citizen is captured by its modern prophet Milton Friedman: “When you buy your pencil or your daily bread, you don’t know whether the pencil was made or the wheat was grown by a white man or a black man, by a Chinese or an Indian. The price system enables people to cooperate peacefully in one phase of their life while each one goes about his own business in respect of everything else.”


7. The Feminist Path

 

Patron Saints: The women of Mandal village, Uttar Pradesh, India
Main idea: Feminine values are universal, practical, civic, and green
Followers: Carolyn Merchant, Carol Adams, Carol Gilligan, Elizabeth Spelman, Women’s Environment and Development Organization, the Gorilla Foundation, Feminists for Animal Rights

The odd name comes from the Hindi word for “hugging,” which is what the village women of Mandal in northern India did to the trees in a nearby forest in 1973, when logging companies threatened to clear-cut them. The protest was spontaneous and the women refused to budge even as the bulldozers charged, as if they were protecting their own children. It was Ghandi’s principle of non-violent resistance or satyagraha, put at the service of a forest, just as Ghandi had used it to win independence for India. The fact that women often are on the front lines of environmental battles around the world, and that they often find common cause despite language and cultural barriers, suggests the feminist view has much to offer aspiring global citizens of either gender. In particular, feminist group action not only on global environmental issues but also on social and economic justice issues is often marked by intense collaboration, open and free discussion, listening, and compromise. Further, feminist writers like Carol Gilligan and Elizabeth Spelman have argued that women tend to develop mastery of relationship maintenance skills to a higher degree than men. Gilligan’s idea that women tend to follow an “ethic of care” as opposed to men’s “ethic of justice” seems especially apt in a global citizenship perspective. The ethic of justice looks to abstract moral principles as guides to action, while the ethic of care stresses attention to the particular case and person, being open to different outcomes and stressing the maintenance of personal relations in each case to the degree possible. Virtues often exercised more naturally by women than men – hospitality, modesty, restraint, kindness, and the impulse to repair – these feminists argue, are the indispensable virtues to any global civic life.


8. The Corporate Path

 

Patron Saint: Rev. Leon Sullivan
Main idea: Doing business globally with a social conscience.
Followers: Business in the Community, Business for Social Responsibility, Robert Haas, David Grayson, Anita Roddick, Simon Zadek, Levi Strauss & Co., The Body Shop

As economic globalization progressed in the 1990s, a backlash formed among critics who saw it as a form of empire, enslaving a new generation of underpaid workers in third world countries to wealthy first-world masters. Riots in Seattle in 1999, where the World Trade Organization had its annual meeting, showed the depth of the anti-corporate sentiment. That confrontation and others led to the rise of the latest trend in doing business with a social conscience, known as CSR for “corporate social responsibility.” Cynics say CSR is a branch of corporate public relations. It is true that while several companies, such as Levi Strauss and The Body Shop, put significant resources into social programs, no companies have scored notable successes in the social and profit categories simultaneously. The patron saint of this path, the Rev. Leon Sullivan, built a worldwide network of self-help worker training centers and in 1971 joined the board of General Motors, becoming the first African-American to hold a board seat on a major corporation. In 1977 he authored the “Sullivan Principles,” a human rights code of conduct for U.S. and other multinationals operating in South Africa, while apartheid was still the law there. By getting American companies in South Africa to commit to equal opportunity employment for black as well as white employees, the Sullivan Principles turned multinational corporations into agents for social change that led ultimately to the end of apartheid in South Africa. This example, at least, shows that multinational corporations can and sometimes do play a critical role as global citizens by expanding human rights and democracy worldwide. Environmental and labor cases involving major multinationals like Nike, Union Carbide, and others tend to grab headlines. Yet the overseas staffs of U.S. multinationals, which numbering about two million U.S. citizens, create a de facto overseas diplomatic corps for the United States that shows a human face of America to the world – a great act of citizenship. Also for every factory worker scandal, U.S. multinationals also offer employment, and social and educational opportunities to foreign workers that they could never otherwise afford. History also shows that multinational firms are sensitive to pressure from consumer protests and NGOs, which have driven companies towards increasing social accountability over the years. Working as “expatriate” employee of a multinational remains the most practical path available to most Americans, to experience global citizenship firsthand.

9. The Perennial Path

 

Patron Saints: Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King
Main idea: Spiritual oneness through shared suffering and renouncing ego empowers people and secures the world.
Followers: Michael Lerner, Ken Wilber, Jacob Needleman, Joseph Goldstein, Marianne Williamson, Huston Smith, Joseph Campbell

What did the Buddha say to the hot dog vendor? “Make me one with everything.” The “unitive knowledge of the divine Ground of being” is how Aldous Huxley put it in The Perennial Philosophy, summarizing the universal truth that is taught at the oft-shrouded heart of the world’s great religions: “All is one.” Each of us is in essence but a tiny shard of a single Godhead. It’s an obvious insight to many, yet hard to translate into meaningful civic action. Today’s followers of the Perennial Path are trying to find just such practical paths by which individuals can turn their spiritual search into effective global citizenship. Jacob Needleman, the historian and philosopher, speaks of the need for America to overcome its intensely selfish worldview by building a “community of conscience,” one citizen at a time. America’s founding fathers provide ideal mythic models from which each citizen can be reassured that the possibility for true greatness can be tapped by seeking the light of divinity within. That act puts man “in accordance with his structure and nature as an image of God” and allows him to fulfill his highest purpose: “Namely to care for the inner divinity and through that to care for our neighbor.” The New Age philosopher Ken Wilber suggests that a widespread breakthrough in consciousness to a “worldcentric” view, which previously has been the domain of social elites, may be the next step in human evolution that began with egocentrism (self-focus), and then successfully progressed then to sociocentrism (partially subjugating the needs of self to the needs of the group). “In this transformation,” Wilber writes, “from the sociocentric to the worldcentric, the self de-centers once again: my group is not the only group in the universe, my tribe is not the only tribe, my god is not the only god, my ideology is not the only ideology.” Some Perennial Path leaders, such as the Buddhist teacher Joseph Goldstein, say that working spiritually to eradicate the sources of conflict within oneself, such as through meditation, is possibly the highest form of peace work that a human being can do. Others, like Marianne Williamson, say that at some point well before reaching enlightenment, individuals must explicitly engage in civic life. This very engagement can itself be fuel for continued spiritual growth: “Where people join, breakthroughs occur,” she says. “Where we are separate from each other – angry, polarized, and defensive – breakdown and disorder are inevitable. The way to heal social disorder, domestically or internationally, is to find our spiritual oneness. We don’t need deeper analysis of our sickness so much as we desperately need a more passionate embrace of the only thing that heals them all.”

Copyright @ 2003 The McGill Report