World Citizenship

Is there a contradiction in the term “world citizenship”?

The key is what one understands by “citizenship”. Is citizenship a behaviour, an active engagement and participation in a membership organization, or is it merely a descriptor of one’s values, a passport to entitlement, carrying with it certain rights and privileges?

To be a citizen means to be engaged in a public space, whether a neighborhood, a village, a state or a federation. Citizenship is also ultimately about the locus of authority on matters of self-sufficiency.

The first problem with the concept of “world citizenship” is institutional: we are 6 billion+ people distributed randomly across some 200 governmental organizations, and we sorely lack a shared vocabulary adequate to comprehend the world as a “public space”. There is no overarching, unifying idea as to what such a “world space” might be. The only idea widely shared is that we inhabit a fragile planet of limited capacity.

Fear of resource depletion (hunger?) is hardly effective as a motivator for consensus, and should not be confused with a teleological vision of the glory of colonizing Mankind.

The second problem, a matter of semantics, is what one means by “engagement”?

How can a corporation aspire to world citizenship if its entire existence is spent in the pursuit, accumulation and cultivation of financial liquidities? How can it consider itself a citizen of anywhere when such liquidities, are, by definition, the antithesis of rooted attachment?

Any defender of capitalism will argue that capitalists are attached to and defend values just like local manufacturing enterprises. The difference is that global capitalists unlike “local manufacturers” are not limited by the grazing opportunities afforded by the local economy, their exposure to local production risks are hedged by being able to graze elsewhere. Where then is their engagement?

Such “citizenship” is a “fat of the land” citizenship, a citizenship by attachment while the pickings are good, a “meta-citizenship”.

Am I saying then, that the ultimate test of citizenship is the willingness to risk failure for a cause? Perhaps.

What I am saying though, is that no matter how grand the capitalistic vision, “world citizenship” cannot be considered citizenship so long as it remains linked to opportunistic, capitalistic behaviour practiced without regard to local context.

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