Defining the New-Age Global Citizen

Photo by Z on Unsplash

I asked Twitter at the beginning of the month if they considered themselves global citizens. I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of responses, but the answers were super varied and not what I was expecting.

Original tweet asking if you consider yourself a global citizen or not. Link to thread: https://twitter.com/raes_tea/status/1523618798150029312
Link to original thread: https://twitter.com/raes_tea/status/1523618798150029312

The most common responses reflected on these points:

  • Being committed to being culturally plural, and contributing to multiple societies/social contexts
  • Imperialistic crutch term to allow the well off to benefit from cultures outside their bounds
  • Being born and raised a third culture kid

Clearly, the Global Citizen’s existence is vague, and often abused by people looking to minimise cultural differences rather than celebrate them.

Wikipedia’s definition: Global citizenship is the idea that one’s identity transcends geography or political borders and that responsibilities or rights are derived from membership in a broader class: “humanity”

Still, I believe the concept of a Global Citizen is important to develop for our future as a global community.

We need more people to see themselves as global citizens so to teach us and our children that our actions, cultures and environments do not exist in a vacuum.

It’s easy to feel like what happens in the US does not affect what happens in Japan, or that what happens in Yemen is not directly important for us in Europe to know about, and before the invent of the internet, such connections were extremely difficult for the average person to visualise or empathise with at all. In the beginnings of our figuring this all out, it will be the Global Citizen identity that prompts people to be more aware of how their local politics, actions and considerations affect the rest of the world. To me, a global citizen is not a collection of global badges, or experiences — but a perspective shift, a mindset shift and a commitment to understanding how much you don’t know.

Here’s what I think a Global Citizen is:

A Global Citizen tries to view their own socialisation and culture from the outside-in, and the inside-out.

In order to understand others, it’s important to celebrate and allow open criticism of our own roots and cultures.

A Global citizen is a curious mind, one that questions and qualifies the value their upbringing holds — not to undermine it or forsake it, but to put it into perspective and allow for meaningful comparison and cultural exchange. This also allows for more healthy criticism for cultural values we may be ready to part with, like toxic work culture or ethnocentrism.

A Global Citizen strives to understand other cultures, and consistently widen their world view with the perspectives of others.

One of the reasons I don’t agree with the equating of third culture kids to global citizens is because the world is too vast to claim to be able to quantify a global citizen based on a person’s direct “connection to the world”

Let’s say you’ve grown up between 5 different places, can you automatically say you’ve fully adopted a plural world view from all 5 places? Can you call the integration of 5 cultures a global citizen? Does more than one cultural background give you the right to say you’ve unlocked the world?

As a third culture kid myself, I know that learning the perspectives of multiple cultures even when you grew up with them is a constant effort, and takes intentional focus. It’s not automatic, and I believe that thinking this way is unintentionally creating a class based definition, as there are many people who I believe are more globally minded or committed to learning, despite growing up in one place.

A Global Citizen is anti-imperialist, because they understand that there isn’t much out there that is universal.

Although this concept is often used in the name of imperialism, ironically, I feel that the global citizen is very purposefully, anti-imperialist. This is another reason why I reject the idea that “being able to experience many cultures = global citizen”. The more you learn about other cultures, your own cultures, new languages and the cultures within them, the more you realise how arbitrary a lot of what we live by is. For example, we may take for granted that ‘dedicating your life to your career’ is a positive value that every one around the world views in the same way, because that’s the way our cultures view it. However, the more you interact with different cultures the more you learn that your default is not the default.

With that, I pose a question to you in the comments: Do you consider yourself a Global Citizen? Why or why not? Do you agree with my definition? Is it missing something? Open to thoughts!

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Here’s a link to the Twitter thread that sparked this post.

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