On Being Global Citizens

Perhaps the most disconcerting learning from
the research I’ve been reading lately is a reminder of an old reality–that we
in the U.S. still do not see ourselves as global citizens.

Perhaps the most disconcerting learning from the research I’ve been writing about in Perspectives recently is a reminder of an old reality. We in the U.S. don’t see ourselves as globally connected. We tend to want to focus on the local to the exclusion of the global. While I understand this, it’s dangerous and it’s unreal.

We are more connected today through economic, technological and political events than ever before. The health of the people of Uganda, for example, is directly related to our health, whether we understand it or not. Infectious diseases that can decimate us are only a plane ride away. The world has shrunk. The global AIDS pandemic should teach us this if we learn nothing else from it.

I wish people would support global citizenship for benevolent and compassionate reasons. That’s a wish, however, not reality. So, we need to understand that poverty creates instability. Hunger causes people to succumb to desperate measures, sometimes to leaders who bring them hope through the promise of violent change. Global poverty is a threat to national security. Ours and theirs.

Yet we continue to speak and act as if we are more distant from each other than we truly are. And I’m afraid we continue to act as if we’re not as interconnected as we truly are.

This isn’t new. Several years ago InterAction, the non-profit coordinating organization, conducted research that revealed barely 3% of the U.S. population supported foreign assistance and they grossly over-estimated the percentage of the federal budget going for “foreign” aid. (They guessed 10%. It’s actually less than a tenth of a percent, and most of that goes to Israel.) I doubt this awareness has increased much, despite the globalization of our communications technologies. For a recent compilation of attitudes see this link .

I could run through a long list of reasons why I think this is true, but sometimes I think doing so merely creates excuses not cures. So I’ll spare you that.

And most of all, I think we need to understand we are global citizens and it’s a very small world.

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