The other day, on the #1 train, I think I spotted a global citizen. Instead of loitering by the door, as many subway riders are apt to do, blocking people from entering and exiting, she was seated and actually offered hers to an elderly woman weighted down with shopping bags. Global citizens you see, are not genetically endowed. Do not walk on water. Don’t have wings, and live and move amongst us, with the air of mindful and engaged people.
What is a global citizen?
Before answering that it is important to state at the outset that text book, academic journal, education periodical definitions, will not suffice. One, because they sound like each other. Second, wrapped in the gauze of hyperbole and platitude, they illuminate nothing but opaque concepts that contribute nothing but another opaque concept.
My hope resides in what it means to become a citizen, globally minded, in the Greek sense of civitas—citizenhood of people not as people but as citizens belonging to a collective bound by responsibilities, rights and a common good.
Someone who embodies lots of Socrates and the belief that ‘the unexamined life’ is not worth living, John Dewey’s learning by doing, Maxine Greene’s metaphor of ‘wide awakeness‘, and Thoreau’s retreat to the woods ‘to live deliberately‘.
Savor music from Debussy to Sonny Rollins. Tony Bennet to Mercedes Sosa.
Know that food is one of the elemental expressions of culture and can relish everything from pazolle to beef stroganoff.
Don’t walk by the homeless as if they are lamp pots or fire hydrants.
Know the world is neither what FOX TV nor CNN depicts, but something complex, historical and full of perspectives.
Accept that everything is at risk– from the biosphere to civil liberties, public education to freedom for all. And neither waits for politicians to save them or complacency to take over.
Are connected and conscious that the last century of unprecedented war and destruction cannot be the way of the 21st century.
Inhabit cities and towns with a restless desire for wellness and justice, knowing that the two are not incompatible or mutually exclusive.
Unite in the face of injustice be it in the streets of Cairo or Sanford, Florida.
Are students of life.
Come in all shapes, sizes, colors, nations, classes .
Are full of hope, ideals, indignation, civility and the conviction that limits have been violated and only humility and the urgency of social action can restore peace, balance and a future to the wounded planet.
Know that the nature of citizenship is an obligation and a social contract that crosses all borders and boundaries, is colorblind and ageless.
Revere the natural and the urban world.
Travel to learn not to distract.
Don’t wait for the world to change but work with others to change the world.
It was reported that Luis Armstrong, Pablo Neruda, Emma Goldman, Paul Robeson and Woody Guthrie gathered over the weekend at Ellis Island to organize a day of silence to occur in every city of the world to honor children, and the immaculate powers of play and the imagination.
They too, are our global citizens.