Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Becoming a Cosmopolitan

Even before recent events in Haiti, I have been thinking about how to be a better global citizen. As we were driving to San Diego for New Years, Mitch and I heard an interesting interview on On Point where Tom Ashbrook interviewed this woman who recently made a documentary on philosophy and its relevance to modern life. The movie is called Examined Life and features interviews with a bunch of modern philosophers. It sounds like a very interesting movie and in one of the clips Kwame Anthony Apia was talking about what it means to be a good person, a good citizen, in the global age. He talks about how it is relatively easy to do right by your friends, your family, and even your local community, but what does it mean to be a good citizen when we are all connected now globally? Kwame terms this new form of community and citizenship cosmopolitanism.

Other things I have run into recently have reinforced the idea that trying to do right by ones fellow global citizens is a worthy, if complex, goal. Believe it or not there is a small diatribe on this concept in the Elliot Pattison mystery that I am currently reading. And last night while watching a documentary on Joe Strummer, Joe philosophizes on the idea that we are all running around in our own little worlds and not doing enough to support our fellow humans everywhere.

It is a bit overwhelming to contemplate when it is all I can do to get my teeth brushed every day and keep up with the flossing. But I also feel like I'm not being a very good parent if I'm not modeling for my kids how to be a humanitarian and how to make the rubber hit the road in terms of supporting people in need and not living on the backs of poorly paid laborers worldwide. Somehow buying fair trade goods seems like a good start but not enough. So while I can't say that I have actually accomplished a single act of Cosmopolitanism recently other than buying fair trade tea, hats, and jewelry for Christmas, I am starting my research - looking into gleaning locally, habitat for humanity building vacations, donations to Haiti, and more.

If I actually get anything done other than staring into my navel, I'll let you know. And if you have good ideas for things to do as a global citizen, you let me know.

1 comment:

Scott said...

I've been thinking about this lately in light of Haiti - all these people on Facebook exhorting others to donate $5,$10, etc... and the US govt sending $100 million in aid (for a start). The psychology of it is interesting - people respond to these big, attention grabbing disasters (understandably), and are happy to send money, but the same people would be unlikely to donate to other charities that could save more lives proactively instead of reactively. I can't remember but I feel like somewhere on your blog or facebook you mentioned Peter Singer's book The Life You Can Save - about our moral obligation for charity. Anyway, nothing well-formed or coherent here, but I read your blog just after reading the NYT article about aid to Haiti and it was all running around in my head...