After running across ProjectExplorer.org a couple months ago, I've been contemplating this topic in hopes I could really tap into the depths of my beliefs. What does it mean to be a good global citizen?
Part of me wishes that would mean having the coolest passport ever - or I guess a lack of need for one - but I know that's neither going to happen any time soon nor the right idea for today's world.
Instead, being a good global citizen seems to be more about the application of the heart's empathy and a concept of equality among people (and living things, setting aside my tendency to be a carnivore). Now I know that's vague, and it's also easy to say in theory but not often the reality for most of us.
Today, I awoke from a bad dream involving one of my family members. Tears fell to my pillow, and I stared at the ceiling for a good couple of minutes before sitting by the beach to clear my worried mind. I like to flatter myself sometimes in thinking that I have this much care and concern for all people, but as that is far too heavy a task and burden for most, I know this isn't the case.
We humans care for those that touch us most deeply: family members, good friends, mentors and trainees, children, etc. To care that heavily about two skiers killed in avalanche in Australia (a hemisphere away) is going to take it out of someone when thousands die every day around the world and atrocities occur constantly without falter. That's some dark, constant fear and sadness for the feeler.
When some theorists claim you can only maintain 140 connections to people without losing touch and imagining abstract circumstances instead of reality, it's understandable that we can't feel true empathy beyond our social circles. People approach you outside the bars to donate to a children's hospital or an NPO in India…all you're thinking about are the friends you're with and the issues of their days. Commit a month of your year traveling to volunteer in Bangladesh? It's so much easier to let those potential connections wither from your conscience and keep living the life you already lead.
I want to make a distinction. I think great people are those who care about those around them and do good things for other people. To be a great person doesn't mean you have to necessarily do volunteer work in a third-world country or spend all your money supporting the building of wells in Africa. But in terms of defining good global citizenship, it's a must to care for those a world away in addition to those you encounter on a more regular basis. On the same side of the coin, I wouldn't consider ignoring your local community in exchange for West Africa to be the mark of a good global citizen either.
It's the all around concern and action for mankind…anywhere.
My name tag doesn't yet read, "Lindsay Clark, Model Global Citizen," but I consider that to be an abstract, unreachable goal and measuring stick upon which to gauge my actions. In the process, I'm imagining I'll hit some status of "half-decent human being" and hopefully feel content with how I spend my time. I still seem to think judgmental thoughts while people watching and turn a blind eye to things I shouldn't, but no one can go from an untrained neanderthal to the epitome of altruism in 60 seconds. It takes lots of realizing your wrong actions and thoughts before fine tuning your humanity.
In addition to a lot of other perks, I've always had around me the opportunity to learn and take care of my body. My parents cared a lot about the school I attended and the class of which I was a part. My brother always felt the need to inform me of that which I was ignorant. And I can't remember I time I didn't have a Band-aid when I needed one. Before my fifth birthday, I was stung in the face by seven bees and rushed back home to be treated before guests arrived. I've always had access to a good education and adequate health attention. I don't think this is too much to ask for the rest of the world's people.
This is not my practice answer for the Miss America pageant, but I actually think education can solve virtually any problem on earth. And as our parents have told us for years, "if you don't have your health, you have nothing." We need to prioritize collectively, because if only some of us have access to these basic rights, the others suffer.
Ubuntu is a mentality all about acknowledging the humanity in others.
I am because you are.
We all need each other to survive whether that's apparent constantly or not. If we don't believe everyone deserves the right to learn and have access to health care, we're cornering a lot of people into vicious circles from which they cannot emerge easily. If we believe in equality, we will honor the humanity of others by helping to provide everyone the same rights. I certainly didn't have to try hard to receive these two rights, and I can't let the fact that I was lucky confuse me into thinking it's the same way for everyone.
One of the most important additions to the good global citizen equation: don't be a pompous ass. It's someone's decision to expand their awareness to the world beyond borders, but as I stated before, great people can orbit small circles. It's pretty darn easy to turn people away by implying they don't care enough about starving orphans and injured elephants and limping saints. It's also easy to slim down your friend network by allowing travel and world interest to alienate yourself from people who are simply less vocal or concerned with more tangible issues.
This is how I feel today.