Global Citizenship: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly


written By Kevin Kelly 12/09/2014

Global Citizenship: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
By Kevin Kelly 12/09/2014

When I think about global citizenship two words always come to mind; identity and responsibility. As the world we inhabit gets smaller we come into contact with more people from different walks of life. They come into our lives and leave a piece of themselves behind and as a result we change. For example: They provide us different perspectives of how we see the world and ourselves. People are constantly changing– literally and figuratively. From a biological perspective we are a new person every 7 years because most cells in our body are replaced by new ones. As a person we change with our environment and the people that have an impact on us. Thus, we have to be responsible of the social impact we leave behind as we go. But like many major changes that occurred in the history of men globalization will take time and there will be some sacrifices. But what are the consequences that can arise and how will we react? And will all the sacrifices be worth it?
This change of culture is having a homogenizing effect that may result in the loss of our national cultural identity (UNESCO, 2014). An example close to home is the “zwarte piet discussion”. From an international point of view it is seen as a racist festival (The Economist, November 2013). Yet to the majority of the Dutch “Sinterklaas” is seen as an important and traditional children’s holiday that they have celebrated since 13th century (Tinis, 2006). Zwarte piet was only introduced to this holiday in the year 1850 by Jan Schenkman (Neutkens, 2013). Now because of globalization the Dutch are forced to make changes in order to be politically correct or defend their heritage with the risk of getting labeled as racist. Other countries begin to lose their traditions and culture and are replacing it by “Global culture”. This is evident in the way we dress around the world. This is now dominated by westernized fashion style. Traditional religious burqas were banned in some European countries, including the Netherlands.
Another problem is that not every local is adapting to global citizenship and some do not even want it in the first place. This refusal to adapt to change has resulted in an increase in racism and discrimination towards the immigrants in the hope that they will feel unwelcomed and leave (Shah, 2008). What they do not understand is that advancements in technology are making migration easier and cheaper, so major change is inevitable. In the Netherlands many of the immigrants have tried to assimilate but they got rejected and are constantly reminded that they are actually “allochtonen” (Dutch word for people originating from another country). After a while they simply give up and reject the Dutch culture all together and create their own little communities which caused a major reaction from the right-wing politicians. This and other factors have led to a growing following for the extreme right politicians and the extreme radical groups.
However, we see some positive changes too. The group of people that were oppressed is now getting the same opportunities and equal treatment. For instance in Qatar the president of the Qatar University is Doctor Sheikha (Sheikha Al Mayassa, 2010). This is a huge leap forward, considering that Qatar is a Muslim country and Doctor Sheikha is a woman. The new generation is also being raised in an environment that accepts immigrants as equals. In the Netherlands bilingual schools and international programs are becoming more popular. This exposure further helps prepare the new generation for the new world and they gain the ability to communicate with more people around the world.
We as modern cosmopolitans have great responsibilities because we are paving the road to a brave new world that is truly globalized. We must respect the culture and people of the places we visit. Also when it comes to our national culture, I believe that it need not disappear. It is better that we take the analogy of Rick Wilk “Globalizing the local and localizing the global” (Sheikha Al Mayassa, 2010). This means that on the one hand we should adjust the local heritage to a more globalized version, while still maintaining local roots and identity. And on the other hand we should make globalization a logical part of our culture. In my opinion this will help make the transition a lot smoother for the older generation and save our heritage.


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