Not just a pipe dream

The great Polish/Jewish revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg once stated "I feel at home in the world wherever there are birds, clouds and human tears." Such is the essence of global citizenship. Global citizenship is not some pipe dream concept Santa Monica College uses to advertise itself as a beacon for those seeking a genuine melting pot of languages, ethnicities and nationalities. Global citizenship must be defined as the erasure of artificial boundaries and invented lines on the map. It is the genuine, radical appreciation and affection for others that dismisses racial, cultural boundaries. Appreciating a fellow human being should be based on who they are as an individual. Where they come from or what their heritage is, should be seen as features that come with the package. The truest revolutionary act is caring for your fellow human beings no matter race or creed.

This is an issue that is especially pressing in a campus like SMC, where students from all around the world come to study and bask in the cosmopolitan atmosphere. But while nationalism, the pride of one's nationality and culture, is a natural behavior, an internationalist view of the world is truly unique, which explains why SMC makes global citizenship a graduation requirement.

We must adapt a more internationalist view because what happens in the world affects us all. In one of his classic manifestos the great Russian anarchist, Mikhael Bakunin pointed out that capitalism does not respect borders, it spreads everywhere, and so internationalist revolutionaries should respond with the same fervor. In this same spirit we as students should not limit our knowledge, tastes and fashions to just what's "cool" within our national or state boundaries.

Consider that the state we live in, California, was once part of Mexico; in this sense the national border between both countries is a manufactured illusion made of steel and barbwire fences.

SMC student Ethan Shalom was very supportive of Global Citizenship because of its egalitarian possibilities. "It's a good thing because it exercises universal moral principles that go beyond the nation state. Smash the state," he said with a clenched fist.

This is a good sign that the principles of internationalism are catching on well with students. Maybe they have no choice. The world we live in is being shaken by cross-border events. Being a global citizen is something others around the world have already been living intensely and even dangerously.

The Arab Spring for example, began in Tunisia and spread like wildfire to Egypt, Syria, Algeria, Yemen and Bahrain. So massive was the impact of the Arab revolutions because of the grievances they expressed (inequality, lack of jobs) that even nations without dictatorships such as Spain, Greece and the United States saw "occupy" movements sprout up that chanted slogans of solidarity with their comrades on the other side of the world.

Any American willing to follow the rioting in Kiev live on the internet will see that the world cannot be shut out.

"The world is smaller in a way where we can find with a click of our computer or our phone what's happening in the world, but it's also getting bigger because we're getting so much information about everything," said Eric Mitzenberg, SMC professor of Cultural Anthropology and chair of Global Citizenship. Minzenberg did much work in Latin America where he saw first hand of policies in the US affect communities beyond our borders. "For us in the West we can produce more cheaply than anywhere else in the world but for a lot of people in the world it has made them poorer, their resources are being exploited and they don't have access to the technologies we use."

Minzenberg emphasized that Global Citizenship at SMC means the interaction between cultures so we can better understand ourselves as a diverse melting pot. When it comes to global issues Minzenberg said some people "just think eh, it's not my backyard, why should I care? But we're trying to make people understand the connections and hopefully some will be inspired to take positive action."

While most of us cannot climb a building, plant a red flag and proclaim a new Springtime of Peoples, we can begin microcosmic changes with radical implications in our own lives. Indulge in music from other countries. Don't just scan local headlines, take a look at world news. Don't simply watch American movies, watch the great films countries like France, Germany and Chile have to offer. This Sunday when the Oscars are broadcast on TV, pay attention to the Best Foreign Film nominees and not just Jennifer Lawrence.

Global Citizenship is not a Utopia because it is something that can be achieved in our daily lives, we do it every day when we break bread with Persians, Jews, African Americans, Asians, and Latinos.

"My hope is that what we are teaching will lead to take an attitude that change practices and behaviors in ways we can't always say," said Minzenberg. "Are you going to be a lawyer? Are you going to work for a big Fortune Five Hundred or do immigration law? Are you going to be a doctor and be a plastic surgeon or be a doctor working at a poor clinic?"

He concluded by saying "I'm hoping students are inspired and try to do positive things that about humanity and equality instead of me, me, me."

Be a Global Citizen because the truth is, you have no choice. We won't cross the border, it already crossed us.

OpinionAlci RengifoComment