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When basic freedoms take root, citizenship begins to evolve. To understand this process of evolution, let us use the analogy of computer software, which is continually being upgraded. Today, in almost every society around the world, five levels of ‘civic software’ are in operation. As global citizens, it is our responsibility to be familiar with all five.
Here is a chart that summarizes this evolution:
At the most rudimentary level, Citizen 1.0 looks out only for his or her own interest. It is ‘egocentric’ in that it is about ‘my’ interests, and nothing more. Despite the negative connotations of the word ‘egotistic,’ it is an extremely important and healthy stage in our development as citizens. This most basic level of civic identity—based on one’s own individual interests, needs and attitudes—is necessary. But, as all human beings instinctively know, it is simply not enough. Just as human infants cannot survive if someone—a parent, a relative or another caregiver—does not look out for their interest, neither can civilization survive unless the level of civic awareness moves beyond that of Citizen 1.0.
For example, in both the western USA where I live and in rural China where I recently lectured (my previous book Leading Through Conflict has been translated into Mandarin and Cantonese), I encounter communities who are dealing with conflicts over water. When dams are built, the flow of irrigation water to the surrounding farms is affected. Conflicts often flare because each farmer is fighting for his water supply. When citizens are only ‘out for themselves,’ conflict is endless and often unproductive.
In all cultures, civic awareness evolves to Citizen 2.0, in which the focus shifts from individual to group identity. Citizen 2.0 emerges when we find others with whom we share common interests, and connect our individual wants or identities to others and form a group, tribe, clan, party or company. Instead of thinking exclusively in terms of what personally benefits ‘me,’ we think in terms of a larger ‘us.’ This group identity may be ethnic or tribal, or it may be embodied in a formal ‘-ism’ of some kind (whether Catholicism or corporatism, communism or anti-communism). But as different as these groups may be, they have in common that their members identify with a unit larger than themselves but smaller than the nation. While their passports may indicate that
they are Russian, or Brazilian, or Canadian, Citizen 2.0’s in fact do not identify with the nation. They identify more with their particular subgroup than with the nation itself.
Seen positively, Citizen 2.0 is a widening of our identity so that we feel connected with others who are ‘like us.’ We are no longer isolated, atomized individuals seeking our own private advantage, but part of a larger, cohesive group that seeks resources and influences policy. Working within a framework of democratic institutions, these ‘interest groups’ represent the diverse elements of a society. Visit any nation—from Australia to Afghanistan to America—and one finds these sub-national identities vying for control.
Not long after the economic and political crisis that devastated Argentina, I spent several days in Buenos Aires working with leaders of several political parties. I was struck once again by the universal paradox: they were all Argentineans who loved their country and were concerned about its future, yet each party’s leaders were undermining and scheming and fighting against the others. I experienced the same paradox in nations as diverse as Israel, Nepal, Russia and the United States. Up close, every nation, to quote Abraham Lincoln, is a ‘house divided against itself.’
When a nation is dominated by one of these 2.0 subgroups, the results can be catastrophic. At its worst, Citizenship 2.0 can lead to civil war, ethnic cleansing and, if unopposed, genocide. Most of today’s wars are civil wars, rooted in hatred between competing groups that are defined by tribe, race, ethnicity, religion or ideology. “The explosion of communal violence is the paramount issue facing the human rights movement today,” concluded Kenneth Ross, acting executive director of Human Rights Watch. “And containing the abuses committed in the name of ethnic or religious groups will be our foremost challenge for the years to come.”
In addition to ideology, racial or ethnic identification also characterizes Citizen 2.0. Jacqueline Adhiambo-Oduol, who teaches intercultural communication in Nairobi, has observed this level of citizenship in Kenyan politics. “We are still facing a challenge in Kenya of developing national integrity,” she observes. “When a judge or other high official is appointed, the first question we tend to ask is not whether he or she has the necessary qualifications. Instead, we ask from what ethnic community they come. Are they Kikuyu? Are they Luo?”
Precisely because of these dangers, upgrading our civic software to Citizen 3.0 is an important development. Citizen 3.0 includes individual and group identities, but it transcends them in order to identify with a whole society or nation. At this level of awareness, citizens vow to defend the rights and interests of everyone who is a citizen of their nation, even if they are of a different tribe, party, race or religion. Seen in its most positive light, ‘nationalism’ represents a widening of identity to include all of one’s fellow citizens.
Such a national identity represents an enormous evolution in human consciousness. If national identity truly means that citizens believe in full humanity for all their fellow citizens then it is far more encompassing and inclusive than either Citizen 1.0 or 2.0. So, for example, a British Citizen 3.0 who must deal with a Bangladeshi shopkeeper will consider that immigrant to be a human being of equal rights simply because he is a citizen of the United Kingdom. Similarly, a ‘white’ US President will celebrate the election of his ‘black’ successor because he is, no matter what his skin color or ancestry, a fellow American. Whether one is a Muslim Nigerian struggling to deal with the construction of a Christian church on your street (or vice versa), a secular Israeli trying to overcome stereotypes about your Orthodox neighbour (or vice versa), or a Canadian of English descent living in Toronto trying to deal with the influx of Asian immigrants (or vice versa), developing the inclusive national identity of Citizen 3.0 is essential.
However, in today’s globalizing world, widening one’s identity to include every other citizen inside that country’s borders is necessary, but no longer sufficient. As the 20th century tragically illustrated, a unified nationalistic ‘we’ can demonize and attack a foreign ‘them’ with a vengeance and trigger world wars that leave civilization in ashes. If national leadership were enough to manage our small planet, I would not have written this book, a London-based book company would not have published it, and you would not be reading it.
In less than a generation, the world has leapfrogged national boundaries. Main Street has been transformed into the Globalization Highway. For most of our parents’ and certainly our grandparents’ generations, most businesses were local; politics was primarily domestic; the media and entertainment were primarily national; daily life was geographically contained (except, of course, in times of world war). But today, and certainly for our children’s generation, the opposite is true. Virtually all business is global. National economies are profoundly intertwined with the worldwide market. Politics are dominated by international issues. Last but not least, the mass media, including the Internet and the worldwide web, are planetary. In such a world, Citizen 3.0 is not enough. We human beings must evolve further because the whole simply cannot be managed by leaders who identify only with a part.
Ten-year-old Tilly Smith was walking with her mother Penny along a beautiful white sand beach when she noticed the odd, choppy waters. “The water was all frothy like on the top of a beer,” Tilly recalled later. “It was bubbling.”
This British family on holiday just wanted to relax and enjoy themselves on this otherwise beautiful and sunny day. But Tilly kept wondering about the water. It reminded her of a video she had watched in her geography class only two weeks earlier about a tsunami that had struck Hawaii.
The further they walked, the more afraid Tilly became. finally, after warning her mother repeatedly, Tilly finally could not stand it anymore. “Mum, I’m going to leave you,” she said. “I know there is going to be a tsunami.”
Struck by her daughter’s certainty, Penny finally turned around and went back to the hotel and shared Tilly’s concern with her husband. They alerted a hotel security guard, and together began warning people on the beach about the impending threat.
That day, around the perimeter of the Indian Ocean, more than a quarter of a million people died. But on Patong Beach, one hundred people were saved because of a ten-year-old girl.
Citizen 4.0 represents a wider level of civic awareness because it breaks ‘out of the box’ of nationalism. For leaders and citizens who have developed this civic worldview, no single nation, religion, ideology, race or ethnic group defines them. They see themselves as multi-sided, multi-faceted, multi-layered—and they are proud of it. ‘Cultural hybridization’ is the word sociologists use to describe this phenomenon. ‘Hyphens’ is my slang equivalent.
“I am formed of the migrants who left Europe to find a new home on our native land,” said Thabo Mbeki, the former president of South Africa. “I owe my being to the Khoi and the San whose desolate souls haunt the great expanses of [our land]… In my veins courses the blood of the Malay slaves who came from the east… I come of those who were transported from India and China… who were able to provide physical labor. Being part of all these people… I shall claim that … I am an African.”
Although as a leader Mbeki was in other ways shortsighted, in this regard he was a pioneer. As a ‘Khoi-San-European-MalayIndian-Chinese’ hyphen, leading a hyphenated nation, he did not identify with only one of those ingredients, but instead announced that he is all of them. He used his own eclectic and complex identity to bless the rich diversity of the extraordinary nation he was privileged to lead. Like golfing phenomenon Tiger Woods (who described himself as ‘Thai-African-Cherokee-American’), Citizen 4.0’s not only tend to build bridges between cultures, they are bridges.
Like Mbeki and Woods, many Citizen 4.0’s have biographies that are cross-cultural tapestries. They have cobbled together their multi-centric identities in many different ways: living in more than one culture; marrying into another culture; working or studying with citizens of another culture (or cultures); or being deeply connected to the art, music, language or religion of other cultural traditions. These Citizen 4.0’s develop a multi-centric worldview that often conflicts with national perspectives.
The cross-cultural awareness of Citizen 4.0 comes most naturally to those who have been blessed (although they may at times feel cursed) with not belonging to a single culture. They are ‘outsiders’ to every culture precisely because they belong to many. When someone has been raised in multiple cultures, he or she is much more likely to be able to witness the complexity of the surrounding world.
For example, after all his travels around the world and his interviews with heads of state, Newsweek International editor Fareed Zakaria says that people all over the world feel ‘familiar’ to him. But he does not credit his graduate education or his exposure at international conferences for this gift. Instead, he writes of his aunt who always wore a burqa (the traditional garment worn by Muslim women), “and the many complex reasons she keeps it on, none of which involves approval of misogyny or supports suicide bombers.” In other words, what makes Zakaria a Citizen 4.0 is his personal, intimate experience dealing with different cultures.
There are many ways to develop a powerful feel for the world beyond America,” Zakaria observes, “but certainly being able to feel it in your bones is one powerful way.”
As the globalization of culture accelerates, Citizen 4.0’s who feel it in [their] bones are naturally becoming more influential and are playing an ever more central role in shaping global civilization. Indeed, for further evidence of this trend, we need look no further than 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. For more than 200 years, the White House was occupied exclusively by white men and women of European-Christian stock raised in the continental USA. For the first time in history, beginning in January 2009, the President and first Lady come from a family that is black-white-Asian, Christian-Muslim-Jewish, and speak English-French-Cantonese-German-Hebrew-Swahili-Luo-Igbo. With this combined lineage, this resident of the White House clearly has the capacity to witness deeply the world beyond his country’s borders.
The number of Citizen 4.0’s is growing rapidly because the vast majority of human beings are now living in more than one culture at a time. Recognizing multiple cultural realities is a vital stepping stone in the unfolding of civic consciousness. Indeed, some specialists in global education even state as their goal to “prepare the next generation of students to embrace multiple loyalties,” However, while it is a certainly a worthwhile pedagogical purpose to live students out of narrow ethnocentrism, multiplicity is but a stepping stone. Citizenship 4.0 is only a part of the path toward (in Gandhi’s words) ‘identify[ing] with all that lives.’
Citizen 5.0 takes us beyond the multi-national, multi-cultural worldview in two important ways. first, this civic identity is not multi-national, but trans-national: it includes all of humanity in its worldview. Second, it is not limited to the human dimension, but recognizes that the foundation of all life, including human life, is nature itself. All of us Homo sapiens are guests in the home we call planet earth, and our health, well-being, and prosperity ultimately depends entirely on our host. Perhaps Albert Einstein put the challenge of Citizen 5.0 most clearly when he said, “Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison [of separateness] by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole nature in its beauty.”
Queen Noor, the wife of the late King Hussein of Jordan, is a Citizen 5.0 who experienced what she calls “the dissolution of borders: political, economic and ecological.” She developed this awareness because her late husband “was a keen pilot, and flying with him taught me the irrelevance of national boundaries… From the air, it is clear that lines on the map are not drawn on the earth. And with modern, technical advances, it is possible to communicate instantaneously, independent of any terrestrial borders at all.”
What Queen Noor calls ‘borderless,’ she is referring to the unity and indivisibility of the whole. Citizen 5.0 does not view the world through multiple human cultures, but rather recognizes a deeper and more encompassing reality that holds all human cultures and all living things in its unfathomable embrace, a genuine reverence for global oneness.
Fortunately, we have all these levels of citizenship inside us. Each of these five dimensions of civic awareness are part of who we are. Of course, some are more developed than others. But the truth is: none of us are complete strangers to Citizen 1.0-5.0. If we reflect on our own lives, we will find each of them buried, like seeds, in the ground of our being. Our challenge is to recognize that since all these worldviews are within each of us we can relate to people everywhere.
On a planetary scale, learning to be ‘advocates for the whole’ means recognizing this ecology of worldviews as part of global civilization. To be a global citizen requires the wisdom and humility to hold all these competing realities in our minds and hearts.
“My name is Mark,” I say, shaking hands with one of the Muslim journalists. Like me, he is attending a small meeting between Western and Middle Eastern TV news editors who are concerned about how the media’s coverage is increasing tension between the regions.
“Hello,” he replies in English, but with a heavy Arabic accent. “I am Jihad.”
“I’m sorry,” I say quickly, unsure about what I had heard. “I didn’t catch your name.”
“Jihad,” he repeated more clearly.
Uncertain what to say, I move on quickly, introducing myself to the other participants in the meeting. But I promise myself that I will seek out Jihad during a break to find out more.
“It is actually not an uncommon name,” he tells me over lunch. “I was born in the mid-fifties, and many Muslim parents were drawn to this name.”
“Why did they pick that name?” I probed, still puzzled.
“My parents wanted their son to succeed, and to excel at school. ‘Jihad’ roughly translated means ‘hard work,’ or ‘perseverance.’ That is what my parents expected of me, and so they gave me that name.”
Jihad raised his hand and smiled. He knew what I was going to ask before the words had left my mouth.
“The word has been hijacked by the extremists,” he said. “When I was born, it simply meant to be diligent, devoted, and willing to work hard to become the best you could be. Now, in some circles, it means to wage a holy war. But that is not the original meaning of the word at all. If anybody knows the difference, it’s me!”
Ultimately, all the talk about global citizenship must turn into action. If we look closely at global citizens in action and come to understand what makes them so effective at working beyond the borders that divide most of humankind, we will discover that they have developed four capacities that are present in all of us.
Witnessing: Opening Our Eyes. If global citizens can envision the world, then we can learn about it; connect to others; and partner with them. If we cannot envision—if we cannot open our eyes and imagine the whole—our minds, hearts and hands will not be enough.
Learning: Opening Our Minds. We are not satisfied with whatever our own culture (or subculture) calls ‘learning.’ Instead, we recognize that we can embrace the whole world, in all its beauty and majesty, only if the mind, like a door, is opened.
Connecting: Opening Our Hearts. To bridge the divides that separate us from others, global citizens need to navigate rivers of feelings as well as thoughts. We need to open our hearts and connect to the hearts of others, even those who we may call ‘enemies.’
Geo-partnering: Opening Our Hands. With our eyes, minds and hearts open, we are ready to act. But global citizens soon realize that no one of us can build a bridge alone. Ordinary partnerships will not suffice because we need an ally who is different from us.
After a lifetime of work in this field, I believe that as a species we have both the capacity to build an interdependent, peaceful global civilization or to splinter and fragment into endless conflict. We can see the world narrowly or broadly, depending on which parts of ourselves we are able to develop. Human history shows clearly that we can lose our sight and become blind; close our minds and become rigid; close our hearts and become cold; close our hands and become violent.
One does not have to be a head of state to be a global citizen. Neither does one need to be a CEO of a multi-national corporation or global foundation nor a rock star. Anyone can become a global citizen.
Mark Gerzon, President of Mediators Foundation, has been a mediator, leadership consultant, and activist across the political divide for 25 years. From Capitol Hill to foreign capitals around the world, from divided communities to conflict resolution workshops, he has chronicled his work in a series of books exploring how to harness conflict.