Thursday, July 31, 2008

What's Wrong With World Citizenship?


A friend of mine in Los Angeles sent me this amusing blog post from someone who is unhappy with a statement made by Senator Obama during his recent journey abroad:

"We do not want or need a world citizen to head our country, we need an American President. Obama, in Berlin and at his most vacuous announced, " Tonight, I speak to you not as a candidate for President, but as a citizen - a proud citizen of the United States, and a fellow citizen of the world." Obama has undergone a metamorphosis from presidential candidate to world messenger. He has clarified his religion. He is not a Muslim, he is a divine messenger. He is the fruit of his hippy mother, the fruit of flower power. Obama is a Baháist. A Baháist is a follower of a religion founded in 1863 in Persia and emphasizing the spiritual unity of all humankind." (You can visit the blog where this post was made if you want here).

My question for the author of this post and others who find this phrase "a proud citizen of the United States, and a fellow citizen of the world" so upsetting is "what's wrong with world citizenship"? Why would it be a bad thing for any political leader in any country to identify themselves that way in an increasingly global world? Is it that world citizenship is seen as incompatible with patriotism? This is an issue I recently addressed in "Red, White and Baha'i?":

"If there is a sane and intelligent patriotism, what exactly does it involve? How is it different from an insane and unintelligent patriotism? My understanding is that a sane and intelligent patriotism is founded on a consciousness of the oneness of humankind which is both a spiritual and physical reality and the ultimate aim of social evolution on this planet. Love of country involves love of the gifts one's nation has to offer towards a united world, a world where "the advantage of the part is best to be reached by the advantage of the whole." Such a love is expressed in selfless service towards the perfection of these gifts which will find their fulfillment within the context of a global society."

It is true that the Baha'i Faith is an enthusiastic promoter of the concept of world citizenship, a concept whose propagation was identified as a contribution to world peace:

"Unbridled nationalism, as distinguished from a sane and legitimate patriotism, must give way to a wider loyalty, to the love of humanity as a whole. Bahá'u'lláh's statement is: "The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens." The concept of world citizenship is a direct result of the contraction of the world into a single neighbourhood through scientific advances and of the indisputable interdependence of nations. Love of all the world's peoples does not exclude love of one's country. The advantage of the part in a world society is best served by promoting the advantage of the whole. Current international activities in various fields which nurture mutual affection and a sense of solidarity among peoples need greatly to be increased...In keeping with the requirements of the times, consideration should also be given to teaching the concept of world citizenship as part of the standard education of every child."
(The Universal House of Justice, 1985 Oct, The Promise of World Peace, p. 3)

World citizenship is a concept whose time has come. It is not a threat to patriotism but an opportunity for the maturation of patriotism based on the reality that humanity is one. Building a world that adequately reflects that reality is the best thing that a person can do for the well-being of his or her nation. As Baha'u'llah has said, "'The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established.'