Franz Josef Glacier

Kosmopolitês

Diogenes, the famous Greek philosopher, was once asked where he was from. He replied “I am a citizen of the world”. The Greek word for this is kosmopolitês.

Later on, the Stoic crowd further developed Diogenes’ thought into an entire framework called cosmopolitanism. Essentially, the circle model of identity puts yourself in the middle of expanding concentric circles of importance: immediate family, extended family, friends, neighbors, humanity. This was underscored by an emphasis of the importance of a shared affinity for humanity.

I like cosmopolitanism. It seems like a healthy way to view the world.

Hierocles outlined how humans can extend their oikeiôsis towards other human beings in widening circles, such as our ethnos and eventually the entire human race. The distance from the center acts as a standard by which we may measure the strength of our ties and therefore our duties towards other people. Hierocles argued that there was an ethical need for a “contraction of circles”, to reduce the distance between the circles as much as possible and therefore increase our familiarization with all of mankind (while still retaining the strongest affinity within our immediate circle).

– Oikeiôsis, from Wikipedia

It’s hard to be original.

I don’t mean that humans aren’t creative (we are) but only to an extent. A very limited extent. Our creativity and ability to think outside the box is constrained by our environment and nurture rather than nature.

What is citizenship? As a citizen of a country, as you doubtless are, it’s easy to assume that you have to be and that everyone is and that everyone wants to be. And maybe that’s generally true. Yet where or when in history did the construct of citizenship develop? Is there some form of natural law, like physics or mathematics, that determines what is and is not?

Some will say it’s just how it works. It’s the social contract.

But I don’t remember signing the social contract.

I don’t think any of my predecessors signed the social contract either. And because it’s hard for humans to be creative, or to see outside the orthodoxy we build around ourselves, rarely do you look at citizenship with a critical or even curious view.

Why should one share an affinity with 300 million other who happen to have been born under the same legal territory? You do not have very many similarities with any of them: as a matter of fact, you probably have more similarities to an assortment of people scattered all across the world who are actually much more like you in behavior & beliefs, the largest difference just that they hold another citizenship.

It is not very important which country’s name is stamped upon your birth certificate, much like it’s not very important which bank’s name is at the top of your checkbook. Countries fail just like banks. New countries are born just like new banks are founded. Border lines change and things collapse. In fifty years, everything will be different.

That is why I do not hold any particular affinity for something as vacuous as a legal territory, which I do not particularly want or need. That is why I like to travel: because in reality, when you take away the arbitrary invisible lines that crisscross the globe, I don’t see that much difference between Rwanda and Uganda, or Belgium and the Netherlands, or Alabama and Mississippi.

Let’s start putting more emphasis on things other than arbitrary constructs that limit our behavior.