Global Citizenship: Is The Whole Greater Than The Sum Of Its Parts?

As some of you may have noticed, one of our family border crossing rituals is to learn the history and current events of a country as we enter it. As much as this preliminary, self-taught lesson has enhanced our appreciation of the country we’re about to visit, it seems to have also tarnished the respect we have for our own. It’s hard to feel national pride when we find out that our beloved country is responsible for countless covert operations in other people’s beloved countries, ranging from staging coups, killing leaders, financing wars, and conducting medical experiments on unwitting mental patients.
So far, learning the truth has sucked . It makes us look like sadistic bullies only out to protect our own interests at the expense of other people less fortunate than we are. Isn’t our government supposed to be a representation of us, an extension of our will?  Yet, that picture doesn’t seem like a fair depiction of you or me, does it? How about your friends, relatives, or neighbors? Of course not. For the most part, we’re a land of good people, so how and why is so much evil done in our name, on our behalf?
The implication is that maybe we’d just rather not know what goes on behind the scenes to insure our freedom and democracy, more precisely expressed as our standard of living. So long as gas stays below three dollars a gallon and the produce isle is stocked with cheap summer fruit year round, we don’t want to ask what the impact of our government’s and transnational corporations’ actions is on democracy, social and economic justice, human rights, and war and peace, in other less developed countries.
The other patriotic buzz kill has been observing the distribution of wealth in the world, or rather, the lack thereof. I could wax poetic injustice for hours about this, but for the sake of simplicity, let me give you two figures. Back in the States, Tree and I spent around $150-$200 a month on coffee drinks. Ridiculous, I know.  In Guatemala, the average family spends the same amount in a month to feed, clothe, and shelter themselves. Our extraneous spending equals their life support.  Not to mention the irony that much of the coffee we Americans happily drink is grown somewhere in Guatemala. I can’t help but be reminded of the concept of the haves and have-nots. Is it that, some people grow coffee and some people drink it? That’s just the way it is? As I wrote on New Year’s Eve, I don’t agree with this line of thinking at all, (read that article here).  I believe that there is enough in the world for each and everyone; we just do a piss-poor job of playing fair.  So what to do? I believe in the principles of justice, namely liberty and equality, on which our country is founded, and I’m tired of being ashamed of the ways my government undermines those values.
Then it came to me, isn’t my shame really just the inversion of patriotism? Aren’t the two sentiments just flipsides of the same nationalist coin?  Their effects sure seem similar.  Whether I’m boasting about my country or kicking it to the curb, my myopic ranting is probably alienating someone (like Simko…hi Simko!), somewhere. In order to find an inclusive solution to the problem of exclusivity, we need to look outside of the binary, heads or tails thinking that created it. We need to look beyond nationalism.
The problem with nationalism is that it sets up a paradigm of us versus them, and no one wants to be on the short end of that stick.  In regards to it, Albert Einstein wrote, “Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind.”  More poignantly, he said this during the height of Zionism, the movement that fueled the creation of Israel. He was well aware of the bloodshed that comes with borders. In his testimony in January 1946 before the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry, and in answer to the specific question whether refugee settlement in Palestine demanded a Jewish state, Einstein stated: ‘The State idea is not according to my heart. I cannot understand why it is needed. It is connected with narrow-mindedness and economic obstacles. I believe that it is bad. I have always been against it.”  Yet, this is not to say that Einstein was not a Zionist; he absolutely was, but he distinguished himself as a cultural Zionist, and not a territorial or political one.
In no way am I picking on the Jewish people by insinuating that they don’t deserve their own country. What I am saying (and I think Einstein would agree) is that none of us deserve our own country: we deserve global citizenship. This idea sounds a tad radical and a bit scary, even to liberal ole me, especially when I think of the chaos that could come with the dissolution of nation states… or even worse, what a unified world order might entail (think Orwell’s 1984).  So, for now I propose that we simply change our consciousness to be more inclusive, and perhaps down the road we can work towards an actual global citizenship that compliments our national citizenship, much like what the EU provides, except for everyone, worldwide.
The other day, a fellow traveler said to us that he couldn’t figure out where we were from because we have so many different flag stickers on the back of the van. That made me so happy! I felt so free…..and big! I love the idea of being a person that has no national bias either way, of being able to objectively hear truth and formulate my opinions absent of shame or pride and in the best interest of all parties considered. How wonderful to be a global citizen, to be a human who feels connected to and cares equally for other humans regardless of where they were born! And think about how much better off the earth would be if we cared about landfills in China and emissions in India as much as we care about our own.  I can only hope that this kind of global identity and accountability would foment a climate of justice and compassion in our otherwise divided and unbalanced world.
Yet, it’s hard for us to want to love and protect what we don’t know.  Usually, we need to feel a part of something to inspire the urge to care for it. But how can we feel like every country is our own? This is where traveling makes all the difference.  Mark Twain wrote:
Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.

The farther we get from our comfort zone, the bigger our comfort zone becomes.  The more we travel, the wider we stretch the net we call ‘home,’ and the more we love and want to protect it.

So what do you think? Can we make this mental leap? Or, is it too hard to give up the patriot that lives in all of us in exchange for the global citizen? What would we lose? What do we stand to gain? Do you believe that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts? I do. –Stevie


  1. I would not give up my American citizenship. I would have duel citizenship though as a citizen of America and planet Earth. The global awareness is a growing concept in America although some states are slower than others. A united Earth would be wonderful, but is unrealistic. There will always be tyrants and dictators trying to gain importance and power. There will always be citizens who are lazy, and expect someone else to foot the bill for their lives, there will always be people who work a honest hard living and succeed. There will be people who step on others to gain their success and there will be people just need a helping hand to succeed. A Utopian Earth would crumble because humans are selfish, prejudice, and arrogant. We have fragile egos who cannot take opposition. We also love and fiercely protect our own. If humans could see past their prejudices we might stand a united chance. But there is always those people in the bunch that just can't. I'm not proud of America's past actions as immigrants from Germany were during WWII. The best we can do is not repeat the mistakes of the past. Vote in leaders we feel that will promote what we the current people want. A Utopian Earth probably won't happen, but a general respect over time might be achieved.

  2. The French would never go for it. 🙂

  3. Stevie, you should try and get some of your writing published. You are very talented. We are back in Texas now. It was great meeting you and Tree and Kiki. Travel safe.

  4. AWE.SOME Stevie! If we could get a global government, I would feel totally comfortable with you as President. How I wish we could inoculate our current global leaders with your insights, fairness, and compassion! Keep writing. Get published. The world needs writers with your heart and soul. . .

  5. Groovy. Does that mean we won't have to deal with nightmare border crossings and hassles at the airport?

  6. Love the post…when we were on our RTW people could rarely figure out where we were from because 1, we are from the pacific NW so have no discernible accent (i.e. southern or NE) and 2, we didn't seem to have any specific "american" attitudes about the places and people we were interacting with. A global viewpoint is SO important and I find it truly sad that Americans, the most privledged people on earth, are some of the worst travelers.

  7. S-Imagine there’s no country, it isn’t hard to do, no one to kill or die for, and no religion too, imagine all the people, living life in peace….you can say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one, someday I hope you’ll join us, and the world will be as one.-T

  8. Hey Tree, how exactly did you land this woman again??? You better hold on to her. Love you sTEVIE! 🙂

  9. Nice use of the word "foment" 🙂

  10. Tim Widmer says:

    Good stuff- do have this blog backed up?

  11. Timothy Iller says:

    Wow! Cool post Stevie. Very thoughtful. I think a big part of the problem is what we are identifying ourselves with. We say, "I'm an American, and Indian, a Mexican, etc. but this is just all bodily connection and has nothing to do with our true identity, though we like to fight and kill over it. I like how you said, " isn’t my shame really just the inversion of patriotism?" I humanity becomes crazy when we start thinking, "this is mine!" "This country is mine." "This world is mine." We are here for bleep of time and we want to claim ownership? Anyway, I thought you post was great and will forward to my contacts. Are bus is taking forever to finished, we are behind schedule because we went to India, but it is always well worth it.

  12. @ Timothy- Thanks so much for taking the time to write me back! I love love love intelligent dialectics. I agree, we are super silly for identifying with things that are manmade artifices outside of our true realm of being. We can't BE a country or a brand of a jeans or even an ethnicity (Serbian blood is no different than Croatian, nor is Palestinian from Jewish, etc). As you say, these are all 'bodily connections' that speak nothing of the heart and soul of the matter. I'm happy to hear that you just went to India, although I have no idea how you fit that in–quite impressive! I long to go there so badly…the day will come eventually 🙂 I send you warmth and good tidings.

    @Tim- It isn't…at least I don't think so. Should we be?

    @Veronica- I look for opportunities to use that word. Isn't it great? Watch this: Thank you for leaving comments on the blog, fomenting the kind of discourse that leads to truth.

    @ Rhonda- Greetings fellow nomad. Your link isn't working, porque no? I agree, a global viewpoint is the KEY to evolving beyond war, climate change, hunger… I vote that we mandate travel like some countries do with the military. Between the ages of 18 and 20, you have to go around the world. Imagine if everyone did that?

    @Mamatuyas- Read the above comment…that's my first rule as global president 🙂

    @Alexis- Thank you sister for leaving such a thoughtful and intelligent response. Sadly, I have to agree, Utopia probably won't ever happen, but that's okay, I'll take a 'general respect' so long as that respect precludes the violence, oppression and ecological catastrophes of today. That's all…simple, right?

  13. Well said

  14. Hi Guys,

    Such incredible insight, so articulately expressed. You do our somewhat dubious country a great honor as representatives of the "rest of us". And I love the quotes you find.

    Have you guys caught the movie "I am"? An amazing and thoughtful portrayal of a our ountry in decline, both economically and morally, due to our over consumption and lack of compassion Angela and I caught it in Seattle over the weekend. It included a live talk with the director. I think Angela posted info on that.

    Love you guys, and am so glad to receive your updates.

    Looking forward to seeing you soon. Care to share another bareboat charter an a new, exotic locale?

    John/ Helmsman

  15. reagan gagnon says:

    articulate. daring.

    i certainly believe that there are more than enough resources to go around. but given that the most recent trends are the ultra rich getting richer globally, the dissolution of the middle class in the developed countries, and the gap between the have-material-things and have-not-material-things is widening exponentially everywhere…i feel i have to ask an almost socialist question…what about redistribution of the so-called resources? how do we get the majority of the resources out of the white-knuckled fists of the minority ultra rich?


  16. Miranda says:

    You got my vote and rule number 1- YES!!!
    I totally agree, all those labels just creates an ideal of difference even though we are all so much a like. It's the "what we think" of others that makes us all "different" not actually differences at all.
    @ Reag with rule #1 with Stevie as president I feel that would open people up to be more human and have more compassion. Revolution not required with rule #1 in place:) I hope…

  17. Sing4two says:

    Great post, Stevie. Being considered a “Global Citizen” is the highest aim, IMO.
    In my experience, getting to know just one person from a country can have a huge impact on how one views and interprets world events – from the news of wars and political events to the Olympics. It’s not the Japanese team – it’s Shinya’s team! It’s not the Norwegian tragedy – it’s Mina’s tragedy. Connecting on a personal level broadens and enriches our perspectives and makes the intangible “them” a known and understood piece of “us.” It should be a requirement that any person serving in our Congress – particularly our President – should have spent at least 6 months living outside of the U.S. – and I don’t mean in some resort town! (I give you George W. Bush as an example of why global ignorance is costly on so many levels!). While I dream of one day traveling as you all are, I also encourage my fellow readers to remember that we don’t have to hit the road for years in order to have the insights and wisdom of travel wash over us and our children. Hit the road for week! Sure it’s a fraction of the “education” and experience of but it can still open eyes and hearts in a powerful and life-changing way. Carpe Diem!

  18. Anonymous says:

    Welcome to the New World Order. One world Currency. One world Government. One World Army. One of the prime creators of the U.N., David Rockefeller, said China is the model for what they want to implement globally. These power elite with a globalist agenda conspiring to eventually rule the world through an authoritarian world government—which replaces sovereign nation-states, is really what we will end up with. I don’t know, kind of creepy, this Global Government & One World Global Citizen under its rule. What if, this Giant Super Size Global Government turned out to be a bureaucratic unelected nightmare. A “New World Order”, as George H.W. Bush so affectionally called this totalitarian one-world government project. Just a thought. Kind of makes you wish America still had a Constitution & Bill of Rights. I like your Van.

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