Communicating

The fact that this blog has really managed to reenergize itself is a wonderful sign.  My name is Paul McGuire, a member of the Student Council, and next year will be my 4th and sadly, final year serving.

Other members have discussed global citizenship before me and in terms far more eloquent which I can muster.  I am interested in discussing global citizenship in terms with which I am familiar. I am a historian.  I am a history major, have always been interested in history for as long as I could read, and I like to credit history for saving my life.  History gave me a desire to learn and a rationality that had not existed before hand – those two traits which distinguish civilized men from barbarians.  Through my work, I have come to believe that history is not simply one list of empty facts after another, but rather a  series of historical processes, processes which shape how human society works as much as physics does in showing the nature of our world.  The duty of the historian is to understand these processes and see ways in which they can be used for the betterment of all.

Like any thought, Global citizenship is also a product of historical processes, and it is important to understand the origins of the concept if we are to understand it as a whole.  The fact is that fifty or a hundred years ago, proposing to work on the concept of global citizenship would have caused one to be laughed out of the room.  Now it is something which actually has a foothold to stand upon, fragile though it is.  This change is the result of the fact that the idea of viewing humanity as a part of a single group is a much more accepted concept in the past, as economic and political integration, the diffusion of Western culture and ideas across the globe, and the spread of technology means that we are literally more connected to each other than occurred in the past.  While nationalism and loyalties to smaller groups exists, they are no longer as destructive as they were in the past, when they helped contribute to some of the worst excesses of the 20th century as new connections have taken their place.

But in some ways these new connections are more tenuous, and different from ways in which tribesmen would interact with each other thousands of years ago.  I spent the first two
weeks of the summer in a town north of Seattle, a lot of it outdoors walking and reading.  I couldn’t help but observe that while one can easily read a book or talk with his fellow people outdoors on the beach, working on a laptop or playing a DS is much more difficult in sunlight, thanks to the glare on their screens.   The result is a different sort of connection where humans interact, but not on a personal basis, as they talk while isolated from one another, and thus is not social communication in a sense.  Given that the very concept of citizen is that of an individual participating within a political society, this is concerning.

If the IGCSC is to continue its work on global citizenship, it is important to promote interaction beyond electronics and internet, and for people to interact with one another on a face to face basis.  For now, I personally will continue that with my work of helping refugees get to the United States and adjust to a completely different culture and society, one where something as simple as a name becomes a matter of difficulty – for example, the Karen people from Burma, one of the largest ethnic groups we work with, do not use last names.  This is a process that in order to work, must be done face to face, not by communication through e-mail or even at times a phone, but by looking at the plight that they are in first hand and doing whatever is necessary.  While this is merely one individual speaking for now, it is necessary for the IGCSC to deal with this concept in a collective manner.  That is global citizenship.

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