We, as individuals, intersect many roles in our lives. For example, I am a mother, a wife, a daughter, an academic, an employee, a student, a friend, a colleague, a citizen.
Every role we take gives us different responsibilities, challenges and benefits. In this globalised age, we also have another role, more prominent than ever: that of the global citizen.
Globalisation… The magic word that comes around almost every corner, especially for academics. Because for centuries, academics have considered themselves and each other as the faces of the world. They have researched, discovered and disseminated information about events which have been going on in other parts of the globe. And, we have been talking about globalisation for decades now in contexts such as the growth of information technology, the mobilisation of information, goods and people, and being much closer to each other than ever before…
We don’t live in some small bell jar by ourselves, we are part of the world. With every move, we interact with people. We read, watch, listen and speak about other parts of the world and learn from them; we wear clothes that have been made in other far-off corners of the world; we have friends, families, and colleagues all over the globe. When we use so much aerosol, we cause ozone layer depletion which concerns every single individual in the world. When we make a ground-breaking invention, we have the power to affect the quality of other people’s lives. Every action we take – good or bad – has a certain ripple effect. This is why we need to understand the very meaning of “being a global citizen” and take on certain responsibilities that this role demands of us.
Since conversations surrounding global citizenship have become more commonplace, there have been certain questions being asked: “What does this mean in relation to national citizenship?” “Does being global affect being local negatively?” “While the global values are gaining importance, are local ones becoming insignificant?” “If you are a citizen of the world, are you a citizen of nowhere?” One may answer all of these questions “No!” with a sense of absolute certainty.
Being a global citizen is only about realising that we are part of a bigger picture than we can comprehend. One can be local and global at the same time. One can respect people from their own country, and also respect people from different countries. One can try to solve the problems of their own country, and of the globe. Global citizens are sensitive about human rights violations both locally and globally. They have an inclusive perspective about cultural differences. They know that every single person has equal rights and freedom. They are ready to share the responsibility of the future in the name of humanity.
So, what can we do to make people more aware about global issues? What can we do to help people to think of themselves as global citizens? Well, first of all, we have the advantage of the media. Half of the global population have access to the internet. More than two billion people use social media actively. Almost four billion people have mobile devices. This is saying something. This means at least half of the world can learn about issues in other countries through access to news and social media. However, this is only the first step, because knowing about something doesn’t always mean caring. We should be aware of it, feel it, think about it, and be a part of it.
The second step is education. I don’t believe that education is the only solution to all of our problems; however, it can certainly bring us closer to solving them. Education can help to raise children as informed global citizens. We can agree that a global citizen should be aware of local and global issues; respectful to one another regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, ability, etc.; work collaboratively; think and evaluate critically; be open to communication; and have the adequate knowledge, attitudes and skills to try to solve personal and social problems. If all of these and more could be part of our teaching, we may make a difference.
We are citizens of the world, simply because we are living in it. There is no good in denying this. The globalised perspective of people can prevent human rights violations, social injustice, conflicts and wars. We just need to be more sensitive and caring towards our own world.
Aysun Öztürk is a research assistant and a PhD candidate in Educational Sciences at Gazi University, Turkey. Her research interests are in the sociology of higher education, critical pedagogy and comparative education. She is currently researching neoliberalism in higher education in cross-cultural contexts.