Tensions related to “Global Citizenship”

 

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I helped organize a colloquium that took place yesterday and, thankfully, it can be considered a success.  In addition to it having been completed, the turnout was better than I expected and the discussion that ensued was quite engaging.  I’d say we had about 30-40 people present and while the Dean was not able to be present, the three other presenters did a very good job of tackling the issues presented from various perspectives and providing insight for all to grapple with.

One particularly interesting segment of the gathering was when my mentor and adviser, Dr. Carlos Alberto Torres, presented what he called “Tensions, Contradictions and Conundrums” related to Global Citizenship.  Listed in this order, although not presented in this order, were the following:

  1. Solidarity and differences between: Global Education, Civic Education, Global Citizenship Education, Planetarian Citizenship
  2. Citizenship and Globalization: Multiple Globalizations (neoliberal globalization; anti-globalization, hybrid cultures, human rights, war against terrorism/terrorist model
  3. Framework versus Emerging Perspectives: (measurement issues, meterics), UNESCO as an agitator, the legacy of UNESCO
  4. Dilemma of Liberal Democracies?: From subject to National State Citizenship to Global Citizenship
  5. What about value added?: of Global Citizenship (tension with nationalism and with religious fundamentalism)
  6. Decoupling Human Rights Politics from Imperialism: Golf War 1991, former Yugoslavia wars, Serbo-Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Serbia and Montenegro, Rwanda, Afghanistan, Syria (?)
  7. Paradigmatic change of the discourse in education
  8. The role of life-long learning as opposed to classroom-based instruction

Each of these points were expounded on in detail and were followed by responses from the other panelists before opening the discussion up to the crowd.

As someone who was born in Grenada, a nation that was invaded by the United States, and raised in Berkeley, California, I have struggled with the idea of standing, facing a flag, putting my hand over my heart, and reciting words of “allegiance”.  For long enough I didn’t even understand the words, and when I did I became that much more adamant that I would NOT.  For this I have had my fair share of difficult moments and conversations with classmates, teachers, colleagues and others.  I’ve also faced hostile reactions like when I did not stand, put my hand over my heart or recite anything when the national anthem was sung at a St. John’s University basketball game in NY in 2002, months after the attack on the world trade towers.  When I reflect on experiences like those, I wonder about the tension between national loyalty and the notion of global citizenship.  It reminds me of the hostile nature of some of the more extreme, right-wing charged movements in the US that have led to the banning of ethnic studies, the hunting, inhumane treatment, and deportation of undocumented people, and the prison industrial complex that plagues this nation as a whole, but that thrives on predominantly Black and Latino lives and bodies.  What about the plight of disenfranchised/marginalized peoples in each nation?  How will we ensure that our causes remain relevant and prioritized?  At the same time, global citizenship may be the only solution for empowering and granting rights to people who would otherwise remain “stateless”, and in effect “rightless”, in the eyes of the states that they reside in. I’m thinking of the many refugees that have not been granted asylum and remain undocumented, migrants seeking better opportunities for themselves and their children, and others whose humanity is not honored by national governments worldwide.  For them, Global Citizenship may bring recognition of individual rights.  For these people, the issue is both urgent and important.  And this issue is directly related to the conflict between individual rights and cultural rights.  Not all “rights” are universal.  Some cultures are, simply put, in opposition when it comes to notions of what it means to be a human being and what humans should be and are entitled to.  The concept of global citizenship is perceived by many as a continuation of imperialism and the conquest of the European “west” over all others.

Where is the middle ground?  How do we resolve this tension, which is but one example from a list of the tensions related to Global Citizenship?

Today’s problem…

Education that consists mostly of direct teaching often impedes rather than helps natural human development. The early years are useless for the transmission of culture; therefore the first part of life is disregarded. But those apparently useless years are most fundamental, for during that period an astounding phenomenon takes place: the creation of a human psyche and the development of human behavior. The child learns to function independently, to manipulate, to walk, to talk, to think and to direct himself through his will. The process takes place not because adults teach but because the child creates.

…Man is not made of culture alone; there is something much more essential. If this part continues to be disregarded and emphasis put only on culture, the more advanced man becomes, the more dangerous he will be. Man has discovered flight, he has discovered atomic energy, but he has failed to discover himself…” (Montessori, 1966, ix-x).

Montessori, Maria. (1966). The Secret of Childhood. New York: Ballantine Books, ix-x.

A powerful assertion. The only thing I disagree with and will challenge is the notion that the early years are useless for the transmission of culture.

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We are of the source

Of the source

Written November 4, 2010

And before they left the source, they gathered as much of themselves as they could.

They gathered as much love and light as they could because they would need to remember.

They were aware that the awareness they enjoyed at the moment would not be, after being birthed.

They had taken care to select just the right individuals to channel themselves through.  Together these individuals embodied all that they would need to be prepared and properly reminded of their purpose… after their births and after earning their physical bodies.

They embraces, by separating and acknowledging their similarities and differences, became one, and then separated once more.  They parted and gave themselves to the source, which was aware that they were ready.

To the guides they were handed over, and on the great path they were hurled.  Lights all around, darkness closed in.

Senses became muted and they felt the weight of a body on their spirits.

Restricted, although still having a sensation of weightlessness and invincibility, the kind that connects one with everything in it’s surroundings, they each opened their eyes, only to close them again.

Open, then closed.

And while they could hear their own voices in the distance, they soon became unfamiliar.  Then, it made no sense at all.  And the journey of remembering their purpose was in full swing.

And the journey was a blissful adventure or agonizing torture, depending on the day and how frequently they realigned themselves with the great source.  Through prayer, or concentration, silence and awareness.  For the great source was their home and one day they would once again reconvene.

But there was much work to do.

Spirits in star-suits, working to best utilize their resources.

“One must note …

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“One must note with deep regret that degrees of freedom will be lost step by step. The current situation resembles that of the Nineteen Thirties, when several different types of authoritarianism were available to choose from throughout the world. I believe that political systems are currently experiencing another transition to post-liberal forms. We have the choice between a more party-dictatorial mode as in China, a state-dictatorial mode as in the Soviet Union, an electoral-dictatorial mode as in the USA, and finally a media-dictatorial mode as in Berlusconi’s Italy.” -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

My first blog post…

I have long been hesitant to begin a blog.  It seems it is finally time.

I considered explaining more about who I am, but I would much rather not explicitly speak to “my past”, “my people”, “my name(s)”, etc., and instead I will simply begin, and I hope that those who find themselves in this space will decide for themselves.

And so… here we go…

After a “serendipitous” encounter with another curious traveler, Dr. Jevdet Rexhepi, who graciously presented me with an incredible opportunity to take part in a research project, I was fortunate to have the quote that I’ve posted above passed on to me.  The quote, which has taken my mind on quite a few journeys since I’ve read it, reminded me of childhood wonderings, unforgettable moments, small, very forgettable acts, and recent discussions that I’ve had concerning democracy, politics, culture, humanity and change.

As always, I am curious to know what others think of all that is implied in this quote.  Saludos!

Peace and love,

Joaquín