Dear Citizen of Nowhere,
It’s the first weekend in October. You wake up and walk to the window. The world outside looks the same. Trees stand where they always have. Birds circle overhead. In the mirror, you are you. But you have a feeling inside like you’ve been displaced, cut adrift from yourself. Nothing can explain this uneasiness.
You flick on the television. News stations are flooded with troubling rhetoric. The British PM Theresa May is speaking on a loop. It’s a speech given under the guise of unity, of bringing a nation together.
“Today, too many people in positions of power behave as though they have more in common with international elites than with the people down the road, the people they employ, the people they pass on the street,” she declares. “If you believe you’re a citizen of the world, you’re a citizen of nowhere. You don’t understand what the very word ‘citizenship’ means.”
You understand now. You’ve been wiped blank.
Before that weekend, the boundaries between nations were permeable to you. The passport, still tucked safe in your knapsack’s pocket, was your key to unlocking the world. You are alive in 2016. It’s an era of mobility and interconnection. Peers in other countries are a click away. They’re speaking to you via a Skype call, a YouTube vlog, or an Instagram post. You see their faces, hear their stories and feel a kinship with them.
You were born into a distinct country, yes. You feel proud of your nationality, the places where you grew into yourself, and the rich heritage, culture, and traditions you uphold. But nationhood became secondary. Through words and actions, you strove to acknowledge, to honour, and to bond with Earth’s 7.4 billion other residents. Joy sprouted from finding common ground. There was no desire to poison its growth with fear and prejudice.
Now, a powerful leader has stood up to close your welcoming heart. You feel lost inside, wandering about a No Man’s Land of belonging. There is no place to rest, no place that welcomes you. Your identity flaps from your shoulders like a badly fitting jacket. Your heart’s passport torn to shreds.
We live in a world where global displacement is at its all-time high, according to the UN Refugee Agency. By 2015’s end, 65.3 million world citizens had been displaced. That is one in every 113 people living as a refugee, an asylum-seeker, or internally displaced within their own country. During these urgent times, there’s a pressing need to support global initiatives. Campaigns to help eliminate poverty and disease, promote gender equality, and put an end to discrimination and violence are more important than ever.
We need to advocate for global citizenship. Because it does exist and it’s accessible to everyone—from PM May’s so-called “international elites” to “the people down the road”. No one can be denied entrance based on nationality, race, gender, or socio-economic status. As a global citizen, you have an empowering, unshakeable identity. You choose to reside in a community that spans this entire world. The passport is one you create yourself.
As part of a BBC initiative, GlobeScan polled 18 nations in 2016 on the topic of global citizenship. Participants were shown the sentence, “I see myself more as a global citizen than a citizen of my country.” Globally, an impressive 51% of people picked “agree” over “disagree.” The results were especially noteworthy in developing nations: 73% in Nigeria, 71% in China, 70% in Peru, and 67% in India. Overall, these findings mark the first time, since the studies began in 2001, when the global majority is leaning away from the ties of nationhood. Nostalgia for a more insular past is dissipating. The world is opening up.