Cosmopolitanism could be regarded as the nature of people from allover the globe coming together and living as one moral community. It mostly touches on the economic, political and the social perspectives or the relationship of the superstructures between nations and persons. Etymologically, the term is derived from two Greek words that is, Cosmos – universe and Polis – city. Cosmopolitanism is only realized when people come to live together where they co exist and interdepend.” Cosmopolitan identity is fluid, dynamic, open and prerogative of a selected elite.” Guibernau (168)The main focus of this essay is to shed light on what is a ‘cosmopolitan identity’ and what are the social conditions that allow for the creation of cosmopolitan identities? Given the characteristics of the cosmopolitan citizen, is it fair to say that such identities are the privilege of wealthy citizens?
Cosmopolitan identity is of late being expressed as intensification and the global expansion process that enables people to develop a vivid idea on the number of people in a particular region, their composition and their humanistic features. In the past, lack of broad national outlook led people to neglect human diversity in terms of culture and civilizations. This led people to start describing the whole world from their limited and narrow way of looking at things or in short, they were using their cultural parameters to judge those of others. Beck U. (2006)
Cosmopolitan identity can only be realized if there is dialogue, interdependence, mutual understanding and that people deeply respect and acknowledge the existence of diverse cultural practices. This would be possible if people would show some understanding basing their knowledge on both social and geographical milieu upon which those these cultures are bred. Everingham C. (2003; 56) For cosmopolitan identity to be promoted then, relentless efforts should be directed towards counteracting those retrogressive ideologies that enhance cultural divisions and we try to change and do away with our old value systems as well as our social practices that impede us against the achievement of human equality and freedom. The desire to transcend ethnocentrism while achieving a radical transformation of the social can never be achieved if cosmopolitan identity is made to fit the outlook of a single culture.”(Gulbernau 169)
Cosmopolitan identity therefore is not something that is hard to achieve but cannot be realized if people do not stop seeing the culture of other people as inferior to their own because of using it to judge other cultures. This is what is referred by anthropologists as ethnocentrism and it means using your culture as the standard criteria for judging others. This is a very dangerous weapon as instead of promoting cultural integration, it works to create further divisions. People start ignoring the existence of other diverse cultures and this is something that inhibits cultural integration and coexistence of people. “Moral becoming and radical self recreation are prerequisites for the emergence of a cosmopolitan ethos. The moral composition cannot emerge ex-nihilo. Her cosmopolitan identity emerges after a moral becoming is embraced as a principled way of living in the world.” Hill J.D. (2000; 3)
The identity is achievable if the past thoughts could be discarded and be replaced with new ones that have no tribal relations and people re-socialize themselves as people belonging to one large community with no different national identities. According to Hill J.D., (2000; 8) he calls this the seriousness spirit that has strong attachment to social cultural inheritance that should be discarded and be exchanged with a new self that is open to cosmopolitan spirit. It is this spirit that that liberates people from being trapped in the shackles of attitudes and categories that classify race and ethnicity.
The human race has never regarded itself as a single community because they still cherish and hold their different national identities but the eventual realization of a cosmopolitan identity could change all this if the idea of human sharing of dignity and self conditions, respecting other people irrespective of their cultural backgrounds as well as promoting equality and freedom to all. Realization of this identity is what Hill J.D. (2000; 4) refers to as becoming and he terms this as radical freedom. He says it is opening yourself up and allowing all types of cultures to be accessible to one while reserving your judgments for they are ingredients of social disintegration.
If cosmopolitan identity is achieved, then the political institutions, representations and all cultures that are associated with them would be transformed in a way that would allow the cosmopolitan identity to be enhanced. Legislative, judicial and executive powers would all embrace the principles of cosmopolitan identity. There would result a particular national culture as per the principles of a cosmopolitan identity as ethnic and various cultural identities be dropped. Today, matters of local and national interest as well as international and transnational concerns are put ahead of humanity causes that would benefit the whole world for example things like global environmental conservations continue to take a back seat and are rarely given the considerations that they deserve. Hargreaves A. (2003)
One of the means through which cosmopolitan identity would be realized is by promoting a single means of communication as it is the only way that understanding and communication across the word would be achieved. Though English language is the language that is in most parts of the world, it has not yet globally become the lingua franca or to be precise the only international means of communication. According to Gulbernau (p. 175), it is very hard for cosmopolitan identity to be achieved if there is no particular means of communication that would enable people from allover the world to communicate and understand one another.
In my view, cosmopolitan identity is a preserve of the wealthy people. This is because, most cosmopolitans are members who belong to the middle class and the upper class and again are people who speak English language as their lingua franca or mother tongue. These people possess substantial amount of resources that enable 5them to enjoy good lifestyles as they can afford classy materials. They enjoy the emerging information technological items that are very sophisticated. “Cosmopolitans represent a new class free from national attachments and eager to transcend the limits of their national and local communities. They enjoy traveling a world that, for them, has truly become a single place.” Gulbernau (168)
In conclusion, it could be said that empathy, closeness and solidarity are fostered by national identity but cosmopolitan identity is a psychological thing. It all starts with the mind where people must reorganize their manner of thinking and stop thinking about their cultural background. If people can start seeing each other as brothers and sisters, then the cosmopolitan identity could be realized. It is something that is only enjoyed by those with enough resources who can afford good lifestyles.
Hill J.D. Becoming a Cosmopolitan: What it means to become a Human Being in the New Millennium. Rowland and Littlefield. 2000.
Gilbernau M., Montserrat M. and Berdun G.I. The Identity of Nations. Polity Publishers. 2008.
Hargreaves A. Teaching in the Knowledge society: Education in the Age of Insecurity. Routledge. 2003; 154-162
Beck U. The Cosmopolitan Vision. Cambridge: Polity Press. 2006, 41
Everingham C. Social Justice and the Politics of Community. Ashgate Publishing Ltd. 2003.