the utmost global citizen

by Juan on March 22, 2007

Let’s start with a powerful assumption: a panel of experts has used the vast resources of the web to determine who is the utmost global citizen. To keep thinks colorful, we shall call him Phileas Fogg. A British citizen with known addresses in London, San Francisco, Manhattan, Dublin, Tokyo & Istanbul; manages affairs in Buenos Aires, Mexico, Shanghai, Delhi, New South Wales & Oslo; speaks fluent English, French, Spanish & Mandarin; feels just as comfortable drinking his morning coffee at a Paris bistro as bargaining for the best fruit in a street market in Oaxaca. A true global citizen with knowledge of world affairs.

What would be the value of such a character? Are we to assume that the frequent business traveler gains knowledge of how the world operates beyond what can be learned through reference materials? Or that having the opportunity to interact for long periods with the people of a particular city provide a cultural learning beyond that which is acquired by casual tourists? Further to that, is it possible to quantify the value of this cultural baggage? Maybe to the savvy businessman there are plenty of ways to use this knowledge to create value by bringing new products and services unknown to the locals. Or maybe this knowledge is the foundation for creating new theories about our society, writing essays that create bridges across diverse cultures.

In airports & tourists, I established the strong correlation that exists between the degree to which a country is considered more or less globalized and the expenditure per capita on tourism, suggesting that those people that invest in knowing the world eventually find ways to create value out of that knowledge. It is this same principle that I believe justifies the quest for finding and promoting the global citizens that influence our world.

Many people will say that being a global citizen has been fashionable for two centuries. True. But it is the particular juncture at which we find ourselves today that demands from these people value beyond that which they can amass for themselves. It would seem that the fashionable trend today is for these globetrotters to find ways of giving back to the world. There lies the promise of this project: enriching our global culture with the experiences of those who have discovered it.

As cosmopolitan as Mr. Fogg may seem, I’m sure my depiction of this character is not even close to some of the real people traversing the globe, fueling the global culture engine. My question is, are we not missing as a society on the incredible value that these people are capable of offering for the simple fact that we don’t try to mine their knowledge?

Update: via The Thinking Stick comes a snippet on Maia, the Global Citizenship Award recipient for 2006:

Maia comes from Japan but has lived in many cities around the world, including Lagos, New York, and Vienna. She is currently a senior and IB Diploma Candidate at the International School Bangkok [but has also attended the United Nations International School, the American School in Japan, and Vienna International School]. Maia is fluent in English, Japanese, German, and French. She serves as Student Council President and has been active in local tsunami relief. Maia is heading to Harvard University in September, where she will study Political Science and Economics. She was ISB’s recipient of the EARCOS Global Citizenship Award in 2006.

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