Citizen of the World

The world has always been a tribal sphere, a place of kingdoms, borders and empires. Throughout history, borders have changed, lands have been occupied, won and lost, or simply decimated by invaders. The dominant forces have changed over the centuries, but the stories have remained the same; the strong, bully the weak and hold all the power until someone stronger comes along.

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Photo by Ali Yahya

That pattern looked like changing for a while. Relative peace took hold between old foes, East and West. Walls came down in Europe and new friends were embraced, taken into the wider community. China looked beyond its own wall, becoming part of the narrative, even if it had a long way to go before it could truly be called an open society. Borders came down between nations, and alliances replaced grievances, trading agreements replaced ceasefires. The world looked like it may, at last, be moving towards global cooperation and mutual respect on an unprecedented scale. John Lennon imagined it; “a brotherhood of man.” At the same time, global, affordable travel bridged gaps between people of far-flung nations. It was easier to live, work and trade overseas. Along with the internet, this era allowed us to interact and understand each other, despite our differences. We were becoming citizens of the world.

A brotherhood of man

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Photos by Rick Lee

Perhaps it was naïve of me to think the world had slowly been changing, that we were embracing cultures of every colour and creed, and creating a new world order. Like so many travellers who hop the planet, I had come to think of myself as a global species, a nomad who found a home wherever I hung my hat. I’ve spent more time abroad now than in my native England, calling Canada home before settling here in Australia. I’ve worked for Germans, French Canadians, worked with Italians, Spaniards, Dutch, Americans, and Chinese. I have friends of every colour and faith–real friends–in countries all around the world, eaten and slept in their homes in Japan, China, Italy, Germany, New Zealand, Taiwan and more. I cherish these relationships because they go beyond borders, there are no barriers between friends.

There are no barriers between friends

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Photo by Duy Pham

Of one thing I’m certain, people are the same the world over; there’s good, bad and indifferent, no matter what the culture, no matter how distant the lands. I’ve seen enough to know that good, loving, generous people come from all walks of life. All we have to do is open up our arms and greet them. So it makes me mad to see so-called leaders, turning the clock back. Putting up new walls, isolating countries that have previously preached freedom, and leaving friends behind as a consequence.

All we have to do is open our arms and greet them

The new America promotes self above all others, suspicion above trust; it wants to block its borders, build barbed wire fences and concrete walls to keep the world at bay. Britain wants to go back in time, live behind its moat and dream of the glory days. Forget the community of friends beyond the channel, a community that’s done more for European peace and unity than any army over the preceding years.

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Photo by Humberto Chavez 

No one is saying that life was on the road to perfect; true global unity is a lengthy, ongoing process, one that needs work and cannot be taken for granted. Open markets bring their own problems, rampant consumerism for one. But I’d rather have to deal with that than war and the destruction it brings. When leaders whip up sentiments of division and hate, create enemies by conjuring up unwarranted fear and suspicion, the sheep amongst us follow enthusiastically, convinced by fast-talking popularists, and those good at heart soon find themselves outnumbered.

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Photo by Marc Pell

When the so-called leader of the free world sees dictators and despots as wonderful people and shuns partners who strive for inclusion, compassion and friendship, it’s time to start worrying.

I for one would rather be a citizen of the world than holed up in my castle.

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