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July 14, 2016

The Economic, Social and Class Privilege of the "Global Citizens"

By Jonathan Ferguson

Are "Global Citizens" made or born? Do the slick, sophisticated "Global Citizens" have their own economic, social and class prejudices that they cannot bear to own up to?

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"Global Citizens" are made regardless of their pedigree. It matters not if they are born into affluence, self-made 'bootstrap pullers', or intellectual snobs. It is a really privileged notion to be able to consider one-self a "Global Citizen". Not everyone has the privileged opportunity.

The Global Citizen thinks that globalization means only nice places where they are privileged to lead luxurious lifestyles. Their world does not contain North Korea, Daesh, Nigeria or even Chad. They couldn't even find those places on the map. How nice to have the luxury of choice!

The Global Citizens look down their noses at the "plebs and proles": those they consider of a lower social, economic and intellectual status. The Global Citizens are the tutees of the lofty pedagogues of enlightenment.

The Global Citizen characterizes the 'plebs and proles' as flag waving jingoistic bigots that cling to their Bibles and their guns, and lack the Global Citizen's cosmopolitan sophistication (read: higher degree of privileged cultural 'appropriation and plundering') that makes the 'plebs and proles' a lower class of being; "those people" that shop at Wal-Mart and drive a Ford 150 truck with big tires.

The Global Citizens, by contrast, consider themselves of higher status and are suitably high-minded for having obtained an unearned exalted status. They shop online at the best websites, do Twitter and have lots of "Friends" just like them on Facebook.

The Global Citizens are correct enough in their rejection of narrow chauvinism and of explicitly crude racism, sexism, homophobia and nationalism; but they are far off the mark in their motivation for rejecting such.

Their 'politics of decency' as I call it, leads them to reject Donald Trump, David Duke, and the Republican Party (or here in the United Kingdom the UK Independence Party and the British National Party) on the grounds that such 'disorderly' types are really rather low and crass.

They say it is simply not 'good form' to be a bigot, we don't like 'those people' at our dinner parties and we wouldn't want 'one of them' giving a keynote speech at our private university. No true rocker or edgy sculptor would entertain having one of 'those people' about the place.

The elitists Global Citizen makes up a certain privileged section of the 'left', and certainly have their own pompous 'them-folkery' about them which they are rarely shy of indulging themselves in. They have no empathy for the 'plebs and proles' and those that smell offensive after a day's work.

All that said: empathy needs be selective, of course. That, I do not dispute. But in empathy, not all 'choices' are equal. To be able to empathize with some hateful people, and not with others, and without any apparent reason for recognizing a shared humanity with A and not with B, is potentially problematic. But this, perhaps, gives the conspicuously enlightened Global Citizen but little pause for reflection.

Strictly speaking, of course, one does not have to have had the experience of poverty, poor living conditions, racism, sexism, homophobia or nationalism in order to empathize with either the oppressor or the oppressed (and how often is it hard to tell who is who?). But to lack empathy when one has never experienced a particular situation, and to hold forth and condemn without considering the context, is hardly as innocent as it may appear to some.

None of this, of course, is to excuse hatred, bigotry or narrowness. In fact, one could argue that in many cases, one cannot even mitigate such hatred, let alone excuse it. And yet, for a mortal feasting on Ambrosia to highmindedly condemn mere mortals scrabbling over a few square inches of earth, or a muddy river lacking the crystalline virtue of paradise, is an attitude that can hardly be declared free of the stain and the taint of highly principled mediocrity.

All this being so, it seems, that the Global Citizen is a fundamentally 'classist' being! And also a 'classed' one. These supreme 'classifiers' thinks they are free and easy and not tied to any particularistic dogmatic vision. However, their contempt for the flag waving 'plebs and proles' of society is no less partisan and self-interested than the views of the far from fully representative segment of working class folk that support the reactionary right.

In other words, a mere reversal of hatred, bigotry or narrowness into a rootless globalist ethic of 'humanism' and 'cosmopolitanism' implies commitment to a false and counterfeit neutrality and impartiality that does nothing to oppose chauvinism. Indeed, it merely provides a more high-minded and noble rationale for egotism and the most pernicious manifestations of self-seeking egotism.

Indeed, the recent EU referendum on the Brexit is only one example in a long line of cases of the slick, chic and highly virtuous Global Citizen weaponizing their class privilege to reinforce the sense of their own superiority and greater merit vis-a-vis the great unwashed 'plebs and proles'.

The notion that 'there are no arguments at all for Brexit' (therefore the working class must be driven purely by the bestial fury of the mob) is part of a broader outlook on the world which presents the local and particular (supposedly the bread and butter of the 'narrow and bigoted plebeian outlook') as intrinsically perilous and indeed evil; while the superficially and misleadingly transparent 'global' and 'universal' is the locus of all true virtue: the power and glory rest upon the noble scepter of the Global Citizen. They may have their 'wash pot' in Kansas but their 'footstools' are in Brixton and Peckham.

The moral superiority of the Global Citizen is such that, once more, they see no conceivable arguments against it. By necessity, any questioning of the self-evidently purer and ineffably pristinely virtuous character of the Global Citizens and their worldview is to be taken not as a sign of a difference of opinion, but of the narrow, crudely chauvinistic and otherwise vile and vulgar brutishness of the idle cavillers.

However, if someone opposes something, it's important to understand their standpoint: their identity, their position in society, their hopes and dreams and fears and anxieties and aspirations and passions of every kind. This is not only a dusty intellectual matter: it also requires an intuitive rapport. And such rapport with the 'plebs and proles' cannot merely be artificially induced. Telling the 'Red Guards' to go down and learn from the country folks is not necessarily very instructive; the rural people are raw material, whom the Global Citizens think must be purged of all their crude, rustic barbarity. The 'organic intellectual' is truly thus named; for the Global Citizen is a great intellectualizer, and the bearer of the seeds of lights that the barren plebeian cannot truly understand.

(The reader will understand that the paragraph just past has nothing to do with Communist China; she is very far from being the target of my criticism here!)

While intercultural criticism is not illegitimate per se, I affirm that here, I would far rather criticize the vulgar-humanist elitists of the UK and other Western nations. My parable I have just spun pertains purely to the privileged Global Citizens (are there any other boxes to check here?).

Those who float idly upon the sea of life never have to get their hands dirty in menial labor, or indeed the hard labor of prisons or labor camps. Those who skim lightly over the pains and torments of this world have no prerogative, far less a divinely-anointed duty, to sneer at and dismiss the dreams and nightmares of those who, unlike the Global Citizens, do not have the good fortune to live in the eternal noontide comfort of superior illumination and ineffable virtue of all self-appointed princes of enlightenment.

I do not care about what one tells me about their family, or their ancestry, or how hard they had to work to be a self-made Global Citizen; a precious pilgrim whether of the earth itself, or of the world of thought and sentiment. I care only about how oblivious the Global Citizen is to their own privileges.

I also have privileges, and in this series, I have tried to come to term with this as best I can. I who have presented academic work in China and Japan, and studied Chinese for some years, and who am from a humble background (boastful as that may be, or at least appear); I have never once fallen into the trap of elevating myself above my roots. Or so I do so very much sincerely hope. Perhaps others had best be the judge of that?

When one is rootless and cruising the stratosphere, the distance from ones current place to any desired point on the map is always as short and as quick and as easy as it can be. But from ones Olympian vantage point, one can nevertheless see very little through a dark glass, and never once face to face, (even when you are in the same room! your dismissal of 'the working class' or 'the proles' or the 'plebs' or indeed 'the barbarous, ungovernable mob' taints your classy, sophisticated self-ascribed emancipation from all freedom and bias.

Everyone is a Global Citizen until the cadres arrive! Or the Ayatollahs! Or the nationalist strongmen!

One's perspective is class privileged and racially privileged to the core. The 'Globe' does not exist for one's amusement. A secular reading of the Quran might tell one that the world is indeed not for sport. A secular reading of Confucius might tell one that those who do not have roots are like the birds and the beasts.

And yet, the Global Citizens look down upon the curiously exotic wildlife who does not share their privileged outlook. Any rationale one can provide for the Global Citizen's very selectively and self-interestedly sketched map of the Kosmos is ultimately lacking.

By all means, do oppose nationalism and racism. But please don't pretend that some mere cynical inversion of these visions is any kind of panacea. A true progressive won't ever just selectively reject and oppose one bad term of a sinister dichotomy. Sometimes, a more radical critique can and must be at stake, for any serious thinker and reasoner.

Mere logical symmetry is hardly the be-all and end-all for serious critique or activism. And if one doesn't understand that, one doesn't understand anything at all.



Submitters Website: http://jonathanartsandcritique.blogspot.co.uk/

Submitters Bio:

Jonathan Ferguson is a socio-economic liberal with strong libertarian leanings in some key issues.


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