When Our Most Important Identity Gets the Least Importance, This Creates Serious Problems

     People grow up with several identities. One identity can be that of caste, another one can be that of religion , yet another one can be that of ethnicity. Some people identify themselves with the real or imaginary fame of their family or ancestors, while others tend to identify themselves very strongly with certain spiritual ( real and imaginary ) groups.

While various identities were more common at various times of history, the identity of country or nation  became more increasingly more important in modern history of nation states. Now most people in the world generally think of themselves as citizens of a particular country, although within the country they may also identify themselves in terms of their province or language or region. There is of course a legal aspect of it but in addition there is also a strong emotional aspect in terms of their commitment to the safety and well-being of their country. Most  people are brought up with such feelings.

Apart from this national identity, of course most people continue to  have  varying identities of region, continent, province, caste, ethnicity, religion, language, culture etc. to varying extents.

While having these varying identities is fine and people can grow up in a very healthy way with multiple identities, at the same time serious problems arise when all these identities get emphasized but the most important identity gets neglected or even negated to an even amazing extent. The neglected but most important identity is of course our identity as citizens of world. This most important identity has been not just neglected but even negated in important contexts. This was always wrong and harmful but this is all the more a very serious problem in present times when there are increasing reasons why people should grow up primarily as world citizens with an identity above all of world citizens committed to the well-being and safety of the entire world.

A simple form of such an identity can be – I am a citizen of the world of planet earth who believes firmly in the well-being and safety of this entire world, all its living beings and natural systems, regardless of any discrimination.

If an entire generation is brought up in this way, with this understanding and belief, then very significant changes to resolve prevailing most serious problems  and create a safer and happier world can be made within a decade or two.

One reason why such an identity (and supporting value system) is needed is  that from every point of view this is more rational. There is no better way of avoiding war and massive military expenditure than to have such an identity and supporting value system.

On the basis of this understanding we can say that such an identity should have always existed in some form, and indeed in several cultures and among the teachings of greatest human beings we find several articulations of this viewpoint. Unfortunately such teachings of greatest human beings have been increasingly ignored.

At the same time it should also be emphasized that in recent decades the need for such an identity has been increasing more than ever before due to certain factors. Firstly, there is the emergence of weapons of mass destruction due to which war now has the capacity to destroy the entire world in a very short time. Secondly, there is the emergence of several environmental threats capable of badly disrupting the basic life-nurturing conditions of planet earth.

Hence while the concept of world citizenship (and supporting values) was always needed, it is now needed more than ever before.

However this concept can best progress in a world based on equality, justice and democracy. Hence a much stronger commitment to justice, equality and democracy is needed.

The spread of the concept of world citizenship does not mean that people have to give up their other identities. However the most important identity should be that of world citizenship.

But it takes a lot of effort to get rid of old outdated myths as these are strongly entrenched and what is more, powerful interests keep making a lot of efforts for the perpetuation of these myths sometimes in even worse and even more jingoistic terms than before.

So it is all the more important that very broad-based efforts are made with continuity for spreading and strengthening the concept and identity of citizens of world, with the accompanying essential value system of commitment to the welfare of entire world without any discrimination .

Bharat Dogra is a journalist and author. His recent books include Earth Without Borders and Man Over Machine.


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