Cosmopolitanism: tolerance towards chauvinism

by Rumi Akter | Published: 00:05, Dec 31,2017



I am not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world.
— Socrates

IN THIS era of globalisation, it is hard to be isolated from the multi-dimensional diversities around the world. Globalisation has made us think ourselves as global citizens to some extent. The word ‘globalisation’ tended to be the only buzz word we have been hearing for a time being. Cosmopolitanism, on the other hand, covers all the aspects of globalisation. Cosmopolitanism refers to the idea that all the human beings belong to a single community rather than to a specific community. Hence, cosmopolitanism classifies all human beings as global citizens of the world. And it is time the world thought about the idea of which Socrates cited as the ‘citizen of the world’ to overcome the problems recurred form ‘chauvinism.’

Cosmopolitanism and chauvinism
THE word cosmopolitanism derives from the Greek word ‘kosmopolitês’ which means the ‘citizen of the world’. It posits the idea that all the people around the world are the citizens of the world rather than a particular nation-state. A nation-state is always driven by the national interest of its own. National interest is the utmost priority of any nation-state in this world. Nationalism is the means to meet the ends of national interest. On the other hand, chauvinism means ultra-nationalism or extreme nationalism that exaggerates partiality or attachment to a group or place to which one belongs.
It is a matter of regret that in today’s world, we can see that extreme nationalism, in other words, chauvinism, is the ideology which is followed by some of the greatest nation-states on the world stage. But for a peaceful world and for peaceful co-existence, the practice of cosmopolitanism is a must.

Existence of chauvinism
MOST of the greatest nation-states still hold the chauvinist ideology to some extent. For instance, India, the emerging giant state of Asia, holds chauvinism in the disguise of ‘Hindutva.’ The recent BJP government of India poses a growing menace to the Muslims who are the second largest community in India. India is a nation which has the potential to grow as one of the great powers of the world. But it is not possible to become great by excluding approximately 125 million of its total population. The last two to three years’ scenario of some of the wealthiest and developed European countries is also the same. France banned wearing veil for Muslim women who have been living for long in France. According to the Guardian, under a decree by the French prime minister, François Fillon, women were banned from wearing the ‘niqab’ in any public place. France was the first country in Europe that outlawed face veils for women outside their homes, except when worshipping in a religious place or travelling as a passenger in a car. In 2009, during the tenure of British prime minister Gordon Brown wildcat strikes demanded by giving the slogan ‘British jobs for British workers’. These are some of the examples around the world that are posing a threat to a beautiful and peaceful world. The recent Rohingya crisis is also an example of chauvinism in Myanmar. Although there are some other aspects of the Rohingya crisis, it is not rational to exclude a community who has been living in a place from time immemorial.
What all these examples have in common is the new form of chauvinism. But it is just a matter of little tolerance to avoid these incidents!

Cosmopolitanism and transnational issues
THERE is no wonder that our world is changing every now and then. The changes of our world are so rapid that the emergence of transnational issues (borderless issues) is also growing in a rapid manner. Cosmopolitanism can heal the crises all over the world generated from chauvinism. But the question is how? The answer is ‘tolerance.’ It is just a matter of tolerance. Chauvinism holds back the rationality from thinking about new solutions. Ian Ravenscroft has described chauvinism as ‘a bias in favour of the familiar’ (Stefan Collignon, ‘The Challenge of New Chauvinism in Europe’, Social Europe, April 6, 2010). With the changes of the world, it is also necessary to think about new ways of deterring new challenges. The transnational issues that are emerging very rapidly cannot be resolved or deterred only by a single nation-state. Transboundary issues, ie climate change, environmental degradation, terrorism, etc are the issues which are borderless. They do not recognise the nation-state’s defined borders. These are the issues which need the hand-in-hand cooperation of all the people all over the world. And being a cosmopolitan or citizen of the world can make the mentality of every individual that the world is the only living place of the human being regardless nationality, sex, gender, ethnicity, community, race and religion as well.
Today’s is the world where we want to have a holiday trip to the Disney Land in America or watch international films just sitting in front of a big screen in our own country. Thus, cosmopolitanism gives us the opportunity to taste the whole world pouring into the same glass of our own national diversities. It is a bizarre to hold back the ideology of purity! The world was never a place where racial purity existed. The migration of people has always been a constant in the world history. To make the world a better place to live in, the practice of cosmopolitanism seems to be a must. The nationality of ‘goodwill’ (what Socrates mentioned in his another saying: I am a citizen of the world and my nationality is goodwill) can make the world better and ensure the peaceful coexistence which is the crying need to resist the terrorism around the world. So, let us go back to the Socratic philosophy again!

Rumi Akter is a research assistant (international affairs) at the Bangladesh Institute of Law and International Affairs.

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