Responsible Global Citizenship

What Is Responsible Global Citizenship?

re•spon•si•ble glo•bal ci•ti•zen•ship  |riˈspänsəbəl glōbəl ˈsitizənSHip|

  1. Cultivating awareness of global issues to inform and sensitize one’s thoughts and choices;
    • e.g. She does her best to understand the world through reading, documentaries, and travel, as she wants to be a responsible global citizen.
  2. Considering one’s actions and their consequences in a global context;
    • e.g. As green social entrepreneurs, they incorporated the principles of responsible global citizenship into their business plan.
  3. Putting informed compassion into action in ways that benefit another part of the world or a cause that serves everyone.
    • e.g. They spent six months volunteering abroad as a practice of responsible global citizenship, and then planted trees to offset the carbon footprint of their flights.

In short, responsible global citizenship is informed compassion in action: making our best efforts to understand global issues, to act with sensitivity about them, and to change ourselves and our world for the better.

Know the world, change the world, and it will change you.

Why Responsible Global Citizenship?

Today, more than ever before, life must be characterized by a sense of universal responsibility, not only nation to nation and human to human, but also human to other forms of life.
— H.H. the Dalai Lama

In this age of globalization and increasing interconnectedness, our lives impact each other’s — for better or for worse. Through learning, connection, and service, we can make the best possible impact on our world. Through informed, compassionate choices and actions, we can minimize our harm footprint and maximize the benefit we create for ourselves, for others, and for the planet.

To live without a sense of global responsibility is to turn away from the suffering of others and to waste many precious gifts we could give to the world and receive from it.

To live with a sense of global responsibility is to seek to understand and embrace the world as it is while working diligently and joyfully to make it better.

Three Aspects of Responsible Global Citizenship:
Awareness, Sensitivity, & Compassionate Action

As caring and gifted earthlings in an age of globalization and unprecedented challenges, we have both the power and the responsibility to do the best we can in all three of these areas — global awareness, global sensitivity, and compassionate action.

So let’s take a closer look at each of these three areas, to get a clearer picture.

Global Awareness:
Understanding Our World & Our Impacts Within It

Awareness begins with paying attention. Paying attention helps us develop understanding. Action without understanding is what causes our world’s problems. The first step to solving them is better understanding.

Awareness is the only antidote for ignorance. Understanding is the only antidote for misunderstanding. Better understanding makes a stronger antidote.

To understand our world better, we must make it a practice to look around, to open our eyes to both the beauty and the pain that fills our world. We must open ourselves to the experience of others, to begin to see what’s the same in all of us while also developing greater appreciation for the differences. This gives us a natural respect for the diversity of humanity in all its forms.

We must consider it our responsibility to do our best to understand the most important global issues of our times: ecological, social, cultural, political, economic, and so on. No one can understand all of these complex issues perfectly, but in this age of globalization, every citizen of the world should have at least a basic understanding of each of these major issues. This is critically important because all of these issues affect all of us, and we will make better choices when we understand those effects. Better choices will lead to shrinking problems and growing solutions.

Cultivating global awareness is a lifelong process of broadening and deepening our understanding of our world, including the people, the planet, the challenges we face, and the resources we can draw upon to rise to those challenges. As our awareness grows to consider all of these elements together, our understanding becomes less black-and-white, more nuanced and holistic, and therefore more useful. For a doctor, a more precise and complete diagnosis helps to prescribe a more comprehensive and effective treatment.

Cultivating awareness also requires developing a humble and open mind. Whenever we think we already understand something, there’s no room for a better understanding to move in. In our society, we are conditioned to think we understand much more than we actually do and, ironically, this keeps us from learning as much as we can. So in order to understand the world better, we must discover, examine, and overcome our own assumptions and prejudices, to make a cleaner window through which to see the world as it really is.

One great benefit of developing more awareness of our world and its people is that, in that process, we also become more deeply aware of ourselves. And that, in turn, helps us become a more beneficial presence in the world. A delicious circle.

Global Sensitivity:
Opening Ourselves to the Experiences of Others

As our awareness increases, so does our capacity for sensitivity. Without awareness, there can be no sensitivity. But as we grow in our understanding of the world, we naturally become more sensitive to people and to the social and environmental dynamics that influence our interactions with each other — as families, as groups, as communities, as nations and tribes, and as a species.

Sensitivity is about a deeper kind of attention — deeper looking, deeper listening, deeper feeling — combined with the openness to be present to whatever it is we’re experiencing (instead of turning away or trying to shut things out). As we develop this kind of deeper attention and strengthen the muscle of deeper openness, we notice a lot more — about the world, about ourselves, about others, and about the ways in which we all interact. And the more we notice, that feeds our understanding. We notice thoughts and actions and we notice their consequences, and from this we gain deeper understanding of the importance of making informed choices and acting on them with warm-hearted sensitivity to the possible consequences on ourselves, on others, and on the planet.

Cultivating global sensitivity means applying sensitivity not just to our immediate personal world but also to the larger world around us, and to all the life within it. When we widen our field of awareness to include the whole planet and all its people and species, and embrace that world with openness and curiosity, one natural result is that our hearts open wider. We feel more empathy for other people and other creatures. We feel more connected with all of life.

And this, effortlessly and automatically, awakens our natural compassion. We care more about the world and all life within it because we’re more sensitive to the interconnectedness of all of life. And from here we can begin to train in compassionate action.

Compassionate Action:
Navigating Life with Attention & Caring

To have compassion means to have awareness, sensitivity, and caring for the suffering of others. Without awareness and sensitivity, there can be no compassion. But as our awareness and sensitivity grow, so does our compassion, automatically.  It’s a part of our nature: when we’re aware of the suffering of others and we allow ourselves to be open and sensitive to it, then the natural result is that we feel compassion.

Note that compassion is not pity (in the sense of looking down at someone’s situation), but rather an empathetic sense of shared experience of the vulnerability of being alive.

So what is compassionate action? First, action here includes all our our activity: our thoughts and feelings, communications, and behavior — whatever we think, say, or do. And compassionate action means conducting all those activities with the awareness and sensitivity that awakens the natural force of compassion. So, we’re talking about compassionate thoughts and feelings, compassionate speech and communication, and compassionate behavior (toward self, others, all of life, and the planet).

Cultivating compassionate action starts with combining the attention that leads to awareness with the openness that leads to warm-hearted sensitivity. Then, with that foundation, we go through our days, practicing doing our best to stay in touch with that warm-hearted, sensitive awareness as we give careful consideration to our choices and their possible consequences — the possible impacts on us, on other people or creatures, or on the planet.

And, once we’ve made our choices as well as we can and it’s time to act on them, we do our best to stay in touch with that warm-hearted awareness while we put our choices into action. We speak from that place of awareness and warm-hearted sensitivity and, whatever our work is, we do it from that place as well as we can. This is what we mean by compassionate action. (And if this sounds like a lot to remember, don’t worry! It gets a lot easier with practice, and over time it becomes completely natural.)

Awareness + Sensitivity + Action = Informed Compassion in Action

If we look at these three aspects in the form of a person, the awareness is the head (with its eyes, ears, and brain), the sensitivity is the heart (the core of our caring and intuition), and the action is the body (with its legs and arms that can move us around and get things done). When all of these parts of the body are working together well, the body is healthy and it can do good work in the world.

The result is informed compassion in action. It is a well-integrated person applying awareness, sensitivity, and compassion to her thoughts, communications, and actions.

As a result of all the care that goes into it, informed compassionate action feels good. It feels better than most of our less-conscious, less-considered, less-caring, more habitually-driven actions. It feels better for us, and it usually feels better for others around us.

But at least as important, if not more so, is that compassionate action works. It tends to be more effective, and this is also thanks in part to all the care that goes into it (starting with the efforts to understand people and situations more deeply). But it is also because, in cases of humans dealing with other humans, the real-world results are usually better when the human connections behind them are better.

Actions performed with his kind of informed compassion also tend to produce results that are more more appreciated, and more enduring. Because of this, informed compassionate action produces results that are more sustainable on every level — not just for the planet, but also for its people. People are more supportive of things when they feel good about the process as well as the result. Informed compassionate action is an effective tool for skillful work in the world that achieves results that stakeholders (all the people involved and concerned) are more likely to want to make an effort to preserve.

Informed Compassion in Action on the Personal + Global Levels = Responsible Global Citizenship

Above, we have described informed compassion in action. Naturally, informed compassion can be put into action in different aspects of life, from the individual and the family or organization to the community, the nation, and the world.  Informed compassionate action is beneficial on all of these levels. But when we apply it on both the personal and global levels, that is what we call responsible global citizenship.

On the Individual Level

Responsible global citizenship starts with practicing global awareness, global sensitivity, and compassionate action in our own lives as individuals. A responsible global citizen seeks to understand herself in the context of the world. She seeks to understand the impacts that her choices and actions make on the world, and likewise the way the realities of the world affect her as an individual. She engages in a lifelong process of deepening her awareness of this two-way interaction, this interdependent relationship. She cultivates the sensitivity to embrace this experience with an open mind and a warm heart, and allows herself to be inspired and changed by it. She does her best to let this process show her how to navigate life in ways that are better for herself and better for the world.

On the Social Level

Responsible global citizenship then expands this practice from the individual level to relationships and to groups, such as families, organizations, communities, and nations. We study the way our thoughts, communications, choices and actions, individually and collectively, impact and shape the world and, in turn, are impacted and shaped by the world. We cultivate the sensitivity to embrace this experience with open minds and warm hearts, and allow ourselves to be inspired and changed by it. We do our best to let this process show us how to live and learn and work and serve and create with each other in ways that are better for each of us, better for our families and communities, organizations and nations, and better for the world.

On the Global Level

Finally, responsible global citizenship expands this practice to the global level. Not everyone has the means to travel to another country to meet the locals, learn from them, and do volunteer or service work, but if one can, those can be life-changing, eye-opening, empowering and inspiring experiences that can help us understand the both the world and ourselves. But, even at home, there are many, many things almost everyone can do to help make the world (or a part of it) a little better (and some of those opportunities can be found here).

Something for Everyone

Everyone can do something. Every individual has a contribution to make to the world and an opportunity to be transformed and empowered by it. And, whatever it is that responsible global citizens choose to do for the world, we do our best to open ourselves to let these experiences teach and inspire us — to make us more aware, more sensitive, and more compassionate humans, ever closer to actualizing fully our great natural potential to relieve suffering and increase joy and positive possibilities, and to support others to do the same.

This is what we call responsible global citizenship. This is what we aspire to do here in Earthville, and we’d love to do it with you.

Below, you can explore exciting opportunities for compassionate global citizenship and learn how you can do your part.

→ Read our next piece on “How to Change the World in Four Easy Steps.”

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