Traveling means provoking new thoughts. Means questioning your believes. Means acknowledging you’re wrong at times. It means growing as a person – sometimes in the face of uncomfortable truths.
I have recently listened to a TED talk by Taiye Selasi, and felt caught instantaneously by what she said. I immediately knew I wanted to write a post about this new insight I had just gained. And about the fact that sometimes we have to acknowledge we are wrong – or at least unintentionally indelicate. Traveling through (and living in!) Asia gave me all the more reason for personal reflection. Here’s what she said:
“‘I have no identity – I’m a human’ that’s what white people say, because they can afford to. No-one is ever going to question that they belong – in a given space. Power makes you feel like you belong everywhere – that’s actually the underpinning of colonialism” (Taiye Selasi, TED Radio Hour, 15.Juni).
My personal take away is this: There are no Global Citizens. Taiye Selasi says we can be “multi-local” – born, raised, lived in different countries and cultures with families of different cultural roots. I believe that we can get acquainted with different cultures. That it is worth undertaking a genuine effort to understand and tolerate cultures different from out own. That this is key to a peaceful international society and global cooperation. Especially so in an ever more globalized world.
I remember calling myself a Global Citizen once. How presumptuous! I have lived in many places, have friends from all over the world and would give myself credit for being relatively culturally sensitive, and striving to be more and more informed. I would still claim that I live a fairly global lifestyle and try to be as little ignorant as possible. But I certainly cannot claim to be a local everywhere. Or even anywhere, maybe. Most plausibly I could say I am a local where my parents raised me and my family is still living today. But frankly, not having lived there for years and being treated like a foreigner in local shops, even that seems contestable.
I don’t belong everywhere. Nobody does. Acknowledging this is a humbling experience. And the beginning of acknowledging that other cultures and other locals have something to teach you. A traveller should remember this lesson well. Not just intellectually, but truly live by it. I perceive it as a tremendous privilege to get to know people from different cultural, regional, professional …… backgrounds. And to be taught about the different experiences that make up each individual person’s life, independent of where they were born or what the title page of their passport looks like.
Today I move on to exploring a whole new culture in a whole new place – stay posted. And leave your thoughts on this post in the comments. I’m very interested to hear in how far this insight resonates with you.