Political Scientist Benjamin Barber discusses the importance of each citizen in solving global issues

03/05/12 Liz McKibbon
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Some of the most important issues affecting people today—disease, terrorism, climate change—are not defined by region, but instead are global problems. That’s the take of political scientist Benjamin Barber, who spoke Wednesday night on The Ethics of Global Citizenship at St. Petersburg College in Seminole.

Barber began by illustrating just how connected the United States is to the rest of the world. He said that many Americans focus on the borders that outline the cities, states and country in which they live.

”We live in an interdependent world! And it would be just as foolish to say, ‘Down here in Tampa, we’re sick of Florida. We’re just gonna make Tampa do things its own way, we’re not going to be dependent on anyone else. We’re gonna make everything, and get our own foodstuffs and energy from Tampa.’ That would be absurd! But it’s equally absurd to say the United States can do it. Interdependence is a reality. And once we recognize it, we can begin to solve problems, where as when we don’t, we actually create a deep hole out of which, in time, it will be impossible to climb.”

Capitalism in America has become driven by global marketplace. Barber said the division between international products and American products has blurred.

”I hear people saying—and I understand it -— ‘Drive American. Buy American cars like the Chevy.’ Except the Chevy is made mostly in Mexico and Canada, with 75% parts from elsewhere in the world. And Japanese cars—like Toyota—are made largely in the United States with quite a lot of American parts. So which is the American car? The Toyota made in the states? Or the Chevy made in Mexico. How do you drive American? You don’t! There is no automobile today that has Japanese or French or American blood in its metals.”

Barber was critical of the media for a lack of global news coverage. He said citizens must understand the world as a complex, interdependent community.

”You’ll see a story about Iraq and Afghanistan, because Americans are dying there. But when did you last see a serious story about Somalia? About Uganda? About what’s happening with climate in the Himalayas. With how Singapore has a housing policy that subsidizes for 80% of the population, ownership of their apartments. Anyone read about that? We hear things like they’re all socialists over there. Or those are foreigners. Or we Americans don’t have to care about that.”

Barber even suggested that left-leaning MSNBC and right-leaning Fox News should merge as one network, leaving the American people with healthy debate and a blend of views from both sides of the isle. Elitist rhetoric that sometimes creeps into political discussion is something Barber says is hurting the world view of America.

”This is a great country, I love this country. But when our politicians keep screaming ‘We’re number one! We’re the greatest country in the world!’ The problem with that is that even the greatest country in the world has to live in a world with a lot of other pretty great countries and pretty bad countries and to do that means you have to cooperate and work with them. And waving your own flag and saying ‘We’re number one.’ And we don’t have to deal with anyone else, we don’t have to talk to anyone else… is destructive to America! Not to the world, to America.”

Barber says the only way for society to progress is for people and politicians to find common ground and respect one another. Democracy will not work without the people.

”It means if you’re pro-life, understanding that there are powerful and important arguments women have to make about the control over their own bodies, but it also means if you’re pro-choice, to understand that for many, life does begin at conception. And that’s important. And it’s not a good position against a bad position, its two important values.”

He says America is becoming a ‘beautiful tapestry of people and culture.’; A country that resembles the people of the world better than any other… and this should be embraced as a strength, rather than ignored and rejected.

More about Barber at BenjaminBarber.com.

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