Monday, May 07, 2012

Becoming a Cosmopolitan: Take I

A. Cosmopolitan: the word comes to us from those pesky Greeks of ancient yore. Literally, "universal city" or "universal citizen." As in: I am a citizen of the world. Who happens to be living in North America. In the United States of America. In Texas. This is the exact reverse order of how someone else in my situation who almost collided with me earlier today might seem to feel, at least according to his all-caps bumper sticker: someone who proclaims he is #1 NATIVE TEXAN; and then up (or down) the line from there presumably, with the world apparently last, or least, in his conciousness or care. He probably "hates the French," to boot. I don't hate him -- on this day, I just think he's being an idiot, and not of the Dostoyevsky or Iggy Pop variety.  

B. Comic, philosopher, poet -- each role shares a common outlook in this way: any person sharply observing things "as they are," with an implicit critique that much could be better. Indeed, it should be obvious to most observant people anywhere that between and among human beings and how we relate to and treat each other, things could be much better. So to some extent, we're all comics, philosophers and poets. Maybe even mystics.   

C. It's therefore fun to read a book like Jason D. Hill's Becoming a Cosmopolitan: What it Means to Be a Human Being in the New Millennium (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2011; originally published in 2000). Hill delves quite a bit into Existentialsm, that philosophy which balances freedom and responsibility on the shoulders of the individual. 

In Becoming a Cosmopolitan, Hill assertively rips this joint of a world. He challenges the too-commonly found status quo. "We are petty, parochial little creatures," he quips, "who deify our tribe because it is ours." He goes on to note how the cosmopolitan outlook and ethos will be challenged from the outside; but the cosmopolitan outlook and ethos will be challenging at times to live by and with on the inside, too. We are ever-becoming, after all, and ever-challenged.  

"He [the cosmopolitan] must remember, however, that when a culture suffers from an idiotic present in which a pathological and diseased frame of reference is the standard paradigm, it is the healthy individual who is seen as the freak, the one who is distorted, simply because he is trying to recover a universal human ethic" (page 6). 

D. The case for a cosmopolitan outlook and ethos comes into clearer focus when we consider some of the opposites or antonyms of the very word cosmopolitan:  "bumpkin, hick, provincial, rustic, yokel" (Source: Merriam-Webster online at Seems a bit harsh, but there you have it -- at least according to Merriam-Webster. Capitalized, "of course," the Cosmopolitan or Cosmo becomes also the quite curious cocktail of more current concoction.

Today's Rune: Signals.    


the walking man said...

Mayhaps in order to be cosmopolitan (as in citizen of the world with an expanded world view) because of the "idiocracy" that rules the world one must drink very many Cosmo's continuously.

Charles Gramlich said...

I wonder sometimes if it's a vain hope for the basic human race to become cosmopolitan. We evolved under such different circumstances and the changes in culture have been so rapid. Education is the key, I suppose, but it is continually being dumbed down and students are getting away with grades they don't deserve. Depresses me.

Adorably Dead said...

Gah, mindhive! I was just reading something like this a week ago. The book sounds interesting.

I like to think of myself as this. :p But I'm not sure I'm as cosmopolitan as I think, lol.