Why I Hate Cosmopolitanism

The problem with people in the intelligentsia is its utter incapacity to conduct a class-based analysis.

So many people say to me, “But I’m a citizen of the world! I don’t need a nation! Immigration worked out so well for me, how can there possibly be a problem with it?”

It worked out brilliantly for me, too. I’m doing fantastic. But we, the ultra-educated, cosmopolitan, multilingual citizens of the world are a tiny minority. For the overwhelming majority of the people who are dragged around the world by globalization things aren’t that peachy. Their communities are destroyed, families are separated, and national economies are rendered completely dysfunctional. While your kids go to fancy schools, travel and speak a buttload of languages, theirs join gangs, flunk out, and lose the capacity to have a single language they are really fluent in.

It’s supposedly easy for you to live without an attachment to a nation or a community (we all say so but it’s not even true) but what about those who perceive the extraction of this attachment as a deep wound?

Have you seen the caravans of Central American migrants marching with their national flags? The people in them are completely sincere. There is truly nobody more patriotic and more deeply enamored of their country and culture than Salvadorans. The people in these caravans don’t give a toss about your cosmopolitanism and the 15 languages you speak fluently. They want to eat their pupusas and watch their home team with a bunch of neighbors at home. They aren’t like you but they are not inferior to you. They won’t have the money to pay for therapy for themselves and their kids to process the trauma of this displacement but they aren’t inferior. They still count in their own right and not as proof that “everybody is on the move” and hence my and your voluntary and leisurely displacement was a 100% awesome thing.

The US destroyed Central America throughout the 1970s and 1980s when it brutally implanted neoliberalism in these countries. The US is still destroying Central America today and using the treacly verbiage of human rights and cosmopolitanism to mask the same old neoliberal policies. And I care about that more than about constantly repeating how great it all worked out for me.

5 thoughts on “Why I Hate Cosmopolitanism”

  1. We tried relocating to South America some years back. It was educational. We stuck it out for almost a year, and we loved the place. But… it was really hard to get a work visa, and we weren’t willing to stay illegally. And it was absolutely within the rights and interests of the country to tell us “we love for you to visit, but now it’s time for you to go home.” We don’t have a problem with that. In the end, it’s been better to live near family.

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  2. We can’t do a class based analysis because (a) those are Marxist type thoughts, eradicated here in mid 20th century or before, and (b) they are New Left type thoughts, eradicated from the 70s forward. Talking about identity (as long as it does not TOUCH the question of class) seems to be OK. US does not want to recognize existence of the poor or the regular old non-destitute working class, except in odd idealized ways [I might be onto something here, will have to work it out]

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  3. And/but: am I cosmopolitan? My mother thought so and considered it good: not narrow, aware, multi-perspectival. If you study languages and have the opportunity to travel, and read and pay attention, you become cosmopolitan.

    I seem to have no need to become an Anzaldúan border-crosser, though. According to what her theory appears to be, before doing most any of the things I do like go pick up those ICE detainees, I would have to go into deep self-questioning and change my identity first. But I don’t. Is this privilege? (I think it’s just having politics, which most people don’t, but some would say it is Privilege to be in a position to have those. I can’t win)

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  4. “But I’m a citizen of the world! I don’t need a nation!”

    And they’re totally fucking lying. I’ve enver met people who are as culturally (and often geographically) bound as supposed “cosmopolitans”….
    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with enjoying things from other cultures (and to find the company of people from other cultures interesting and stimulating) but few self-labelled citizens of the world actually ever interact with anyone from another culture on anything remotely resembling equal terms – their ‘cosmopolitanism’ is usually just a bunch of authoritarian statements that people from other cultures are supposed to meekly agree with… or else…

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    1. This is very true. Many people who adopt the cosmopolitan attitude have only interacted with other cultures as tourists. It is much easier to deal with another culture when you are there for a visit and most things you do are entirely optional. It’s a very different thing when you have to navigate bureaucracy, hold down a job, keep your life running and navigate 1,001 unwritten rules every day. I find people who have actually lived in other cultures for extended periods, even if they still have some degree of cosmopolitan attitude, tend not to make grand sweeping statements about stuff like this.

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