One of the strangest pejoratives that has come up in this new divisive political era is the idea of calling someone a “globalist.” It’s particularly popular in far right circles. If someone believes in NATO, if someone can see the obvious self-interest that the United States has in basing troops on the Korean Peninsula, or if they like doing trade deals with other countries, then they are clearly a World Bank-loving globalist who is betraying their own country in favor of some traitorous preference for everyone else in the world.
Of course, this is all nonsense, if only because most of the so-called “globalist interests” have been very good for America over the last 80 years. It’s also interesting when you consider that, at least in Stoicism, there is not really a contradiction between nationalism (or even empires) and internationalism.
Epictetus said that each of us is a citizen of our own land, but “also a member of the great city of gods and men.” Marcus Aurelius, the head of an enormous empire, reminded himself daily to love the world as much as he loved his native city. You can be a good neighbor and a good parent at the same time, just like you can be a successful businessman without engaging in anti-competitive behavior.
The truth is, it’s easier to myopically focus on your own interests. It’s easy to put yourself in one category and everyone else in another (barbarians, we used to call them). When we think this way, the world becomes zero-sum and violent and scary. But when we can zoom out a bit and see how arbitrary most borders and boundaries are, how much things have been and remain in flux, how similar we all are—how most of us all want the same things—then collaboration and concerted action become possible. Andfar more gets done when we work together than when we fight each other.
Like us, the Romans weren’t perfect. They didn’t live up to their own rhetoric, they fought wars of conquest and committed atrocities. Seneca lived in a society built on slavery, yet he was ahead of his time enough to urge his fellow Romans to “remember that he whom you call your slave sprang from the same stock, is smiled upon by the same skies, and on equal terms with yourself, breathes, lives, and dies.”
We should remember that today and always. Don’t let broken or angry or racist people poison your mind. Don’t let them tear down the principles that have not only brought billions of citizens of this planet out of poverty and prevents millions of people just like you from dying in needless conflicts. Sympatheia. We are all part of a larger whole. We are in this together.
If you live on this planet, you’re a globalist. You have to be.
P.S. Our sympatheia challenge coin serves as a practical, tangible reminder of how we are all connected, and how we are obliged to care about the welfare of our fellow human beings. You can check it out in the Daily Stoic store.