I’m a citizen of the World

I’m a citizen of the World,” I say, when asked where I come from—and I am, in mind and heart.

Woman saving dog from the flood

Woman saving dog from the flood (photo by Dave).

 

Diogenes, in about 412 BC, was probably the first to use the expression and express the very same sentiment. When asked where he came from, he replied: “I am a citizen of the world (kosmopolitês)”. Socrates (469-399 BC) concurred: “I am not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world.” This was indeed a revolutionary thought, because at that time, social identity in Greece was either bound to the city-states, Athens and Sparta, or to the Greeks (the Hellenes). Perhaps it is just as revolutionary today.

Kaniyan Poongundran, the Tamil poet, wrote (at least 2000 years ago), “To us all towns are one, all men our kin.” Thomas Paine (English-American philosopher, 1737 – 1809), said, “The world is my country, all mankind are my brethren and to do good is my religion.” Albert Einstein (1879-1955) thought of himself as a world citizen, “Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind.”

I’ve travelled over most of our beautiful planet, seen mountains above the clouds with perennial snow tops, and oceans reaching far beyond the eye can see. I’ve lived in temperatures from 40º C below zero to 40º C above. I’ve eaten all kinds of weird and wonderful dishes prepared by humans and spent many a day and night enjoying the company of people with the most peculiar cultures and habits.

Asian child with cat and dog.

Child with cat and dog.

 

What’s my favorite place? I don’t have one. Everywhere I’ve been, I’ve discovered new pieces in the amazing puzzle of life. Everywhere I’ve been, from the most glamorous cities to the poorest, war-torn areas, I’ve met kind and gentle people. I’ve shared water with the Masai in the African desert and rice with the Chhetris in the Nepalese mountains. I felt a strong kinship with all of them: no country, no culture, no language, no divide—we were family, we were humans, we were sentient living beings.

My blogs are read all over the World. I have readers in places that you may never have heard of: Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Kyrgyzstan, Brunei, Réunion, Oman, to name just a few. I speak nine languages and understand at least sixteen, but write in English, as it’s the language I feel most comfortable with. I write about matters concerning my profession (biology and ethology) and also about life. My goal is to share the knowledge and experience I’ve been so fortunate to acquire during my life with all those who wish to receive it. My blog site, on which I share blogs, articles and books, is free to everyone.

I write in English, which is fast becoming a lingua franca, understood and spoken by most, allowing my blogs to reach far and wide. However, there are many people who do not speak or understand English and, therefore, from time to time, I publish a translation of one of my blogs in a language other than English. This is the least I can do for my loyal, non-native, English speaking readers from around the world.

Boy and dog sleeping on the street.

Boy and dog sleeping on the street (photo by Gemunu Amarasinghe).

 

As my blog site is free of charge, I have to keep costs as low as possible. I therefore use the WordPress platform, which is efficient, but has its limitations, one of which is that subscribers cannot be categorized by their native language; which means that all subscribers receive notifications of all my blogs whatever the language. This shouldn’t really be a problem, as, if you receive a blog in a language you don’t understand, you can either click the blue link that takes you directly to the English original, or you can simply discard the notification email. However, this seems to upset some native English speakers to the point where they send me messages asking me to remove them from the subscribers list unless they only receive blogs in English.

Unfortunately, that’s impossible if my blog is to remain free of charge because WordPress doesn’t provide that option. Such readers need to decide whether the inconvenience of receiving a message about a blog entry in a language you can’t read outweighs the benefits of having free access to all the other stuff you can. As of today, I’ve published 49 blogs (including several articles and six small books) of which only eight are in languages other than English. You can do your calculations and decide whether you get enough for your money (the money you don’t pay, that is).

As long as I receive messages like the one below, which overwhelms me, makes my heart beat a little faster and my eyes well up, I’ll continue to offer the sporadic translation.

“Teacher sir Roger I’m not good English I no computer Read from computer shop read your article from dictionary info I like so much I have many dog other animal too I very much appreciate your help very much You long life healthy”

The only regret I have is not being able to write in more languages than I do. Until then, I’ll continue writing in as many languages as I can—and yes, I’m a citizen of the World!

Life is great!

R—

Note: According to the CIA World Fact Book, only 5.6 % of the world’s total population speaks English as a primary language. That number doubles when people who speak English as a second or third language are counted. By conservative estimates, that means that well over four-fifths of the world’s population does not speak English.

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