Living in A Hyphenated World

‘I am a citizen of the world!’ is a statement often espoused by many of this new millennial generation. These small growing streams of cosmopolitans continue to rise above the biases of their own cultures and traditions. They have adopted a Universalist lens rooted in an authentic understanding of their own complex cultural identities, how we relate as humans and interconnect with those who are different than us. Kwame Anthony Appiah, a philosopher and cultural theorist who has written on Cosmopolitanism defines it as ‘universality plus difference’ and says ‘the boundary of your state is not the boundary of your moral concern’.

The ‘Hyphenated American’ is a popular term that describes immigrants and people who have come to the United States, it represents their capacity to adjust and adopt a new national collective identity, while retaining their ability to feel connected to an ancestry they can trace back to other geographical parts around the world. According to the U.S. Census Bureau in 2011, the number of babies born to minorities surpassed whites in U.S. for the first time. I believe this is but a small aspect of a cosmic cosmopolitan shift currently happening on this planet and it will have deep national, political and cultural implications for the future. From Mexican-Americans, French-Algerians to Chinese-Brazilians, German-Indian, this hyphenated world brings new complexity to the once monolithic and static cultural identities of the past era. Within this rising cosmopolitan consciousness ignorance is beginning to take a back seat and will now become a choice one decides to live with. This increased connectivity and cosmopolitan thought can push forward a deeper understanding of our collective planetary existence, it can connect us to something bigger than our own individual lives, it can also bring a shared responsibility and more importantly an acknowledgement of the dignity of those who are different than us.

I do believe in the dangers of a Universalist view if we don’t take it upon ourselves to understand the importance and uniqueness of the ‘other’ in thought, culture and nature. Cultural hegemony and assimilation is very real and has had a negative impact to nations and people through the promotion of a streamlined ideology that imposes extractive systems and cultures that often benefit a small single group of people. It is then I see the need for a cultural centric approach that can first create a rooted foundation which can serve as a stepping-stone for an authentic emergence in this new international society that is currently forming and redefining our social constructed borders.

The world is no longer the spaces and places the people who have come before us intended it to be. I believe the value of a hyphenated perspective and identity lies in its ability to deepen cultural sensitivity but also catalyze within us our creative self and bring more innovation out into the world. For us to tap into the possibilities of this perspective we have to reflect deeply and travel to our own hyphenated world that exists in the vast spaces in-between of our social identities and in the edges of our own cultural values. There we can begin to understand the human condition is unbound by social constructions and that we are much closer than we think.

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