7 Billion People, 7 Billion Citizens?

This year, Oct 31st won’t just mark the day of American rendition of the day celebrating the supernatural. This October 31st, there will be 7 BILLION PEOPLE ON EARTH (That is, plus or minus few days, weeks, months, or a year…but close enough for U.N).  That means, since our parents’ days (1960’s), world population DOUBLED in size.

While people want to celebrate this moment by finding out 7 billionth baby born this year, needless to say, the mood of the occasion isn’t just all balloons and celebrations, but rather trying to know if we can handle 7 billion people living together on this already overpopulated planet. The number of people continues to grow, while the resources decrease by the minute.

To put in perspective how the wealth is shared around the globe, as it is, we can think of the world as a village of a 100 people. (I apologize beforehand for the depressing and repetitive background music)

Maybe this video is a sort of an Occupy Wall Street in a global perspective. Obviously, there are problems with the way resources are spread throughout the world; some countries ended up with more, others with less. How does this issue connect with Shklar? Well, how would one earn or earn the right to earn, if there aren’t enough resources to go around? If earning is an essential part of being a citizen, then doesn’t that mean if there aren’t enough to go around for everyone, then how can we say those who are excluded are excluded on basis of them not having the right qualification?

It’s true that the definition of citizenship is bound by strict rigid definitions, often by physical boundaries. Especially by Shklar, she seems to define citizenship purely by two components; one’s civic right, and one’s economic ability, or the ability to earn. However, if we just consider those two components, it makes it much easier for one to exclude others from this great world of “citizenship”. We can take this problem to a global scale in the context of the 7 Billion people. In Shklar’s definition, we can say that many groups around the globe who has no right to vote or right to earn (women, children, disabled, etc.) also have no right to the title of a citizenship. In this context, we could also say that having this title gives you a right to have a say in decisions which will affect you and others around the world, and as a citizen, you will most likely choose the decision that would benefit yourself, rather than the other. This means that the others will continue to be excluded, while they are continuously burdened by the citizens’ decisions. Is this really fair?

With 7 billion people, the definition of citizenship as Shklar presented will be too simple to accommodate for many issues that may be overlooked, such as lack of resources or lack of system to spread those resources fairly around the world. It is true, that in essence the idea of citizenship is supposed to be bound by countries, cities, etc., but now everything is so intertwined that a small policy decision will probably affect millions and millions of people around the globe. Then how can we say that it is fair that we don’t let those who are affected by those decisions who are not “citizens” in Shklar’s sense not have a say in having a voice in those decision making?


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5 Responses to 7 Billion People, 7 Billion Citizens?

  1. vanessabarton says:

    I’ve seen that video or done something in class to simulate it before, but it raises new discussion in the realm of citizenship. I find it strange that shklars model for citizenship would be so flexible in the sense that you can move into and out of citizenship. Even if there was a national right to work and everyone who desired to work had the ability, there would still be periods of unemployment while someone searched for a job or was in between jobs. Also would a national right to work solve problems with the allocation of reasources on earth, I’m not so sure. Not all people in poverty or described in that video are unemployed. Many citizens of other countries earn money but it is not substantial to live on. I do not think that Shklar’s suggestion on citizenship solves the division between the rich and the poor, nor will it equalize them.

  2. andycraft says:

    Your blog post about global citizenship is especially relevant today since the world is nearing 7 billion people. I agree with you that Shklar’s simple dyadic notion of citizenship cannot encompass our world. Although, Shklar is talking about American Citizenship where her idea is more relevant, when you, paranpi, relate it to global citizenship, I think we can all agree that Shklar’s voting and earning is just too broad and underdeveloped to attach to global citizenship.
    The aspect of citizenship we should look at is the standing of all human beings on a global level. How do they rank? Yes, citizenship is defined by borders, birth, nationalism, etc., but to be a global citizen, one needs to have standing and to be considered a human being who has rights. Like you mentioned, many people of this world are excluded, forgotten, and misrepresented. This notion of citizenship is a twofold problem. The definition of citizenship is so varied. Does citizenship have to do with voting and earning, education, standing, or active participation in government? And, how with 7 billion people now can Shklar’s definition be relevant? What makes someone a global citizen? Differing from an American Citizen, where a certain value is attached to make an American a citizen, a global citizen is a part of a world community. The world is a much smaller place, isolation is no excuse.

  3. nmajie says:

    What I am struggling to understand is your perspective on what a citizen can and cannot do. You write: “In this context, we could also say that having this title gives you a right to have a say in decisions which will affect you and others around the world, and as a citizen, you will most likely choose the decision that would benefit yourself, rather than the other. This means that the others will continue to be excluded, while they are continuously burdened by the citizens’ decisions.”

    I don’t necessarily think that this is true — who is to say that we are not an altruistic society? I’m also unsure if it is right to assume that those who are citizens have standing thus have a larger role in society? For example, Frederick Douglass had the ability to deliver the inspiring speech “What the Black Man Wants” to American citizens even though his own citizenship was under question. Moreover, Shklar does not argue that those who have the right to vote need to act on their right; participation in society is just an added factor. “To be refused the right was to be almost a slave, but once one possessed the right, it conferred no other personal advantages. Not the exercise, only the right, signified deeply” (Shklar 27). The ability to make an impact in society may not necessarily go hand-in-hand with Shklar’s definition of citizenship. Maybe those who are not considered to be “citizens” according to Shklar still have the ability to partake in decisions in society?

    Lastly, I agree with your statement that we are an intertwined society; we should not be bound by country, state, or city boundaries. Ultimately, my point of view is that we are global citizens. Shklar’s definition of citizenship does not take this into account because she only focuses on the idealistic American citizen.

  4. mkay2209 says:

    I wonder if we broke down the American population into a small village of 100 people, what would the demographics look like? So I did just that: out of 100 village people, 9 would be unemployed and 29 people would not be registered to vote. That means that out of our American village, between 29-38 people would not be counted as citizens in Shklar’s view because they are not earning and choose not to have the right to vote (29-38, because there could be non-registered people also not earning).

    Paranpi addresses that having resources are essential to earn, so I wonder how many of the 9 non-citizens do not have the resources to earn. If they don’t have access to that, whose fault is it that they aren’t earning? If it’s the government’s fault, then how do we change a government that is denying equal access to citizenship because of lack of resources? In Shklar’s view, earning is essential to be an American citizen, so I believe our government should allow equal access for everyone to earn. Those resources should be available to all, so their citizenship has the standing that Shklar says is needed.

    On the other hand, 29 village people aren’t registered to vote. Shklar states that the right to vote is necessary to be an American citizen, even if that right is not used. In our village, only 44 people would have used to right to vote, but what would Shklar think about citizens who never even register, or those 29 people? I think it is our duty as American citizens to be registered to vote, and those not registered should not be counted as citizens, if citizenship was based on Shklar.

  5. haleynicoleepstine says:

    I partially agree with you, but also disagree with you at the same time. I do agree that it’s not fair for certain people to not be able to have a say when decisions/ policies are being made that affect you. However, I also believe that being able to have a say should come as a reward… you should have to do something for it. I think that if we just hand people this privelage than they won’t value it the same way that they would if they earned it.

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