Patriotic Cosmopolitanism

patriotic cosmopolitanism - astronaut with international flag of planet earth designed by Oskar Pernefeldt

The International Flag of Planet Earth designed by Oskar Pernefeldt

Can we, at the same time, love our family, our neighbours, our country, our people, humanity and the world we live in?

Surely we can.

And to love any of them, properly considered, is to love them all: for their welfare is intimately interwoven.  There is no contradiction in speaking of patriotic cosmopolitanism – understood in this sense.  The dichotomy between community and the world is a false one.

We can love our history, our language, the good in our traditions, values which have proven their worth in peace and prosperity, our own family stories. And we can also, without contradiction, delight in the history, languages, stories, good in the traditions of the world which also have proven their worth in peace and prosperity.

When we love democracy – we love the values it represents – freedom, equality, solidarity and dignity of human beings in our nation. It is perfectly reasonable that we would also wish that democratic values characterise our relationship with all other human beings. From this viewpoint, we would wish all institutions whether international, national or local to be founded on democratic principles and reflect such key values. This is simply to make democracy better than it is. And, as citizens, what might we expect of the institutions and individuals we elect, if all life is an interwoven whole? In an interconnected world to ask our elected representatives to care for “us” (however narrowly we choose to define “us”), and ignore all else, is not self interest – it is self defeating.

It is clear enough that the absence of a decent standard of living anywhere is a threat to a decent standard of living everywhere. Of course, the existence of extreme poverty anywhere is an affront to the values we say we believe.

The concept of Patriotic Cosmopolitanism is described by Kwame Anthony Appiah in his 1997 paper “Cosmopolitan Patriots“.  He suggests that:

Cosmopolitanism and patriotism, unlike nationalism, are both sentiments more than ideologies. … cosmopolitans can be patriots, loving our homelands … states where we were born … states where we grew up and the states where we live … our loyalty to humankind …  does not deprive us of the capacity to care for lives nearer by.
Patriotic Cosmopolitanism: International Earth Flag

International Flag of Planet Earth

The “International Flag of Planet Earth” designed by Oskar Pernefeldt in 2015 captures concepts of interconnectedness of all life on Earth.  In doing so, it has resonance with the concept of patriotic cosmopolitanism described by Appiah, as well representing a broader interconnection with life as a whole. It does not prioritise the global over the local or the local over the global. In reality they are part of one whole.

One of its purposes is:”To remind the people of Earth that we share this planet, no matter of national boundaries. That we should take care of each other and the planet we live on.

Its concept is described as follows:

Centered in the flag, seven rings form a flower – a symbol of the life on Earth. The rings are linked to each other, which represents how everything on our planet, directly or indirectly, are linked. The blue field represents water which is essential for life – also as the oceans cover most of our planet’s surface. The flower’s outer rings form a circle which could be seen as a symbol of Earth as a planet and the blue surface could represent the universe.

These are cosmopolitan concepts but they are also national, communitarian, intimate and personal concepts. Martin Luther King expressed it in words such as the following:

All this is simply to say that all life is interrelated. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality; tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. As long as there is poverty in this world, no man can be totally rich even if he has a billion dollars. As long as diseases are rampant and millions of people cannot expect to live more than twenty or thirty years, no man can be totally healthy, even if he just got a clean bill of health from the finest clinic in America. Strangely enough, I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. You can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. …

Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies. This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighbourly concern beyond one’s race, tribe, class and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all mankind.

Thoughts such as these are not just cosmopolitan. They are also patriotic. They represent a deep love for individuals directly known to the speaker, as well as for every human being he did not know.  They represent love for country and love for the world. This is patriotic cosmopolitanism.

Nothing less is worthy of human dignity.


  2 comments for “Patriotic Cosmopolitanism

  1. Michael Curtotti
    August 27, 2015 at 11:07 am

    Thanks Emrys!

  2. Emrys
    August 26, 2015 at 9:05 pm

    Nice one Michael: a simple and moving summary of a powerful concept.

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