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Appiah Essay

In: English and Literature

Submitted By bbackiel
Words 1243
Pages 5
Brianna Backiel
Professor Brian French
ENC1102
February 25, 2016

In “Cosmopolitanism,” Kwame Appiah uses this term to explain the responsibility that each member of the universe has to one another; a responsibility that goes beyond just country borders. He believes that in this day in age we separate ourselves from others with whom we do not share the same nations, opinions, customs, etc.. Appiah says, “In the wake of 9/11, there has been a lot of fretful discussion about the divide between us and them” (72). In the world today humans have a tendency to be fearful and hesitant when it comes to things we do not understand or that are different. This may be partially human nature; however, this intolerance was definitely heightened drastically after the events of 9/11. In our post 9/11 world the state of cosmopolitanism, if adopted, would greatly improve communication with other nations and lead to a progression of knowledge.
In this reading Appiah really explores the way we humans communicate with each other and the problems that arise. He concludes that in many ways we might hear each other but we do not listen. Our preconceptions of other’s ideas, cultures, and beliefs cloud the conversations that we have with individuals with whom we do not share coinciding beliefs. Appiah also says, “conversations across boundaries can be fraught, all the more so as the world grows smaller and the stakes grow larger” (68). This means that the stricter we humans affiliate only with our niche and community the less meaningful our conversations become. It is impossible for new ideas and knowledge to be exchanged when we only communicate with those who agree with us. Our intense fear of other cultures that stems from 9/11 has closed off communication and conversation with many parts of the world. Our border and airport security is over the top and there is an overwhelming sense of fear regarding anyone who comes from a foreign country. As Americans we keep to our own and shut out the rest of the world in many ways. Our foreign policy is such that we only get involved with other countries’ problems if we serve to benefit. Interest is isolated primarily with our own self perseverance. If we could communicate with all the other countries of the world in a cosmopolitan matter, many conflicts could at the very least be controlled. Cosmopolitan communication calls for really listening to the other side without preconceptions getting in the way. For new knowledge to be exchanged this is vital. We could learn so much from other countries of the world if we adopted this philosophy. Appiah also mentions that it’s important to remember that conversations can also be a pleasure. He says this in context about his hometown being such a melting pot of different nationalities and upbringings and how much he enjoyed conversing with these people. Thus, making his point that when we talk to people of different backgrounds of our own something very important and sacred is exchanged; a new perception of the world. In order for knowledge to really grow, conversations like this in which a new point of view is gained is necessary when dealing with conflicts abroad. This small scale example can apply to the world we live in today. Instead of being fearful of other nations’ intentions, if open communication existed in which clashing points of views were examined by both parties many more conflicts could be resolved.
As Americans we believe our way of doing things and handling situations is the right way. It is hard to understand and accept anything different. Appiah says, “we take seriously the value not just of human life but of particular human lives” (69). This applies to US foreign policy because we as Americans only jump into a dispute with other countries and regions if we serve to gain. Government officials put the lives of our citizens above the lives of everyone else in the world. Of course, one could argue that they are simply doing their job. They take an oath to protect this country and the people of it and they are not obligated to do anything more than just that. However, when atrocities are going on in other countries should we be concerned? Borders are just an invisible line that separate us and as the cosmopolitan philosophy explains, we are all citizens of the world first and foremost. That is why the importance of maintaining civilized relationships with these other countries should not be ignored. We may not always agree and come to a resolution by communicating with other nations, but we have a moral obligation to at least try. By shutting out all communication with other nations, the chance to progress is eliminated. Another interesting part of his argument was that for the most part, as humans sharing the same earth-we all have the same goal: to make the world a better, safer place in order to pursue our own happiness. Appiah says that often times the same end game is wanted by opposing sides on a certain controversial subject. This way of thinking can be applied to almost every controversial debate in modern times. Appiah really brings to light that we can want the exact same thing ultimately as someone on the opposing side of the argument, it’s just how we go about getting there where things become heated. Appiah really puts forth a new way of thinking in this argument that we all as Americans should pay attention to. Of course, simply embracing Cosmopolitanism as a way to deal with domestic disputes is not going to directly solve all conflicts. Appiah realizes the limitations of this philosophy when he says, “Cosmopolitanism is the name not of the solution but of the challenge” (70). This is because communicating and coming to an agreement on issues where so many different lives hang in the balance is no easy skill to master. It is much easier to simply focus on only what is affecting you and the people or country to which you belong. However, as people that are all sharing the same earth we should care what happens to one another no matter what niche we are born into. There is so much to benefit and learn by having open communication with the rest of the world. Especially in our post 9/11 world when the fear of people different than us predominates our foreign policy. ‘Cosmopolitanism’ by Kwame Appiah is a very interesting mix of philosophical debate and historical fiction. He introduces many concepts that as Americans, we should pay more attention to. After 9/11, as a nation we are much more fearful and weary of anyone that is different than ‘us’. We are less inclined to start conversations and interact with other parts of the globe because of the mindset that anyone different is a threat to us. Appiah’s argument in this section of his book talks about how detrimental this way of thinking really is to us. Without introduction to new ideas and knowledge that others can offer, we will always remain stagnant and fearful of anything different. Appiah says, “By the end, I hope to have made it harder to think of the world as divided between the West and the Rest; between locals and moderns; between a bloodless ethic of profit and a bloody ethic of identity; between us and them.”

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