5/27/13

International citizens of the world, separate then unite!




It's time to throw off our national shackles and finally become official passport-holding international citizens.

It's a common scene at any airport. You're waiting in line at the passport control, patiently standing there in a pair of Havaianas with your Macbook slung over your shoulder and a copy of the International Herald Tribune tucked under your arm (with crossword proudly completed, even though it's only a Monday), downloading a podcast of the latest TED lecture on creative solutions to Sub-Saharan soil erosion while tapping your feet to the indie-ska playlist on your iPod. But, try as you might to recreate a secluded bubble miniverse of your refined postmodern lifestyle-in-transit, you're unable to drown out the stinging awareness of a shoddy herd of your fellow nationals who have plodded off the same flight and who now form a fleshy ring of redundant DNA around your snug little aural orbit. You flup-flup to your Chopin playlist for comfort and perform some meditative breathing exercises you picked up in Yoga class. But it all falls short as the vacant-eyed family bickers loudly in a painfully intelligible language--your language--about who ate the last pack of complimentary airplane peanuts while their chubby offspring repeatedly scream and crash into your legs with jerky high-fructose-corn-syrup-fueled spasms of stubborn attention-deprived insistence. The walls have been breached, the barbarians are clumsily lumbering through.

Whether we are Americans or Italians or Turks or Indians or Mexicans, we have all been through those moments. We have all on those occasions looked out across and beyond that depressing snare of fellow nationals in the hope of catching the eyes of some other sparkling doppelganger for wonderful-hip-sophisticated Us. We feel that those rare gems we spot here and there, those exquisite dead ringers for super cool you and me, are our real fellow nationals, regardless of their actual nationality, and we wonder despairingly why it is that our bureaucratic and statistical fate has instead become intertwined with that semi-educated clan of soft-drink-guzzling, white-bread eating neanderthals simply because they were born within the same political parameters as us.

Why, we reason further, can we--who often define ourselves as "international citizens" anyway--not become actual official international citizens of the world?

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Let's face it, nationality is no longer an accepted mode of identification for many of us. At best, it's trite and meaningless. At worst, it's the primary root of war, atrocity and genocide in the modern age (although religion gives it a good run for its money, which is why they usually go hand in hand). Look at any modern polity, and you'll find that those who still lend any credence to nationalism as a political movement are the least educated, most bigoted, and most latently or outright racist segments of that society. As a partial reaction to this, these days the more sophisticated members of those societies use terms like "citizen of the world", "international citizen" or "global nomad" to define themselves. These are people who feel more in common with those who share similar lifestyles and socio-cultural frames of reference--regardless of ethnicity or nationality--than they do with those who were born and live in the same country as them.

And rightly so. After all, the only thing that really ties you to fellow nationals is that you happen to be born under the rule of the same state power, which you're all thereby condemned to pay money, time, labor and even your life to (in the form of military service and wage labor) in return for an endless stream of bills that charge you for basic human necessities like water, heat, education and health. But that's not all. You also get an incessant lifetime bombardment of cunning and manipulative advertising devices that are always trying to sucker you into spending money or going into debt; you get the possibility of war over some stupid piece of land somewhere that you could give two shits about; and you get the threat of imprisonment if you decide not to bow to the norm and accept your subservience to flag, country and credit cards. Meanwhile, as you're standing in line at your local bank trying to pay a late bill so the water authority can turn your water back on, your government will be spending billions of that money on tanks, fighter jets, vote-enticing white elephants, and entertainment expenses for the visiting criminal head of state of Oilandgasistan, in between bailing out billionaire bankers who did a little whoopsy daisy with everybody's money.

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But is there no real substance to nationality? What about language? Sure, speaking a common language is an important bond, considering that language is what we construct our thoughts upon--and essentially the semantic mortarboard that our modern nation states were built with--but anyone who's had a good education and has traveled around and lived in a foreign country or two would be expected to speak up to two or three foreign languages anyway--at least one of them probably well enough to work, write, argue, fight and fuck in. So then what's so special about your mother tongue? Besides, you don't feel any more of a "national" bond with someone from a foreign country whom you can perfectly speak a common foreign language with, so why should you necessarily feel any more of a politically-binding sentiment with a person you speak your native language with?

But what about the case for shared traditions and customs? Yes, these are fundamental to creating the sense of intimate bonds that are crucial for maintaining a friction-free society where you buy gifts on birthdays and attend weddings and visit aunts and uncles on official holidays, and pronounce stock slogans of affection and well-wishing on precisely outlined occasions, kissing hands, rubbing cheeks, etc. But for those with creative and inquisitive spirits, things like traditions and customs are oppressive and time-consuming ritualistic social burdens that are fine for people who need some kind of safe and standard set of ready-made rules and practices to abide by with the least possible mental exertion demanded, but which fall far short of satisfying those who have better things to do with their lives. Rather than be content with simply acting out hollow manifestations for the give and take of respect, love, gratitude and sorrow for the sake of running a well-oiled social network, some people seek to experience such emotions and acts in sincere, challenging and authentic conditions, perhaps even to question the whole ethical and behavioral fabric upon which the society they've been born into is founded upon, and maybe even to experience how different societies do things--if not to actually even create their own way of doing things. So traditions are fine if you need some cheap filler for all those long tedious stretches of the average human existence. But for those few who have things to do beyond mere labor-giving and child-bearing, their lives are way too short to spend on forced togethernesses and fake happy occasions that have been circled on calendars and RSVP'ed three months in advance.

What about religion? Religion sort of fits into national customs and traditions anyway. Although many customs and traditions don't have their origins in religious practices or dogma, they are eventually co-opted by and melded into them. But the very idea of dogma--though obviously useful and precious to many--is woefully unsatisfactory to those who want to experience life without being tied down with precious lists of holy dos and don'ts, eternal rewards and punishments, sacred carrots and sticks, and simplistic "God made it so, therefore it is so" kinds of arguments that seem like an insult to intelligence and nature. Common prayers, surreal religious buildings, choral music, codified morals, sanctified art, stories of miracles and mystery are all well and good enough for those who have to get on with their lives without the time to waste on fancy philosophizing and existential questioning when there's a living that has to be made and children that have to be fed and raised... But for others, that sort of stuff is just not going to cut it, and will merely be of anthropological interest at best. Let's face it, smart people don't want to live with a giant metaphysical nanny called God anymore, let alone all that religious hocus-pocus that comes with it. We read about quantum mechanics now, not angels.

On a profaner note, how about education? We are all bombarded with references to our common national destiny and identity through education (and in the media--which is an auxiliary arm of the education machine), but this is little more than propaganda to give the illusion of commonality to better justify and legitimize state coercion. The very idea of a "nation", (Latin "nascere", to be born, as in "those of the same womb") implies that we are all of a common origin*. Our state-controlled education takes this concept of common origins one step further, by anachronistically inserting a relatively recent political and ideological phenomenon (nationalism and nation states have only been around for the past 200 odd years) into thousands of years of history, so that your "nation" seems retrospectively to have existed in some form even back in times when nobody referred to themselves as being a member of that nation, or even knew what a nation was, often defining themselves on tribal, religious or clan lines instead. And that's if they "defined" themselves at all, since concepts like "identity" and "definition" are relatively modern (or arguably now postmodern) terms. So we read our modern identity into great achievements in history (while conveniently blurring over the great atrocities), believing that there is somehow some proto-nation that has existed all along, doing this and building that and conquering here and moving over there, until bam, your country is finally founded--like the shining predestined historic culmination of a millennial teleology that has become a self-fulfilling prophesy in reverse. In other words, hooey.

And the media? The media just props up the propaganda ingrained in us through education, replenishing and reproducing it with every news and social affairs item that we are nudged into feeling we should identify with and care about. The media is like the light protective surface sheen that's there to maintain a fresh gloss over the hard, ugly, sturdy brainwashing meted out during a decade of state education in our vulnerable and formative childhood years. Education gives a vertical depth to the myth of national bonds, while the media gives it horizontal reach and scope. Its power is that it even brings in seemingly trivial aspects of life into the orbit of nationalist agitprop. It ties us all in as a nation through seemingly trifling items of news that have moral and existential dimensions, with the aim of eliciting from us an opinion on everything, because we believe that everything concerns "us" as [insert plural form of your nationality's name here]--the earthquake in so-and-so, the war in over-yonder, the genocide out-in-what's-it-called, and the man who cheated on his wife and sold his child's kidney on what's-her-face's talk show. Even the weather report gives the sense of common national destiny ("Get out your umbrellas Ireland, it's going to be rainy!"). And so your opinion for or against becomes irrelevant, because it's enough to simply draw you into the debate in the first place so that you have an opinion at all. And once you have an opinion, you've become a part of the imaginary national discourse as yet another "concerned individual" trapped in an endless 24-7 barrage of current affairs. You have become part of a market, and the greater the extent of that market, the greater the audience, the better the ratings, the more receptive the ideologically-molded populace, and thus the more the revenue to be made from a population that is involved with little more than rapid sequential images on a screen.

Sports also works to uphold the national varnish, though more as an addendum to education and media (since sports by itself cannot forge a sense of nationhood--with the possible exception of Australia) as it facilitates a great means of forming a bonding frame of identification without actually verbalizing it. You can talk about a team or a player at length, and even argue and dispute each others' views, but what's really going on underneath is a kind of sexual (mostly male), social, regional and national bonding depending on what competition or team is being identified with and discussed at a given time. The ritual of watching a game with your national team playing the world championships in blah-blah-ball as you wave a flag alongside someone you would probably never even talk to or meet in day-to-day life, is a powerful one, which is why these rituals are evenly and consistently spaced out at regular intervals on international and national blahblah-ball calendars.

Perhaps the most that nationalism has going for it is land and economy. After all, the food people buy and the water they drink has to come from somewhere. There have to be fields where corn and potatoes and wheat and rice grow, and there have to be rivers that are dammed for electricity, water and irrigation. Then you have to build the necessary transportation and logistic infrastructure to bring it all to the cities. This has until now formed a strong and practical bond upon which to build a political entity and a national identity. But is that still the case? Economy has by now far-transcended national boundaries. These days we talk about the world economy. The food being grown and raised 100 kilometers from you is probably being exported somewhere else, feeding South Africans or Malaysians or Japanese. Most of the food you eat may also be coming from other countries, and so too with electricity. Also, few countries have a complete monopoly on major water resources, most of which necessitate international sharing. International market prices and currency exchange rates determine what you pay and what you consume. Technology like refrigeration, air and sea and rail transport, international commodity markets, the internet, all make a mockery of distance. That's not to say some states don't still strive for truly national economies, but they're all outcast hermit misfits like North Korea, Iran or Cuba, none of which can be seriously termed overall success stories. A Polish farmer is happy to grow food that may be going to Venezuela, and someone living in Warsaw is fine with buying a couch that was made in Sweden. So too a British company will build its factory wherever the labor is cheapest and not necessarily in Britain. If Turkish olive oil was cheaper than Greek, the Greeks would be gulping it down. So, if anything, modern economics has eroded the bonds of nationality, and with the technological advancements in logistics and finance, the importance of geographic boundaries has diminished.

So then what's left to uphold the nation? Precious little beyond dissimulation and thaumaturgy. The guy you hugged and draped the flag around during last night's match is probably the guy you're looking at disdainfully from the corner of your eye on the metro. The woman with cheap perfume and a mole under her nose standing in line with you in the same supermarket queue while shouting into her cell phone in a grating rustic accent, buying a big disgusting bag of junk food for her children, is supposed to be considered to be from the same distant womb as you. And the guy trying to rip off a tourist with sleazy advances is someone you will stand shoulder to shoulder with when the time comes to defend your country from the big bad [insert your particular national enemy here].

Well, fuck all that. It's time for an alternative. It's time for an international citizenry of like-minded people who will carry human civilization on to a new stage of socio-political evolution by calling bullshit on all institutionalized modes of systematic ideological manipulation and deceit.

It's time for official international passport holding World Citizens.

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Consider people from New York, London, Istanbul, Paris, Mexico City, Sydney, Johannesburg, Mumbai or Tokyo. They would have more in common with each other than they would with their fellow nationals who live just 50 kilometers away in some small town where most people die where they're born, where flags are waved on national days, and where bumper stickers declare pride in vapid heroic national slogans that are founded on pointless idealized slaughterfests that wasted millions of lives in the name of national "causes" (i.e. politicians' power interests). Instead, those sophisticated cosmopolitan denizens of the great metropolises of the world would have similar lifestyles to each other, regardless of country or geographic proximity. They would work in similar jobs, eat similar foods, watch similar things on TV, see similar films at the cinema, travel to similar places for vacations, engage in similar pastimes, sports, recreation and hobbies in their spare time, and they would all enjoy and have access to the best that civilization has to offer in terms of art, design, architecture and overall style-of-living. In other words, they would be defined and identified by a common way of life that can perhaps be identified (albeit rather pompously) as the "art of living".

A typical day for these global metropolitans would include some Starbucks Ethiopian Blend coffee in the morning in front of the TV while clicking through the BBC news site on their iMacs with maybe the National Geographic channel or CNN on the flat screen Hi-Def TV in the background, before setting off to their own design studio or architectural firm or academic or corporate position in a state-of-the-art office located in a high-tech eco-friendly building designed by a famous architect, and then driving home in their hybrid car where they'll download a film-festival award-winner from Netflix or iTunes while listening to some nu-jazz streaming through their invisible Bose speakers as they cook up a nice light Thai curry that they'll enjoy with a fine Australian Riesling wine on the side, while waiting for their photographer girlfriend whose flight is about to arrive from Berlin and who should text them on their Blackberry as soon as they land.

Of course, when I refer to a day in the life of this certain "someone", I don't mean just anyone. I mean someone who defines themselves as a "world citizen". Someone who abides by that admittedly peppy yet apposite mantra of thinking global and acting local; someone who defines themselves as an international citizen; someone who has the education, social awareness, cultural accumulation, aesthetic refinement, economic wherewithal, and lifestyle tastes that distinguishes them from the norm. Someone for whom business, family and pleasure are holistically intertwined into a sense of life and living as an artistic and creative endeavor.

These are people whose lives take them all over the world, people for whom boundaries are not only meaningless, but an outright obstacle to their need to live without boundaries. These people want to move to Hong Kong for a couple of years if they have to, or go to Rio de Janeiro for a friend's wedding, or decide to travel around Australia for six months, or want to get together with friends from other world cities for a week's skiing in Val d'Isere, or who move to Shanghai to be both nearer to a dynamic financial market and also to satisfy their need to be in a place where they can pursue their love of Wing Chun while also being better located to set off for some scuba-diving getaways in Micronesia. In short, these are people for whom political boundaries are not only pointless but a nuisance, for whom national passports and visa regulations are a royal pain in the ass, and for whom nationality is a mere bureaucratic hindrance. Isn't it time that these self-described international citizens became official International Citizens, with the necessary legal rights that cater to their own unique lifestyle? Isn't it time to do away with the heavy lugubrious nation-state bureaucracies that have become comical and arcane Swiftian satires in the postmodern world? Isn't it time to lift this giant red-ink-blotched paperweight off our collective backs to finally enable us to pursue a lighter, freer, more productive way of life?

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So how do we implement international citizenship? There will obviously be some major obstacles, not least of which is why a state would willingly let go of tax-paying, labor-giving, soldier-forming, crap-buying subjects. Furthermore, wouldn't this be a mockery of all the ideals a nation-state stands for? Not necessarily. Well, actually, yes... but not to the extent that one might think.

First of all, the people who would be eligible for international citizenship would be those people who would not want to give their time--let alone their lives--for any national cause like war or even military service anyway, so why have reluctant half-ass troops? Plus they'd be too intelligent (and probably soft) to make either expendable or good troops out of, so good riddance to them. Secondly, they are not the morons who buy processed food and drink gallons of carbonated sludge and buy shit they see off infomercials--in other words, they're quite a small minority of the population--so they're not part of that massive population of brainwashed drones that giant companies can make their money off of. Thirdly, they are not usually the kind of people who engage in wage labor. More likely they're freelancers or independent agents who do their own thing, and whose job and business probably has a pretty international scope anyway.

But there are a few obvious problems: 1) it seems elitist, 2) you lose a tax-source, 3) you lose qualified, educated citizens in a kind of brain drain that would have obvious deleterious effects on the national economy, and 4) the ideological foundation of your nation state would be seriously challenged and hurt, because if the best and brightest are bailing out from the nationality illusion, then all the sacred symbolic and ritual foundations upon which the whole ideological edifice has been built could come tumbling down... Let's face it, it's hard to argue in favor of national duty and personal sacrifice for the greater national good in defense of the mother/father/homeland if there are those among you who have the option to just say "No thanks!" to the whole thing and opt out of the club. Finally, 5) what sort of bureaucratic framework has to be established for an institution that is meant to circumvent bureaucracy in the first place?

So considering these issues, how could you build a workable foundation in which international citizenship could become a reality and nation states would agree to such an innovation?

Let's start with the last question first. Obviously some kind of bureaucracy is needed because we can't realistically be expected to return to the golden age of travel in the 19th century when technological innovation in rapid and comfortable transport happened to felicitously coincide with free and open borders (modern countries were really just coming into existence) and little or no documentation required to cross them, nor any limits on how long you could stay in a foreign country. People in those days assumed that anyone who had the wherewithal for travel was probably the sort of person you wouldn't mind having around in your country. Even in the 1970s, if you missed a flight you could just jump on the next one with no questions asked, even if it was a different airline! Of course, this is sadly no longer the case. Now people are treated as statistics, and all considered guilty until proven innocent. If you are not from a white and affluent country, you're subjected to the racist humiliation of having to get a visa. That means you have to go through the disgrace of having to declare that you are NOT a terrorist, and you even have to provide them with your bank account details to prove that you have money... plus you have to provide a list of all your possessions, a bill under your name to prove you have a house, and a copy of your company payroll to prove not only that you have a job but that you have a well-paying job. Then you have to wait at least a week for the White Gods of Whiteland to deliberate on whether you are worthy of visiting their precious little country. And even then you can't stay more than a set period of time, and at a predetermined address. And as if that wasn't enough to make you feel like scum, you even need a letter of guarantee from a national of Legoland who has to state officially that they vouch for you and take full responsibility in the event that you turn out to be not a human being but an evil jackal-headed demon. Governments are so aware of the arrogant affront to human dignity that the entire disgraceful visa process represents, that they take care that you are never actually in contact with their own nationals. They instead hire locals from the country in which the visa application is being made -- either as staff in the embassy or through private companies that carry out the visa process for the embassy -- just so you have no target to vent your frustration and anger toward, and you only end up getting angry at your own nationals. In other words, they even deprive you of the pleasure of being able to call them racists to their faces. And as if that wasn't enough, you also have to pay hundreds of dollars once you succeed in actually getting the visa.

International citizenship is meant to help people get around this whole horrific system. Why should only diplomats get to go wherever they please with their shiny red passports? If anything, they're the ones who should be made to suffer the same indignity that is meted out on mankind by the very states they represent. So here's what I propose:

- A department of International Citizenry at the U.N. could be set up. All international ID/passports will be issued, regulated and controlled by this organization. It will not be subject to any national jurisdiction.

- The tax issue could be resolved if the international citizen pays part of their annual international citizenship fees to the national government from which they have seceded. Furthermore, international citizens would maybe be required to pay a little income tax or residency tax (or both) to the country in which they reside/work (the aim being to get nation states on board with the project).

- You are considered an international citizen in whichever country you reside, wherever you travel and wherever you work. Your embassy in any country will be the U.N. embassy. However, in criminal proceedings, you will be subject to the laws of the country you reside in.

- Your passport is actually more like an international identity card, and it's also good for traveling anywhere and everywhere without a visa. You may reside and work anywhere in the world without need of a residency permit. Your international citizenship fees and income and residency taxes will suffice.

- To become an international citizen, there will necessarily be tough criteria that will be invigilated by the United Nations Department of International Citizenry, or U.N.D.I.C. Criteria may include a university degree, a standardized written and oral exam, interviews, and knowledge of several languages -- at least two of which must be major internationally spoken languages (English, French, Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, Russian, etc.), plus the means to pay for an international lifestyle, fees, residency tax, income tax, etc.

- Certain professions get automatic international citizenship, including accomplished scientists, academics, writers, sportspeople, artists, musicians, etc.

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Naturally, some of the problems I mentioned earlier will need to be addressed. Among those problems is the adverse effect international citizenship would have on national sentiment and ideology, the elitism of international citizenship, and the brain drain effect. Let's take each case one by one.

If we take the brain drain situation first, we'll find that although it looks like a nation is losing a brain, it's actually gaining many brains. International citizens can and will live and work anywhere they like, so it will be up to individual countries to continue attracting the best and the brightest to their educational, industrial, technological and scientific institutions. International citizens will welcome not having to deal with all the usual red tape of residency permits, work permits, passports, visas and what not, so really nation states will benefit in the long term -- plus these international citizens will be paying their income and residency taxes too, a share of which will go to the host country. Some may argue that international citizens will still be paying taxes, which isn't much different to paying for residency permits and visas and passports and the like now, but I think international citizens will be much better off because they will not have to deal with the national bureaucracy of the host country. They will only deal with U.N.D.I.C. Furthermore, although they will still be required to pay taxes, these will be a standard amount that applies everywhere, so at least they will know exactly how much is paid when, and the payments will all be between the international citizen and the U.N.D.I.C. All of this saves much time and hassle and stress for the international citizen.

Another problem is the adverse effect the prospect of international citizenship will have on national identity, national ideology, and the idea of national polities in general. After all, the idea of "national bonds" is sort of meant to mean that you are bound by birth, history, origin and destiny to your fellow nationals. There never really has been an opt-out clause until now. But in a postmodern age of critical deconstruction, nationalism is not what it used to be. In fact, nationalism has become rather more of a myth or a superstition to most people, much like religion. This is probably why more extreme forms of religiosity and nationalism are coming more and more into the fore, because those who once occupied the middle ground (at least in affluent countries with a large, prosperous and educated middle class) have shifted leftward or at least toward the cynical side. In the age of Foucault and Derrida, Said and Chomsky, in the age of the internet and globalization, nobody really believes in a "nation" being something either natural or sacrosanct. If anything, it's now known even by average citizens to be just another ideological system relying on a state power apparatus to exert its sway over a passive population, bolstered by a bunch of fairy tales and myths about great national accomplishments and origins. It's now known to be just another way of wielding power over large masses of people, and one that competes against other ideological systems. So if this is the case already, why should those for whom national bonds mean little or nothing anymore be forced to continue to pledge allegiance to flags, to sing national anthems, to celebrate glorified episodes of bloodshed, slaughter and mass murder in the past, if none of this means anything anymore? Instead, those who consider themselves international citizens already -- and many other people across the world -- would rather believe in universal values than national ones. The importance and meaning of national history has already in the minds of many been superceded by Human history. Many of us can identify with -- and take pride in -- all the accomplishments of mankind. A Mexican can take pride in the accomplishments of the Greeks and the Chinese. Humans built the Pyramids, the Great Wall of China and the Suez Canal. Humans mapped the human genome and the Milky Way galaxy, sent robots to the far ends of the solar system, compiled the Encyclopedia Britannica, invented the microchip, composed the Ode to Joy symphony, and delved into the incredible world of quantum physics. These people were of many nationalities, but who cares? Focusing on nationality in an age like this seems like mere nitpicking. Humans have also committed atrocities like the Holocaust, slavery, terrorism, mass destruction, torture, and racism... does nationality matter there as well? In short, many more people now than ever in human history identify themselves not as a certain nationality or religion or with a particular region, but first and foremost as Humans. It's time to recognize this and cater to their needs. If people do not feel like they can give their lives for shortsighted and absurd national ideals, then isn't it time these people's rights were officially represented? Today, ALL the land on earth has been appropriated and divided up by nation states. People are born forced into being of a certain nationality. This skews and deranges them for the rest of their lives. They are given a "national" education. They are brainwashed into putting a nation above all other nations, and a national identity above even their humanity. We have even reached the point where human atrocity is not only considered appropriate but even normal if it's committed in the name of "national interest". Just like drugs are considered a poison of the human body, just as religion is now more and more being considered a poisoning of the human mind, so too nationalism should be considered a poison. You have the option now of being an atheist. You don't have to go to church or pray or be religious. We have finally accomplished this great achievement. You can get treatment for substance abuse and be cured of alcoholism, nicotine addiction or other drug addictions. But there is still no way out of nationality. You are born into a nation state and are under its oppressive sway for the rest of your life. International citizenship is not just an elitist luxury, it's in fact a human right.

And if it hurts national sentiment, is it a bad thing? Besides, the nationalists have their favorite mantra: "Love it or leave it!" they scream. So why not do just that? If you don't love this hateful, poisonous, criminal blight that has plagued the mind and soul of humankind for the past few centuries, why can't you just leave it? It's time to leave it. It's time for the age of International Citizenship.

Besides, could you imagine how fun it would be to beat up one of these smug little international citizens?