Ah, my genius friends.
The Author, French social critic, globetroter, and writer will soon publish his first book. In anticipation, I went back into my files to re-read his essay “L’Imperatif Cosmopolite.” I rembered it as a strong piece when I first read it in Japan, but this time I was hit by a wave of nostalgia as well.
In Japan, I was surrounded by individuals who had decided to step outside of the stream of the quotidienne to cut new paths for their lives. We easily took for granted that this philosophy was overarching and widespread. Now that I am travelling in more and more rooted populations of people in Taiwan and Thailand, I realize that this “Cosmopolitan Imperative” is by no means universal – not even common.
Here is an excerpt from The Author’s fine denoument of “L’Imperatif Cosmopolite,” translated from the French:
But finally, the secret and marvelous side of globalization, encouraging and underground – this strange class of men and women too restrained by a single nationality, who live abroad or who travel every year thanks to their studies or their profession, accumulating miles and finding each other through a common language like English, French, or Spanish, in the same places around the world, independent of their origins.
It could be in a globalization “McDo” – forcing myself to face once again my own misdeeds – but it could also be people who meet in an airplane and exchange the address of a jazz cafe in New York, the title of a book about Indian civilization, or a great place to visit in the South of France, thus deepening their understanding of the world. It is a Frenchman and a Spaniard who discus the opportunity to study in London over dinner in Tokyo. These are not the acts of uncultivated humans who have poorly digested globalization, quite the contrary, they are the children of the ipod generation who, admittedly, use a container/product manufactured thanks to economic globalization – designed by Apple and built in a Chinese factory – to exchange cultural content (Romanian songs, the soundtrack of a Brazilian film, or Shanghai jazz). This class of men and women, still a minority in the world, are true cosmopolitans for whom national borders represent no more than a bit more paperwork to fill out. Arts, cultures, national dress, and languages stew together, mix, and disappear. Despite having totally different backgrounds that might make it difficult to find a common language, they find themselves lifted to another elegant stage of simple, joyous, humanity.
I go back and forth on my feelings on what exactly I’m doing. Sometimes I feel like a glorified backpacker. A hippie with a haircut. But then I get that email from London, Vilnius, or Shanghai that opens new doors and I am pulled further down that road. The Author is right – we are still a minority in the world. I was lucky to live in Tokyo, a magnet city for these “global cosmopolitans.” We gathered in cafes and bars and clubs, in parks and karaoke boxes and in clandestine meetings criticizing the social and governmental systems across Asia and the rest of the world. We exchanged novels, essays, business cards, chatted about our dreams, frustrations, and the realities of life abroad.
Each and everyone of us had an elite CV such that there was no need to impress each other or play the ego game despite being natural overachievers with deeply competitive instincts. We met backstage, after the game, on our days off.
I still write The Author and our compatriot-in-arms The Politician intermittently. Last I heard they had met up on the other side of the globe in Washington DC. The Author is looking to relocate to the USA for the first time to round out his CV and live in a country that, for him, represents new frontier of the unknown.
We’ll be meeting up again, the three of us, san-nin no masukettiasu, in the South of France for a marathon session of coffees, cigars, and wines, talking about women and culture and politics and art while each plotting our eventual rises to power and world dominion.
More interesting globalization information here.