These days, I have spoken often about Earth citizenship
. In my lectures and books, I have recommended that people take on the identity of “Earth Citizen
” as a way of uniting humanity toward environmental stewardship and global peace. As I perceive it, every human's identity as an Earth human is indisputable since we are all children of Mago
, Mother Earth
, and are all dependent upon this one tiny planet in a vast universe.
I have heard some people, however, express concern that they might be leaving behind cherished cultural practices and identities if they accept the label “Earth Citizen.” I wish to reassure everyone that this is not the case. Just like we can all be human and have different personalities, skin colors, hair colors, body shapes, and so forth, individual cultures can maintain their unique cultural expressions and traditions, even while acknowledging their shared identity as Earth Humans.
Unfortunately, humanity has had a long history of some people dominating and oppressing others. This kind of history can make it difficult to feel oneness with people of other cultures
who have harmed your people in the past. Also, in the process of trying to control others, oppressors often try to suppress or eradicate these cultures, attempting to make them conform to their cultural practices.
As a Korean, I can certainly relate to the deep pain that this has caused. Relatively recently, from 1910 to 1945, Korea suffered under the colonial control of Japan. The Japanese government attempted to eradicate Korean culture completely during this time. People were forced to speak Japanese in public and in schools, and Korean history and cultural practices could no longer be taught to young people. Thousands of Korean historical artifacts and documents and Korean historic and symbolic landmarks were destroyed to try to eliminate Koreans’ unique cultural identity. The goal was for Koreans to see themselves as Japanese, not as people with their own history and cultural legacy.
The harm of this can still be felt today among the Korean people. Nothing can ever bring back the cultural items that were destroyed, which is a great loss to all Koreans today and for generations to come. Also, much about that era has yet to be acknowledged and fully healed. Many people born during that time are still alive today, and the disruption to people’s families and the Korean way of life can still be felt. Even the environmental landscape of the Korean peninsula is different because of that invasion, and nothing can undo that. Yet, for all the attempts to destroy Korean identity, the bright and resilient nature of the Korean people could not be destroyed. Material things could be destroyed, but ultimately the true, unique essence of the Korean spirit could not be.
I believe this is also true for any people who have experienced times of oppression and cultural domination. Yes, material theft and cultural harm must be addressed and rectified to whatever extent possible. But, ultimately, what is most true about your unique cultural heritage is indomitable and should be celebrated. Acknowledging yourself as an Earth Citizen
need not do anything to diminish that. In fact, it should only accentuate your sense of importance as a member of a global family of Earth Humans.
And we must end, for once and for all, this old game of domination and degradation of cultures other than our own, which I believe begins with acknowledging our common humanity. Yes, we have differences, but ultimately, we share something very important on a basic human level. This must also include growing beyond the desire to denigrate, in an attempt to get revenge or to turn the tables of power, those who are descended from people who have harmed our people in the past. The ugly human story of the oppressor and the oppressed must end in its entirety.
As I see it, humanity at its best is like a beautiful painting composed of many bright colors that come together to create one united image. Not many artists would want to paint with just one color, and, personally, I would not want to live in a world with just one culture. I love Korean food and traditional culture, which will always feel like home to me, but I also like to try new cuisines and travel around the world to see all the wonderful things people all over the world have created. Yes, we can celebrate each other and our common humanity
while still loving the cultures and peoples from whence we came.
Editor's Note: Learn more about Ilchi Lee's message of coexistence in his latest books, The Art of Coexistence: How You and I Can Save the World and A New Humanity: Embracing Our Responsibility for the Earth.