Einstein’s cosmopolitanism

Yet another citizenship

Yet another citizenship

So, as I mentioned, I am currently refining the characters in my book as I write the second draft. One of the characters is Albert Einstein, one of my idols. I’ve mentioned how I admire his love of simplicity, his ability to wonder and be amazed, his irreverence and impudence. Here is another thing that I like about him (and that I happen to empathize with): his quintessential cosmopolitanism.

History’s first cosmopolitan ever, you recall, was Diogenes, the man who lived in a barrel and who, when asked where he was from, said that

I am a citizen of the world (cosmopolites in Greek).

Well, consider Einstein, who was:

  • Born German
  • Became Swiss, dropped German nationality
  • Became Austro-Hungarian (to get job in Prague)
  • Became German again (to get job/live with lover in Berlin)
  • Became American
  • was asked to be president of Israel

That’s six or so changes or “elaborations” on his nationality. He treated passports the way I treat them: as documents to be kept, discarded or renewed depending on either convenience or morality (eg, when he dropped German citizenship when the Nazis rose to power).

Einstein went a step further and supported a “world government.” I consider that naive but that is neither here nor there. The point is that the great man always saw

  • our great overarching humanity as well as
  • our colorful individuality,

and did not get distracted by the various forms of tribalist or nationalistic perversion/delusion.

Others might accuse me of not being “patriotic” about any particular passport-issuing entity. I say to them: I’m feeling just as powerful a connection to other people as you do, just one level above (humanity) or one level below (individuality) the one that you happen to be interested in.

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