Cosmopolitanism and our day with K’NAAN

Kierscey Regozo (guitarist), me, K’NAAN

It was a few hours after the K’NAAN talk/performance/conversation, and fighting the temptation of a 6pm bedtime, I sat down to begin typing up a short think piece in turn for missing my discussion of my War and Ethics course to organize the event.

How was I supposed to concentrate on theory when I couldn’t get the words to ‘Fatima’ out of my head and had barely slept all week? Well, if K’NAAN’s assistant Candace can go without sleep for over 30 hours, surely I could handle this.  Here we go, cosmopolitan theory.

Within a few minutes I had noticed a line in one of the articles that hadn’t really struck me on the first read through.

For Kant, “the issue was whether human beings can expand their moral horizons in line with the geographical extension of social and political relations, whether they can reduce the moral importance of distinctions between insiders and outsiders in response to the changing significance of territory and space.”(1)

K’NAAN, when asked why he didn’t seem to have any women in his ‘Wavin’ Flag’ video, was surprised that the person had singled out this exclusion. To him, there was no segregation. Somalia was important, Haiti was important; there was no way he could choose an issue or region more important than the other. Kant is asking if we could ever see things this way, and K’NAAN says he couldn’t see things differently.

Too often my peers and myself sit in discussions and seminars and debate about whether the importance of a single human right is transferable across borders.

“Nah, we can’t care too much about women that’s too Westernized…I guess we can care about their right to life? Right?..No?..hmm…still too idealistic.”

Sadly, the person who throws their hands up in the air in frustration and claims that all basic human rights and conflicts warrant humanitarian assistance or intervention is usually the target of smirks and eye rolls. “Yeah right” is what most of us respond with. Somewhere along the lines our standards have been lowered to a point where apathy and cynicism have become acceptable and almost preferred.

One of the students asked K’NAAN what advice he could give to students who were ready to stand up for what they believed in and be leaders. What K’NAAN said resonated with me,  (and I’m paraphrasing here) that when people become consumed with leading, that they forget to lead. It’s when we decide to take action because no one else will, that we lead best.

I was really proud of my peers today who gathered at the Chan. Everyone was incredibly respectful and excited, although very indecisive about what they wanted autographed, and the energy they brought really contributed to the event. Seeing as we’re such a “justice” crowd, I really hope that students got something out of the talk. My biggest hope for having K’NAAN at the Terry Global Speaker Series was that maybe students would see a different way of leading and inspiring change through K’NAAN’s words and lyrics, and the feedback I’ve received from people seems to have fulfilled this. For me, my inspiring moment came during K’NAAN’s sound check: the concert hall was empty and one of my favourite artists began sharing the story of his friend, ‘Fatima’.

Our team definitely bonded over the various K’NAAN celebration dance parties we had in our office leading up to the event, and I feel I need to touch on what it’s been like working with K’NAAN and HIS team. So a note about K’NAAN and what this dusty foot philosopher is really like in person: You couldn’t meet a more grounded, low-maintenance, nice guy, and the same goes for the great group of people he has around him.

Now…this think piece…

1. Andrew Linklater, “Distant Suffering and Cosmopolitan Obligation,” International Politics, 44, 2007, 3-35.

Related Topics