Fareed Zakaria is somebody I don't like. In many ways, he represents to me the wrongheadedness of Pinker's assertion that mankind's societies have evolved beyond war on the scale of the 20th Century. And so people like FZ have a kind of smug satisfaction that their occasional stupidity and arrogance will never be met by a punch in the nose. I don't think they have any idea how many people work out at the UFC gyms. Be that as it may, I don't like the way people are using the term 'cosmopolitan' to describe such part-time snowflakes. As I have expressed my ire about the dainty elements of the chatting classes, this should come as no surprise to regular Cobb readers. However I do use the term cosmopolitan. Here's how.
An old saying of my abut NYC is that at any moment there are 10,000 people doing exactly what you're doing and half of them don't speak English. As much as I appreciate how any successful life in the big city gets compressed to a handful of efficient options in any endeavor, the big city does avail itself to providing any observer with that mind-boggling number of different humans using their own schemes to achieve. And in this, whether the ambition is naked or not, one is bound to find something odd and unfamiliar ore even shocking about the modus operandi. Therefore one who is cosmopolitan accustoms oneself to this variety. One who is cosmopolitan adapts to the wider set of actions that can be expected when all sorts of human diversity is at play.
This bears directly on a matter of character. It is a matter of character I expect from people who have a direct interest in interacting with a large number of individuals of all sorts, which is something opposite to the pig farmer who has less incentive to develop certain social skills. Speaking another language is the very first that I think of. In fact endeavoring to speak a standardized version of one's native language should reflect in the cosmopolitan mind not so much a social signaling as an ability to employ a standard. Without going into a lot of exemplifications, this is what I mean - the understanding that the use of standards, conformities, etiquette and chivalry is the gateway to a more catholic ability with larger numbers of humanity.
It is not, on the other hand, a substitution for morality, and this is where I think people might confuse my meaning. I simply mean that the cosmopolite does not get confused or disoriented by human variety because they have a reason to invest in the skill of communication across provincial lines. So to me, cosmopolitan is the 'opposite' of provincial. If your local pub only sells beer in cans, you are not likely to drink a cosmo martini. There is nothing superior or inferior about Pabst Blue Ribbon. It's an alcoholic beverage. One should not confuse aestetics with ethics. How often will we draw inferential patterns that are incorrect? Well, our computers will tell us. In the meantime, let us also not presume some level of intelligence (or g, as it were) tied to cosmopolitan skills. Pig farmers are smart too. They know what you don't, and they make money doing so.
The cosmopolite is often forced by big city circumstances to grow an understanding between the Spanish of Dominicans and that of Puerto Ricans. Coming from LA to NYC, I thought those were Mexican restaurants. For me, Spanish = Mexican. When I moved to Boston, I was surprised to see janitorial staffs made of Eastern Europeans. My cosmopolitanism was actually local to Los Angeles. New Yorkers on the other hand are hard pressed to tell Thais from Japanese from Pilipino. In this way, cosmopolitan ways have their limits as well, although we assume that the step to globalism is a short one. I think we're playing percentages and doing so incorrectly. If you can make it there, doesn't mean you can make it anywhere, even if you're in the top 20%.
I find myself very impressed with the clever, and not so much with the inventive. That's just where my head is at these days, and I think that has some bearing on my take on the provincial and the cosmopolitan. In a certain way, the cosmopolitan relies more on conventional wisdom - the intersection of common sense and popular sentiment. In some way that is not seriously tested in our open society. But the bohunk must know what he knows. He doesn't have a market to sell that which isn't proven. That makes him, from the point of view of risk management (and Incerto) more likely to succeed being called out.
The other thought to add to this regards the possibilities of escalating civil conflicts. I think it requires the thinking free man consider chivalry.