Participation Is Good Citizenship: The Pledge – Kicking Off 2018

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Most of us have been brought up to believe that we’d be damn fools to think any differently from the way everybody else thinks.

We are brought up to conform and not call attention to ourselves or our views. Independent thinking is considered neither good for our own welfare, nor for anybody else.

We are consciously taught that our course for survival is to ride with the tide and not rock the boat; to blow with the wind and not blow against the wind.
We are taught that decent people listen to a voice of authority, and that a voice of authority is always right.

“It is not in the nature of politics that the best men should be elected. The best men do not want to govern their fellowmen” George E. MacDonald.

The problem with and about government is that it is formed by politicians. And we of the decent upbringing accept it as a certainty that only indecent people fill the gap in the political space; consequently politics is crammed with conniving, corrupt, crooked politicians with no sense of decency, and we know from experience that corruption and betrayal of the common man’s trust is routine in politicians lives.

What’s more, politicians belong to political parties, and these political parties’, instead of administering governmental policy, aspire to influence and control the government and direct public policy.

These representatives (politicians), that we elect to represent us in the government so that the government can serve us and protect us, change overnight from servers to masters. And the government itself begins to believe that it is meant to rule its citizens and not serve them. All politicians all over the world are the same. Everywhere – they’re the same – self serving, venal and generally up-to-no-good.

The trouble is, we citizens, who elect the politicians who form governments, instead of thinking of these cunning politicians as our representatives that are meant to serve us, relinquish our responsibilities to them and listen to them and do what they say, because we allow them to become the ‘authorities’. We believe the hype that these elected politicians surround themselves with at our expense, and instead of thinking of them as our representatives – who are meant to serve us, we begin to call them leaders!

We citizens and our decent upbringing do not allow ourselves to protest against the indecent hype that elected politicians surround themselves with because we have been brought up to believe that fear of the government machinery is normal.

Unfortunately, decent people are in constant denial and do not admit to fear as a factor in our sense of self. And while drowning in angst, decent people (like us?) deny ourselves our own ‘rights’, ‘civil liberties’ and justice, and we accept whatever is handed out to us, because that’s what we are brought up to do, to accept authority without demur.

Our decent upbringing prevents us from protesting and demanding for what we think is right for us and for what we truly deserve, because it is not what decent people do!

But, it is up to us, citizens, to be aware of what they do and check them and try to stop them from doing more damage to society and the environment than they have done already.
Lets clear a few cobwebs from our perceptions and define what ‘Government’ is, what ‘democracy’ is, and what ‘Citizen’ is; what are our responsibilities as citizens; what is good citizenship.

Government could be described as a governing body that makes and administers public policy and has the responsibility to exercise political direction and make and enforce laws for and on behalf of the citizens of a country or state.

The chief obligation of the Government is to serve and protect the people and guarantee the rights of its citizens as per a written document such as the Constitution.

“The duties of the government can be summarized as the formation of human capabilities and the creation and maintenance of an environment that enables all the individuals of a society to flourish on their own and to contribute to nation-building. The task of weaving disparate activities into a meaningful whole is left for the government”. Edsel L. Beja Jr.

Democracy under a free electoral system is a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents. ‘Democracy’ we must remind ourselves is – government of the people, by the people and for the people.

Citizens – We people are citizens – we members of a state or a nation; native or naturalized, and legally accepted as inhabitants of a country, city or town who have our own rights and duties. Citizens have the right to vote; the right to hold government offices, and the right to hold the government accountable for its promises. As citizens we owe the state allegiance and we are expected to obey the country’s laws. The government ensures protection of our basic rights and privileges and protects citizens from violence. Allegiance and protection are considered reciprocal obligations.

And what are our (citizens) responsibilities?

. To respect and obey the laws of the land.
. To respect the rights, beliefs, and opinions of others
. To be responsible and honest, pay taxes honestly and vote whenever called on to vote.

So instead of becoming another sheep in the flock or other cattle in the herd or another brick in the wall, we must lose our fear of being independent minded and become good citizens. And good citizenship involves playing an active part in society within the scope of our own capability.

Society belongs to all of us, thus Society is served best when we all join in and all bring our own opinions and arguments to the discussion so we can then become part of the democratic decision-making process and influence public decisions.

Contrary to our distaste for politicians, and for calling attention to ourselves due to our upbringing, individual citizen’s participation is good citizenship.

A good citizen is an informed citizen and it is a citizen’s responsibility to participate in decisions that affect public welfare in a helpful constructive manner and voice our concerns.

We in India have been blessed with not just good constitution but a great constitution, and it is so in most countries. It is up to us citizens wherever we are to take control of ourselves and the governments that we create, remind them that they are our servants and not our masters, and get the best possible services from the government. It is up to us to delegate only so much power as we think it is prudent for the government to exercise. It is the citizens’ responsibility to take upon their shoulders the task of seeing that order, justice, and freedom are maintained. (the preceding paragraph has been adapted & Paraphrased from National Centre for Constitutional Studies –

So here’s what a good citizen should do:

. Overcome our indifference and our small minded insularity and participate. Think positively and do things that we can do within our own abilities to improve, educate and enhance awareness.
. Support Civil Society movements after studying them and agreeing with their methods and objectives.
. Support environmental groups that are fighting for a better present and future against venal politicians and their vested interests
. Support Social Equity – especially those marginalised by politicians and the corporate exploiters who pay politicians off
. Protest, and demand information about so-called public utility schemes floated by corrupt politicians without public discussion.

1. Fight for justice
2. Be articulate and loud when you see injustice
3. Support institutions and people who create a better world
4. Donate generously financially, personally, and politically
5. Keep optimism alive

Pratap Antony is a Passive activist. Active pacifist freelance thinker and writer. Writes on ecology and environment, social justice and pluralism, management ideas and issues and music: western classical, jazz, and Indian classical dance.


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