The Discerning Texan

All that is necessary for evil to triumph, is for good men to do nothing.
-- Edmund Burke
Friday, June 01, 2007

Thoughts On Changing Definitions

One of the problems in understanding politics comes from shifting definitions. A point to be considered carefully in this decade is the evolving meaning of the words citizen and citizenship.

: an inhabitant of a city or town; especially : one entitled to the rights and privileges of a freeman

2 a: a member of a state b: a native or naturalized person who owes allegiance to a government and is entitled to protection from it


1: the status of being a citizen 2 a: membership in a community (as a college) b: the quality of an individual's response to membership in a community
An integral part of Western Civilization is the development of the rights accompanying citizenship. Christians are familiar with the story of the apostle Paul asserting his rights as a Roman citizen and requesting his privilege to plead his case before Caesar. By 1215, on the English field of Runnymeade, Magna Carta established the right of a citizen not to be imprisoned unless a panel ruled there was just cause; and defended an individual's right to private property. Habeas Corpus developed certain rights that defended an individual in his adherence to the law before corruptible power.

In the Western mind, citizenship was accompanied by these developed rights and responsibilities. We were probably the last generation taught these rights and responsibilities. Lessons in citizenship were like the before mentioned Aggie Code: An Aggie does not lie, cheat, or steal; nor tolerate those who do.

It seems like mine was the last generation to be taught about duty toward others and and to the community, and to honor others more than ourselves; especially those of achievement and merit. We were taught to care for those less fortunate than ourselves and to be diligent in our work; always striving to do our best. I am not sure why the disintegration occurred in subsequent generations. Maybe the close proximity of citizenship with Christianity ushered in the demise of lessons in citizenship. However, the roots of citizenship are more of a republican nature than religious. Today, the ideas of republicanism and the Judeo-Christian ethic are both forgotten and ignored in this purely democratic age.

Classical republicanism like Judaism and Christianity recognizes both the glory of human nature and its tragic despotism.

Republicanism is the ideology of governing a nation as a republic, with an emphasis on liberty, rule by the people, and the civic virtue practiced by citizens. Republicanism always stands in opposition to aristocracy, oligarchy and dictatorship. More broadly, it refers to a political system that protects liberty, especially by incorporating a rule of law that cannot be arbitrarily ignored by the government. Much of the literature deals with the issue of what sort of values and behavior by the citizens is necessary if the republic is to survive and flourish; the emphasis has been on widespread citizen participation, civic virtue, and opposition to corruption.
The checks and balances of rights and responsibilities are what creates and establishes civil society. Today, we see those rights and responsibilities turned upside down and our civil society is the worse for it. Personal ethics are instead delusional explanations as to why we break the law, or are willing turn a blind eye to other lawbreakers because in a democracy you are free to do whatever seems right for you. There is no responsibility to others because in a democracy, personal ethics are simply looking out for number one.

It is a tragedy that we now have an entire generation steeped in the democratic subculture of "no snitching". What occurs in such a devolving community is absolute terror for honest citizens intent upon living their lives, working hard to provide for their family to the best of their ability, and just living the American Dream in the pursuit of happiness. Civil society of the community deteriorates rapidly into unbridled human nature: lying, thievery, crime, rape, and murder.

As rappers are themselves becoming victims of crime, the lessons of citizenship begin to make more sense than their previous "no snitch" message to their public. Who speaks for the murdered, if witnesses refuse to speak to the police? Who speaks for the victim of the serial killer living next door, if skewed ethics make it none of your business? Who decides that it is the responsibility of the American taxpayer to shoulder the burden when corrupt governments deny their own citizens of the basic rights and freedoms due to a man created in the image of God and endowed with inalienable rights?

None of these ideas reflect the republican nature of civil society: how to create it and how to preserve it. As easy as it is to recognize the detriment to the community with a silly and dangerous idea like "no snitching" it is equally easy to recognize the silliness of entrenched ideas of government. A government becomes so worried about its future power that it greedily looks to ensnare non-citizens in its tentacles while in the process denying rights through excessive taxation to pay for their power grab.

When will man learn that human nature loves the ugliness of pure democracy, and that this is a bad thing? When will entrenched government officials cease to overstep the boundaries of its citizens? Only when republican citizenship is properly practiced and reprehensible government behavior is no longer tolerated. Only when when the better idea of the classical republican and its roots in citizenship are raised above the morass of democratic squalor. The answer to each of these problems is more republicanism. It is republicanism that rallies citizens against an entrenched government. It is republicanism that demands a quality of citizenship to foster and preserve civil society.

The classical democrat used to say:
vox populi, vox Dei! The voice of the people is the voice of God! What a great republican idea!
Nancy Coppock, 6/01/2007 01:39:00 PM |