From Issue: 487 [Read full issue]

The Meaning of Citizenship

The conventional definition of citizenship is concerned with the act of voting and taking a vow to uphold the constitution and laws of a country. This is narrow and limiting. Too many organizations that are committed to sustaining democracy in the world and at home have this constrained view of citizenship. Citizenship is not about voting, or even about having a vote.

The idea of what it means to be a citizen is too important and needs to be taken back to its more profound value. Citizenship is a state of being. It is a choice for activism and care. A citizen is one who is willing to do the following:

  • Hold oneself accountable for the well-being of the larger collective of which we are a part.
  • Choose to own and exercise power rather than defer or delegate it to others.
  • Enter into a collective possibility that gives hospitable and restorative community its own sense of being.
  • Acknowledge that community grows out of the possibility of citizens. Community is built not by specialized expertise, or great leadership, or improved services; it is built by great citizens.
  • Attend to the gifts and capacities of all others, and act to bring the gifts of those on the margin into the centre.

"Community: The Structure of Belonging" - Peter Block, pp. 64-65