As a citizen in a democracy you have serious responsibilities far beyond paying taxes, following the laws and voting. Those are just the outer trappings of citizenship. The core responsibility is to keep the democracy and your fellow citizens functioning well. No law, no pronouncement, nothing can relieve you of that sacred responsibility.

What does that require? Citizenship requires that we move beyond simple self-interest to consider something bigger than ourselves -- the social structure that supports and nurtures all of our individual strivings. Without that focus, disunity, disharmony and imbalance almost inevitably begin to creep in. We begin to justify our self-indulgences as our entitlements. And as others begin to do the same, the society begins to disintegrate into some sort of competitive structure focusing on each individual -- a step toward justifying a kind of social Darwinism, the survival of the fittest. The fittest being those who can best “game the system“ for their own advantage.

The result is social chaos and a disappearance of the support for any sense of community that is needed to sustain a democracy.

Common goals become a thing of the past and people become more defensive, begin to focus on differences and begin to draw more inward allowing the social fabric to fray. Maintenance begins to focus more on the individual, the family or the organization and no longer on the community and the requirements of citizenship.

Even without governmental leadership, the responsibility of the citizen within a democracy is to uphold those democratic values even when, or especially when, they might seem to be out of favor. If those values begin to weaken, the very basis of a humane society is at risk.

A citizen worth that title must be willing and able to actively respond at moments like that.

Bob Passi