What is the Responsibility
of a Citizen?
So many word have been written about duty, obligation and purpose that the individual has towards his society
and government, that few people are able to recognize the correct perspective between and among all these relationships. We
are told from a very early age that each citizen IS an American. But what does that idea, mean? Is he free to accept this
invitation or must he be obliged to follow the dictates of those who bestow this mantel upon him? Obviously, anyone can reject
this membership, but the real issue is just what kind of responsibility and obligation, does each person has for his neighbor?
Those who wish to direct accepted behavior upon the un-initiative, usually seek to mold an order that serves
the interests of certain factions. Seldom are people encouraged to seek a culture of activity that is contrary to the existing
order! For those who are in a position of influence and authority, wish to bring others around to accept the so called wisdom
of their experience and knowledge. And that rarely contradicts the roles that different segments of society are designed to
play. That's the way Socialization works. But is there any rightful authority from these groups of facilitators over the individual
will of each citizen? I submit that most obey, because they know no other way. And even for those who understand that not
all is well, few resist the easy course. Why is that the normal pattern?
We have all heard over and over again that man is a social creature. Surely, we all interact with others,
but are we REALLY; by nature, the tool of the larger community? No doubt that most act in such a manner, but what is the bases
in duty and obligation to submit to such conformity? My reply is quite simple. Our duty and responsibility originates with
our own recognition that we are responsible to ourselves first, and foremost. A proper understanding of what it means to exercise
this capacity, requires that each person accepts and respects the intrinsic value in each of his neighbors. All conduct and
restraints, must originate from within for it to be accepted as true and meaningful. When society places demands upon the
citizen, it must appeal to his own benefit and fulfillment for a willful choice to accept the constraint. Laws are only a
guide. Penalties are but the seeds of resentment. Force becomes the reason for rebellion. And lies and deceit are the currency
of the thieves as they rob the producers of the wealth. Have you willing accepted the government as your partner in all your
business transactions? Or have you just resigned yourself to support the insatiable appetite of the beast that never sleeps?
Our responsibility to each other is profound and real. It is far too important to allow the shapers of the
systems of tribute to direct the methods upon which each of us need to fulfill that obligation. Taxes are an inescapable aspect
of human society. I seek not to evade legitimate contributions for worthy causes. But what is worthy and worthwhile any longer?
How much is enough? And what kind of a fair system of finance can we turn to support those functions of organization that
serve the true common good? The answer should be obvious, even if it may be difficult to implement. The idea of user fees
and sale tax on purchases are the only forms of legitimate levies that can be argued and defended. But the discussion of these
methods, will be left for another time. The purpose before us, is to establish the relationship between the individual and
the overall society. The goal is the creation of a meaningful, productive and orderly community of conflicting interests that
seek the individual fulfillment of numerous cultural values. By its own nature, this mixture of different people and varied
beliefs, require that some common element of willful acceptance to a standard of behavior is established at the core of all
human interaction. Laws rarely accomplish this objective. Then where should we look for the answer?
Tolerance and diversity are valid goals, if they are both defined within a general framework of basic acceptance
of the dignity of the individual. The sum of the whole is NOT the norm that attains the reverence that we wish to adopt. For
that road leads inevitably to control and manipulation for those unable to wheel their little piece of authority. The answer
resides in the standard that a society can function and prosper, only when each person within that community willingly accepts
and respects the fundamental rights and dignity of each other citizen who freely accepts this requirement. Human Nature, being
what it is, not all will, or are able to, become members in good standing. For those who are the exceptions, their place will
be discussed another time. But for those who willingly choose to becomes part of the Civilized Community, the prospects for
a meaningful future can be earned. Therefore, the responsibility of the citizen to his society starts with the respect he
needs to accept for himself. This should not be confused as being self centered. Quite to the contrary, this idea of self
worth, requires that no one will, willingly accept being reduced to slavery, even when it is created by your own hands. This
is a radical departure from the common activities of most people. For the chains of serfdom, are forged upon the anvils of
your own making. Intimidation is more harmful than the bullet. And bowing to the tyrant is easy when the alternative is to
choose to defend your dignity. But we live in a time of soft bodies and minds that have accepted the substitute of comfort,
for honor and purpose. My responsibility is the same as yours. I am willing to accept that obligation, but can you say the
same? Are you willing to choose! Will you become responsible to me, as much as I am willing to defend your rights? This is
the essence of citizenship. But can this standard be resurrected, or have we all passed the point of no return? The answer
lies within your own reply.
SARTRE - January 12, 2001