Essay on Citizenship
Of all the outward manifestations of individual freedom, citizenship is the most significant social and political instrument. No matter what kind of political system runs the country, a person born in a certain place enjoys all the freedom and privileges allowed within it. Of course, in its most visible from a person figures in the birth and death registry and in between these two signposts he is entitled to hold a passport to ensure he is not-citizen indefinitely within its borders.
We who are ethnic to a place hardly realize the value of citizenship-how many special rights come to us with the least fanfare – such as the right to buy property, settle down where we want (on this and that side of the grave), go to school, take advantage of the medical facilities, and be defended even if one goes to jail.
Citizenship laws vary from country to country, of course. There are states that believe that power grows out of the barrel of a gun, and there are states which believe with Abe Lincoln that the ballot is stronger than the bullet. In the former order of things people know when they have reached the end of the leash and therefore dare not transgress any of the laws. There are subscribe to one or other theology and people are safe so long as they don’t tread on ‘holy toes. The world is not without instances of the long arm of such ‘holy states’ training their murder squads against ‘infidels’ in alien lands. Yet all states protect their citizens to the best of their ability with the help of the police or the army. And we know how there are some ‘super citizens’ as well in our own midst who have their entourage of commandos or private armies to protect them from their own fellow citizens.
All these are the positive, rosy side of citizenship. Yet citizenship carries with it a great burden of responsibility, especially in so-called democratic countries which have a free electoral system. Here the citizen wields a most potent weapon – the vote. And casting one’s vote is the most overt act of public spirit that any citizen can perform. Wherever public spirit prevails liberty is secure. But this responsibility means the citizen must possess keen powers of discrimination and observation of the political class. For, the short memories of voters is what keeps our politicians in office. As Tom Hayden says: a silent majority and government by the people are incompatible. And therefore, citizens have to be vocal, with a united voice as well.
Increasingly, the current trend in developing countries is the tendency to emigrate to more prosperous climes-with people dwelling in a short of twilight zone of green card status for a while and finally opting to renounce their original citizenship for one that carries with it the badge of wealth and universal access (except to primitive and tribal states like some in our Neighbourhood).
The return of the native in such cases is for the poor cousins back home an occasion of awe and mystery and plentiful apology for the overcrowding, dirt and old fashioned ways of the old civilization. And for the visitor every sentence must start with: you, it is never like this back where I come from. What respect from law and order! What refinement!…
Of course, while travelling back, they pack a load of goods made by the miserable little artisans in the back alleys of poverty, the natives of the land, who haven’t any notion of such exalted states of existence. It is these latter who are left behind to defend the state, the culture the uniqueness of nation.
So, when in the final analysis we measure one’s worthiness for citizenship, what should weigh in our consideration are the qualities of responsibility and commitment to the well-being of the collective entity, the willingness to think for oneself and allow other to enjoy the privilege to do as well, the readiness to pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and success of liberties as granted unto themselves through their country’s constitution. Citizenship of a democratic country confers a lot of liberty.