What happened to civic duty and virtue?

Charlie's tag

“Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom…must undergo the fatigue of supporting it.”

                                                                                                                                        -Thomas Paine


Civic duty and virtue… Let me tell you about a friend. Let’s call him George.

Blue collar, no post high school education; he’s worked as a union plumber at the university for six years now, and it’s the best job he has ever had.

He is also an alderman for his town of 350 people. He is integral to their annual festival event (which he was instrumental to bringing back after a 15 year hiatus). He previously served on the school board (they have a k-8 school) and his mom voluntarily served as a temporary mayor when the elected guy quit abruptly.

This town has a single part time deputy from the county sheriff’s department, a volunteer fire department, and one stop light.

Aside from the deputy, his town doesn’t pay any of the officials; they are all voluntary duties. George spends a minimum of several hours each week dealing with town business; often it is more than that, especially if he has to handle a problem with the sewer system or other utility. Keep in mind, he still has his full-time job.

George doesn’t do this because he is an individual in pursuit of self interest; he does it out of civic duty to the common good. He does it out of a sense of responsibility to his community and the people who live there.
That is what America has lost! We lost it because we handed everything over to corporate type management systems, we entrusted our “common good” to managerial systems that we assumed were rational. Essentially, we gave up our genuine individualism by allowing someone else to handle everything for us.
We conformed.
What is wrong with America isn’t apathy. It isn’t uninformed voters. It isn’t passiveness. What is wrong is a system of corporatism that has infiltrated democracy. While that was happening right under our noses, we lost sight of individual civic responsibility to our common good because the narrative was replaced with the concept of self interest.
President Reagan was wrong; government can’t be the problem; because we are the government, collectively. However, we gave up our claim to government and handed those responsibilities to corporate-like groups. Those corporate groups dictate almost every aspect of our lives, and are dictating legislation as well.
Taking it back is our only solution. The only way to do that is to change our perspective to an appreciation for our individual civic duty in pursuit of a shared common purpose.

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