Saturday, August 4, 2012

What Defines the 'Real Citizen'? Why Should We Care?

"In every government on earth is some trace of human weakness, some germ of corruption and degeneracy, which cunning will discover and wickedness insensibly open."

Thomas Jefferson, in 'Notes on Virginia'.

After my wife (at the culmination of her hundreds of hours of genealogy research), uncovered that a distant but direct ancestor- Jacob Jockel Brumbaugh (1734- 1816) - fought in the Revolutionary War (4th Co., Lancaster PA) , it now started to make sense why I have such an obsession with genuine citizens' rights, and why I so often take umbrage at our people being casually dismissed as "consumers" or "folks". (Not to mention our gov't not being forthright as to the truth about our history, such as in the JFK assassination) It is as if all the market forces on offer are arrayed to keep our citizen-active consciousness at the basest, most rudimentary level....of half -conscious cogs. The better to manipulate us.

This brings me to the concept of the "real citizen". Of course, most of our population regard themselves as true citizens to the core. But ARE they? I myself believe being a citizen means much more than voting at each opportunity or being able to recall several facts about the governing system, or naming one's reps or Senators.  It is, to me, a deep and almost tactile awareness of one's role in exposing the real workings of our system and how it often isn't living up to our justified expectations. So, what can we say defines or delineates the real citizen, as opposed to the wannabe?

First, the REAL Citizen contradicts by definition the hegemony of the market idiom embodied in the label “consumer”, just as he transcends the common denominator-ish put down of “folks” -  used to lump him with the non-aware, semi-conscious and comatose among us. The real citizen, in other words, perceives the interest of the commonweal over his or her own passing fancies, or hedonist pursuits. This necessarily will cause the Real Citizen’s values, principles to clash with market-capital values, or quotidian efforts to marginalize his worth.

Thus, the real citizen may see a clear need to reduce sprawl by imposing gasoline taxes - but the market will shudder. Or - to the same end - the citizen will seek to impose stringent zoning laws to inhibit adverse development (such as fracking) in his community, and again the market will quake.

The real citizen will also see a critical need for a national health service - given the millions that can't afford private insurance - and again the market will go ballistic as well as those its purveyors and PR-meisters have successfully brainwashed After all, the Neoliberal hucksters and their coercive markets want only profit, not the practice of genuine medicine.

The real citizen will see the need for the prioritizing of public or civic space above encroaching commercial interests in many venues (most especially media - perhaps imposing a tax on E-M spectrum usage for the corporate megaliths)- for which capitalists and the markets will squeal like stuck pigs.

The real citizen will additionally see the need for fairness in tax liability. So, he will pressure government to alter the existing tax burden - which is now 80% on wage earners as opposed to only twenty percent on corporations. To the same end, the citizen will pressure to abolish corporate tax havens - such as had been employed by Tyco Corp. in Bermuda. Merely hanging out a shingle to escape $400 million in tax liability, a scheme not available to the average Joe or Jane - who must also compensate for corporate tax escapes. Along with this, seeing fiscal or financial peril ahead, the real citizen will agitate for all existing tax cuts to be terminated, based on the belief that the long term fiscal health is more important than a temporary relief that will undercut future benefits when most needed. So, he doesn't buy into the malarkey of a "fiscal cliff" but regards it as transparent pap for the less mentally well -endowed.

Hence,  millions of real citizens - all pursuing the common interest and general welfare with equal diligence- are bound to be definitely something a capitalist –consumption society  (and its overseers) doesn't want, or need. Much better to satiate the bumbling, half-aware “folks” with umpteen distractions and induce them to spend (using the psychological brainwashing state of the Gruen Transfer- which disarms all conscious, cognitive centers in the classic market transaction).

Thereby, the  real citizen seeks to enlighten the sheeple among us who gravitate forevermore toward rank consumption, while being forced to ply the work-spend treadmill. The real citizen seeks to educate the uninformed "consumers" that  their work loads - to pay down on the consumption debt accumulated-  is devastating to their life quality, not to mention intellect.

Apart from that, we know politicians prefer consumers to real citizens - because the latter will tend to hold them to much greater account, citing the Constitution ad nauseam, as well as failure to uphold it and the general welfare. Real citizens are therefore “pains in the ass” since they reckon in leaders’ actual performance, not merely their vacuous 4-yearly promises. The real citizen also reckons in actual legislation passed – especially that which has been purchased by corporate campaign money - over laws in the citizens' interest.

The politician, indeed, has reason to fear the real citizen given he's the real deal, the genuine No BS article, relative to his consumptive clone, or those who just fell off the turnip truck and whom the politico  dismissively refers to as “folks”. For the Real citizen is his worst nightmare come true: A thoroughly knowledgeable and critical individual who will not hesitate to cry 'foul' and even become pro-active when the need arises. And who will not shrink from asking hard questions when they need to be asked.   Other noteworthy hallmarks of the Real Citizen:  

1) The Real Citizen doesn’t need a ‘pledge’ or song to remind him of his duties and obligations – he knows his Bill of Rights and more importantly exercises them. (Use them or lose them!)

2) The Real Citizen understands that the flag is the symbol for the principles enshrined in the Bill of Rights – and to that extent cannot be placed above those principles. Hence, he requires no ‘flag desecration’ amendments to bolster his patriotism or make him feel better if someone else chooses to use the flag as the focal point of protest.

3) The Real Citizen - above all - doesn’t confuse the nation he loves with the corporatocratic, toxic SYSTEM which confers disproportionate power on corporations in relation to the PEOPLE. Only flesh and blood PEOPLE can have rights – not legal artifacts. And the government is supposed to be FOR and about real flesh and blood PEOPLE (also known as CITIZENS)  - not granting corporations carte blanche to ravage the country at will. (As payback for campaign contributions and other largesse).

The REAL citizen - by the above account- is absolutely essential to the exercise of a genuine democracy. For as Thomas Jefferson noted in his 'Notes on Virginia', to the extent the people's minds are improved they will hold check the worst excesses of government. (Which, he added, will always tend toward tyranny otherwise). If the people's minds are degraded (as they are by market values, consumption for its own sake and egotistical satiation of personal desires) they will become mere pawns or tools for a despotic government to wield any way it wants, such as willing cheerleaders for more wars.

Would that we had more Real citizens, as opposed to pretenders, as we now approach what is arguably the most critical election of the last quarter century.

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