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Empowering Citizens

It’s a slow sort of day, so I thought I’d dredge up a Belmont Club post from a month or so ago that I’ve been meaning to blog about:

By slow degrees the poisonous idea that government should be left to do things for the public has taken unconscious hold even of minds that would be consciously opposed to the notion. To be sure, government has a unique role to play in setting foreign policy, in exercising police powers and in national defense. But in the War on Terror where the boundaries between private and organizational movements; politics and religion and even between state frontiers is blurred, the idea of leaving everything to the government is probably a prescription for defeat. It is often forgotten that one of of government’s legitimate roles is to mobilize the public. To channel private effort. To recall that the nation consists, not of the “masses” but of individuals yearning to breathe free — and help.

I’m quoting this because I think most of us can identify with this idea; of an engaged citizenry taking responsibility for their communities and nation. Government should engage us, rather than telling us to sit back, relax, and let the professionals handle everything as not to interrupt our happy grazing.

We are all part of what one could call a movement of amateurs; people who want to be engaged, and want to participate in some way in our nation’s civic life, and are looking for outlets to do so. Some of us choose blogging, others choose things like The Minuteman Project. To me it’s all part of the same phenomena; amateurs, ordinary citizens, who want to participate, rather than just sit back and “let the professionals handle this.”

Over the course of twentieth century industrialization, we got used to the idea of a more centrally organized society, and our politics and culture adapted to reflect that. I view that our political culture is still very much mired in the twentieth century way of thinking. The twenty-first century will likely see a movement away from centralized organizations to networked organizations, with people networking together to accomplish goals, either personal, economic, technological or political.

We have a lot of example of this happening already with blogs, and various other types of network organizations forming spontaneously around certain issues. It’s ironic that it was terrorists who were also early adopters of this style of organization. I agree with Wretchard that our politicians haven’t yet really come to understand the need to tap into this networked citizenry. The political system moves more slowly than society at large, and I think it’ll be a few decades before it catches up. But it won’t stop the rest of us from plowing ahead anyway.

Where this has relevance for us as gun owners is that, as most of us already realize, we’re part of our nation’s security system, and now, with the Internet, we’re networked. The left may mock us for our preparedness, for carrying firearms in public, and unwaveringly standing up for our right to do so, but when the shit hits the fan, and no one else is around when something goes down, it’ll be up to us. We’re part of this movement of amateurs, who are not content to just sit back and “let the professionals handle this”, and for that we should be proud.

But if there’s one thing that politicians and bureaucrats hate, it’s an empowered and networked citizenry, because it makes their power less important, and less needed. So we will have a political battles ahead of us. One thing I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older, it’s that people have an overwhelming ego need to feel important, and a big part of the political fight in bringing about a networked, rather than centralized citizenry, and all that implies, is helping people get over their specialness issues. But we as bloggers, and gun owners, are already taking the first steps. It’s my sincere hope that society and government will soon follow. I certainly hope so, because those that wish to destroy us certainly aren’t waiting.

One Response to “Empowering Citizens”

  1. Alcibiades says:

    Responsibility is probably the biggest issue in the U.S. today. In many places, citizens have rights and power, but they don’t have responsibility. Or rather, they have not accepted it and there’s a reason for that. Responsibility is hard.

    People have a responsibility to their family, community, country, and themselves. They have a duty to make sure that their family doesn’t starve, community doesn’t rot, and country doesn’t sink. It basically limits people’s freedom since they can no longer make selfish decisions. They must do the right things in order to garner the right outcomes.

    A person can’t just hold some politician solely responsible (though they do have some responsibility), he/she is at least partially responsible for the situation in which he lives. Situations can’t always be changed, of course. So, as a last resort, one may vote with their feet and leave an area for greener pastures. This has been done in the past and continues to be done to this day.

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