Yes, it's an American article talking about American society and American politics. But despite all this, there's a lot of great stuff in there.
Here are some highlights:
-When self-government is dominated by professionals representing various interests, a vicious cycle of citizen detachment ensues. Regular people come to treat civic problems as something outside themselves, something done to them, rather than something they have a hand in making and could have a hand in unmaking. They anticipate that engagement is futile, and their prediction fulfills itself.
-So how do we replace this vicious cycle with a virtuous one? What does it take to revive a spirit of citizenship as something undertaken by amateurs and volunteers with a stake in their own lives? There are four forces to activate, and they cut across the usual left-right lines.
- First, we have to develop our "citizen muscle."
- Second, we need to radically refocus on the local.
- Third, think in terms of challenges rather than orders.
- Fourth, create platforms where citizen citizens can actively serve.
I especially liked the Eric Liu-penned article's conclusion:
Recently I came upon a billboard by a congested highway. "You're not stuck in traffic," it said. "You are traffic." We aren't stuck in sclerotic government and extractive politics. We are these things. Our actions and omissions contribute to the conditions we decry. Or, to put it in positive terms: if we make the little shifts in mindset and habit to reclaim civic life, they will compound into contagion. We are the renewal of self-government we yearn for. That may sound like Obama '08 -- but it's also Reagan '80.
Citizenship, in the end, is too important to be left to professionals. It's time for us all to be trustees, of our libraries and every other part of public life. It's time to democratize democracy again.
(Oh, and don't forget to read the Comments section.)
M Adrian Brassington
P.S. Thanks go out to Michael Borrelli for bringing the article to my attention.