Civic duty and national renewal

By Randy David
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Civic duty in our time, I submit, consists mainly of three tasks. The first is to seek to understand the demands of a modern society and to participate responsibly in its collective life. The second is to help lessen the suffering of others in our midst. And the third is to make accountable those who make decisions in our name.

These three elements of civic duty are interrelated. Our ability to make others accountable for the decisions they make in our name depends very much on the extent of our own fidelity to our obligations as members of society. We would be deterred from demanding of others what we ourselves fail to practice in daily life. We would feel compromised and ethically disabled. In like manner, we may be so engrossed in our personal lives that we fail to connect to the life of the community in any positive way.

When the philosopher Richard Rorty wrote about the quest for social solidarity in our time, he was referring not to the ritualistic charities that define our futile attempts at redressing inequality, but to our gradual awakening as human beings to the reality of our own unwitting participation in the oppression and exploitation of others. Such an awakening shifts our attention from the limited mortals that we are to the kind of society we have created for ourselves.

To be able to watch ourselves collectively as a nation -- that is the mark of a modern society. But to be able to revise our notions of who we are and what we can be -- that is the quality of a great people.

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