How to Be a Good Citizen
More than just citizenship
Whether you're born with citizenship or earn it after immigration, there's more to being a Good Citizen than just having that legal piece of paper. It's about how you conduct yourself as a person, how you interact with your community and society, and how you pass what you know and learn on to others. This isn't a discussion of patriotic brainwashing or anything along those lines; this is a discussion of the education, interpersonal skills and common courtesies needed to keep the country moving smoothly and strongly.
Starting with education
People who know more understand more. You don't have to be a PhD student in an Ivy League University, but you have to cultivate a habit of learning-- ignorance leads to fear, and fear leads to easy manipulation. A Good Citizen isn't easily manipulated, but understands what's going on and can make rational decisions.
A few useful topics to keep up on: Politics, both local and national; Education; the Environment; Energy Issues and what can be done at home about them; How things like banks and investments work; the actualities of Tax and tax Reform, not just the hype; How the government works and the best ways to vote it to work better; Heathcare; All the ways a ruling body helps it's citizens-- schools, hospitals, community groups, local clean-ups, the Postal Service, and so on.
Sometimes these things are boring, but understanding how they work will keep you from being snowballed over later.
Meanwhile, find a few topics you really care about on any subject, and keep learning. Research their histories, follow their trends, know their inner workings and become active in their communities: Know your passions and all the facts, and you can defend them when other things start infringing. Know how things worked and went in the past, and you can see them repeating in the present. All learning expands your view of the world and how it works, so keep learning always, and keep up with a rapidly changing world.
Social and Community Responsibility
A Good Citizen has to think about the nation as a whole as well as their local community and their own families. Americans tend to be sort of self-centered and short-term thinkers, but if more people thought about how their actions and their decisions affected the rest of the nation, we'd have better planning and more reasonable long-term goals, instead of being reactionary and scrambling to fix unforeseen damage made by short-term planning.
Aside from being informed and educated, and helping your kids to be the same, here are a few ideas for societal thinking:
- Recycling saves money for the city and the nation, cleans up the streets, lessens dependence on outside resources, and puts them firmly in our own borders and our own control.
- Cleaning up local parks and wild places, and learning to not litter as well as buying less of the things that have all the packaging that gets littered, preserves the integrity of the local ecosystem, keeping air and water safer, protecting your kids and your friends and family, and making the area nicer to live in, which raises property value and gets the government and investors to see that your area is worth investing in.
- Being friendly and knowing your neighbors personally builds social support systems, increases neighborhood and therefore city safety, protects the children and other helpless factors, and enriches lives, which leads to healthier and longer lifespans and lowers dependence on hospitals, medication, and public works.
- Raising your kids to be bright, polite, responsible and reasonable leads to kids who can take care of themselves when they're old enough to be out alone, who are less likely to be either kidnapped or coerced into crime, will work harder and take more pride in their first jobs, and will lead to social stability and enrichment-- rather than instability and violence.
- Supporting local businesses will keep your hard-earned money in the local economy, keep the individual character and flavor of your own city alive and healthy, and will slow the problems of homogenization and lack or loss of engagement of the public with the local City Council, keeping the city alive and vibrant and worth living in.
- Getting involved in movements to make the lives of your fellow city dwellers better-- community gardens, clean-ups, local fairs, protests and marches, celebrations, homeless-shelters, volunteer groups, clubs, social gatherings, all these sorts of things-- will improve the overall lives of the whole city, and will stand as an example to other cities of how it can be, which will in turn lead to people all over the country having a better life.
- Stay as healthy as you can: healthy people work harder and better, learn better, behave better, and rely less on the public for food and income. Keep your job as healthy as it can be, and you'll protect the workforce, which keeps the whole country going strong.
The key ideas are to think about how your own life in the city can affect the rest of the city and the country, to make yourself and your life an example of how it should be, and to raise your kids to carry on the trend. Think about ensuring the future, and their future, and the future after that, not just about yourself and the rest of the world be damned.
Small things make big impacts
The people that most need to see how the world could be are those at the bottom, those who are most likely to rebel and those who are least able to do anything about it. The people who are most likely to be destabilizing the community by being inconsiderate are those at the top who are used to ignoring everyone else. So, a few personal tips on being a nice person, for everyone:
- There is no reason to be a jerk to the person behind the counter; no matter how much money you have, you aren't any more important than the person behind you, and everyone, regardless of which side of the counter they're on, deserves the same respect. They're just doing their job as best as they know how. If something can't be done, politely leave it alone. Service Industry does not equal servant, and you have no right to demand things that aren't available.
- Always tip well-- the person receiving the tip likely needs it, and you'll be remembered and get better service next time; a happy waitress is much more likely to be helpful, and there are enough angry people in a day without you adding to the mess. Additionally, happy employees make for more stable working environments, higher quality goods and services, and more informed staff.
- Be polite in all the old ways: Open doors for people who don't have a free hand or are much older than you, give up your seat for old people and pregnant ladies, say please and thank you, excuse yourself when you run into someone, say bless you when someone sneezes, ask questions politely (especially if you're asking something above and beyond of someone), and don't cut in line. All of the things your grandparents want you to do are social lubricant: they make peoples lives just a little happier and easier, and it will, in turn, make your own life happier and easier. No one needs to be screaming and fighting with the whole world all the time.
- Teach through example, especially if you have kids. Kids are little sponges, and the way they see people around them acting and handling situations is the way they'll do the same as they get older; ensure that their strongest examples are good ones, and they'll grow up to care about the world and how it works.
Being a Good Citizen (in a Nutshell)
- Good Citizens know where they fit into society and how to do the best they can to keep that place clean, healthy, well-managed and informed.
- They care about what happens to other people around them, and how things going on now will affect the lives of their children and their children's children.
- They're nice to people because nice people are better to live around than mean ones, and that makes the area a nicer place to live.
- They support the local area to enrich the nation.
- They understand how the world works so they can take action to fix things when they go wrong, and to maintain things that are going right.
- They stay informed on important topics.
- They devote time to improving the world so they leave it better than they found it.
- They understand that everyone working together is much more powerful than everyone working only for their own betterment.
- They understand that making yourself a better person makes the world a better place.
- They care about the world and what happens to it.