Everyone has a duty to be a responsible citizen. But unfortunately, not everyone takes this responsibility seriously.
There are plenty of people in the world who do not know what being a responsible citizen means and these are the very ones who destroy our communities. For being a responsible citizen results in a happy and harmonious community – if everyone else does the same.
Being a responsible citizen covers many areas – some of them legal obligations, some social and some moral. Of course, because not all of them are legal obligations, being a responsible citizen is not as easy as staying within the law. In fact, to be a truly responsible citizen, we sometimes must go out of our way to do things which help our society – give a little of our time and effort for the greater good.
No one can be a responsible citizen without staying within the law. It is as simple as that. Criminals, by their very nature, are not behaving as responsible citizens. Laws exist to protect citizens, the communities they live in and their property. So to be a responsible citizen, we must respect these laws and abide by them. Harming others or others’ property does not equate to being a good citizen.
On the other hand, social obligations really form the bulk of being a responsible citizen. To be a responsible citizen, we should help our communities and those who live in them. Accordingly, being a responsible citizen can encompass things such as volunteering.
For instance, volunteering for the Samaritans is a noble job to do and one which is certainly needed. The elderly lady who lives alone may need someone to do her shopping and this demonstrates responsible citizenship just as much as volunteering in an organization.
Other social obligations of being a good citizen can include things such as being involved in our communities. This may be demonstrated by being on the school parent-teacher association or the administrational committees. It may be as simple as attending events organized by these people.
Meanwhile moral obligations of being a responsible citizen are harder to pin down because different people have different moral codes. But one place we can all start is in helping the environment.
The environmental problems society is facing are of our own making and we all have a moral obligation to do what we can to change this. So by living as environmentally friendly as possible, we can help fulfill our moral obligations of being a responsible citizen. For years the government of Eritrea has been tremendously working on promoting summer campaigns for high school students to participate on environmental changes and through this, young Eritrean students are trained to be good citizens of the nation, whilst protecting the environment.
Furthermore, education is most times viewed as a prerequisite to good citizenship, in that it helps citizens make good decisions. While education is virtually free in Eritrea, Ministry of Education has Citizenship Education Programs enrolled into its curriculum, with a view of enlightening the youth. This Citizenship education programs start from the 1st grade and continue through elementary, Junior and even high school up to Warsay-Yikealo school and Training Center. Citizenship education is meant to remind the youth of this nation’s glorious past history of colonization, armed struggle, independence and development, in doing so, the youth are equipped with adequate knowledge and information of the social, economic, cultural, and political situation of their country as well as common accepted personal values and character traits of their society.
Henry David Thoreau once wrote that men who serve the state making “no free exercise whatever of the judgment or of the moral sense…are commonly esteemed good citizens.” Orit Ichilov notes that children “tend to perceive the government in the image of an ideal father that is benevolent and protective. At this stage, the good citizen is characterized as one who, through his behavior, proves himself one worthy of the love and protection of the government rather than one possessing certain political obligations and rights.” Through their early school years, children usually continue to think in apolitical terms of their citizenship, expressing loyalty by their desire to remain in their country due to an attachment to its beauty, wildlife, and good people. By age twelve or thirteen, they begin referring more to political qualities, such as the nature and values of the government. High school seniors define the good citizen primarily in political terms. Some students define good citizenship in terms of standing up for what one believes in.
Joel Westheimer identifies the personally responsible citizen (who acts responsibly in his community, e.g. by donating blood), the participatory citizen (who is an active member of community organizations and/ or improvement efforts) and the justice-oriented citizen (who critically assesses social, political, and economic structures to see beyond surface causes) as parts of being a “good citizen”.
Sometimes incentives prevail over desires to be a good citizen. For example, many people will avoid coming forth as witnesses in court cases because they do not want to deal with the inconvenience. Aristotle makes a distinction between the good citizen and the good man, writing, “…there cannot be a single absolute excellence of the good citizen. But the good man is so called in virtue of a single absolute excellence. It is thus clear that it is possible to be a good citizen without possessing the excellence which is the quality of a good man.
Across the world and in every nation, many organizations attempt to promote “good citizenship.” In Eritrea, National Union of Eritrean Youth and students holds annual workshops, with the aim of raising awareness towards the advantages of being a good citizen. However while NUEYS does play a huge part in terms of enlightening the youth, good citizenship in Eritrean begins from the family and community. The togetherness, the social and religious harmony which is an important part of the Eritrean fabric helps not only help in rearing responsible citizens but greatly assists in maintaining in for generations.
At the end of it all, with great powers comes great responsibility; this is a fundamental concept of being a citizen. As a citizen, you are entitled to a wide variety of privileges. But with these liberties, comes a large responsibility.
Something we Eritrean know and carry with us. Great nations are built by even greater citizens. If we, as a nation are great, it is because we have succeeded “we” as citizens have to be great.