ONE CITIZEN (sound track: scroll down to player at bottom of page to listen to "Wake-up Call")
The premise: All people will experience greater safety, health, purposefulness, security, happiness, and overall well-being when all people are supported in discovering and expressing their best individual self.
One Citizen governance addresses many current issues. Most immediate and pressing are:
Citizen apathy. People don’t see the point of making an effort to get involved when it seems as if any effort will be absolutely pointless.
Gross inequities, unfairness, and an almost unending litany of harm the present system engenders.
There are two branches of the path of One Citizenry. The first is a revamping of how our country is governed: from the bottom up. The second is the bottom line value which guides all decisions of the governing body: that which brings the greatest benefit to the most people.
I will begin with discussing Bottom-Up Governance. Many people feel disempowered and angry. They think that they have no voice or influence regarding issues which affect their lives. With Bottom-Up Governance, citizens have a direct say on issues.
Before describing it, I will answer the question of how we can actually revamp the government: We institute Bottom-Up governing as a parallel system, leaving the current form in place until Bottom-Up is well-enough established to take over. At that time, the majority of people will see how well it works, which will enable a smoother transition.
We begin with units: towns, neighborhoods, geographical areas that are in close proximity; units determined by population and accessibility; size of and number of meetings determined by prioritizing allowing each citizen’s participation. There are regular meetings (probably monthly, but special meetings can be called when necessary) where issues are discussed, and every citizen can participate. A representative is chosen from each unit. Advisory votes are held at unit meetings, which the representative takes to area representative meetings. Leadership positions are chairperson, secretary, and representative, each with alternates, chosen by a vote of the citizenry. The representative attends a meeting of area unit representatives, which is also determined by geographical proximity, population, and accessibility. Issues from unit meetings are discussed at this level; representatives will bring back reports to their units. Representatives listen to feedback from citizens in their units, and offer that feedback at the representative meetings. A delegate is chosen to represent the area, who in turn attends the state meetings, which in turn elect a representative to the national discussion.
For all of these levels, office rent and stipends for the leaders are paid from taxes. Connected with each unit are all-encompassing community centers, which offer broad support, including, but not limited to, prenatal classes, parenting classes, nutrition support, educational daycare, support groups of all kinds for all ages, health care, gardening areas, fitness centers. All citizens participate in at least a short stint of civil service (with stipend)- yes, it could be military, but it could also be building roads, or tutoring school children, etc.
Many are afraid of a form of socialism where people are working to support the state.
This is a form of governance where the state works to serve and support the people - all people.
“Some have suggested a barrier is immoral. Then why do wealthy politicians build walls, fences, and gates around their homes? They don’t build walls because they hate the people on the outside but because they love the people on the inside.” - Donald Trump, January 8, 2019
- - Because they are afraid of the people on the outside. This is what we can do to make those gates and fences and walls unnecessary: appeal to the self-interest of those who aren’t interested in the well-being of others: if most everybody is leading a fulfilled life, you won’t feel threatened, and you can relax a little bit!
And then there’s the moral issue: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” - Matthew, 5:43-48 (The Sermon on the Mount, excerpt)
“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” - Frederick Douglass
"There is a higher court than courts of justice and that is the court of conscience. It supercedes all other courts...."— Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)
“Our common welfare should come first. Personal recovery depends upon A.A. unity.” - Tradition One, Alcoholics Anonymous
First of the Seven Principles of the Unitarian Universalist Association:
1: The inherent worth and dignity of every person.
“We’re all in this together.” - Brian Whitney Austin, Just Plain Folks
Times are tough. Life is hard. But times and life have been challenging for a very long time. Greed and fear have been a main motivating factor for many people for much of human existence. But, over time, civilization has evolved, and continues to evolve. In our own country we have outlawed slavery, expanded voting rights, removed gender restrictions on marriage. Yes, there are setbacks, and we haven’t yet reached a Golden Age, but there is progress. This societal evolution is reflected in religious values: we developed beyond the wrathful Old Testament god to the unconditional forgiveness of Jesus. And now even (some) mainstream religions explore Christ Consciousness as a potentiality of all people.
So our civilization and guiding principles can evolve and be refined, just as we can grow personally, becoming our highest self.
What can we do to make this right?
What action benefits the most people, over the long term?
I believe that respecting and honoring and caring for each individual citizen from the time they are in the womb will make gates and walls and security systems unnecessary. When people’s personal talents and gifts are discovered, nurtured, and supported, they thrive, getting satisfaction from accomplishment and from contributing to their world. When people have a sense of security from having enough food and creature comfort, and an authentic and enduring sense of self worth, there is a hugely reduced need for wealthy people to fear any kind of attack, because people will be occupied enjoying their healthy life choices, rather than being occupied with survival. And then everybody is happier. We are all secure enough to be happy in each others’ successes. The only competition is “competing with yourself ” - each to be our own best self. We challenge each other to step up and be our best authentic selves.
When folks are consumed with figuring out how the heck they are going to pay for their lives there is not enough energy left for productivity or creativity. Resentment and fear and anger and stresses of all kinds often cause people to act out. Feeling cared about and at peace causes people to act in kind and caring ways.*
One Citizen: there is no need to reach across the aisle because there is no aisle. There is one guiding principle: that which supports and takes care of the most citizens. The bottom line is care, not profits. We prioritize care. There is nothing wrong with profits - and they are encouraged; they just aren’t the bottom line. And each citizen ends up having more than enough.
It is probable that it will take a couple of generations, at least, for this system to become entirely effective; it will take some time for the negative family and societal systems which are currently operating to be substantially changed, which will take an ongoing renewal of commitment to this greater vision. There are many people working for and effecting change, big and little (a small heartening sample below*). To make a nationwide change in governance requires a mammoth concerted effort, with mammoth private financing (don’t think that there will be a huge change like this made by the people who are running things now!).
An almost-immediate way to help citizens feel empowered could happen at tax time: include a multiple choice form with all tax returns upon which citizens mark their preference regarding where their tax money goes, YES, NO, UNDECIDED, or INDIFFERENT. List all categories, and subcategories, if applicable, of government activity. And offer a space for suggestions of worthy activities for government funding.
The value is not, “How much money are you making?” but,
“How much good are you contributing?”
*A few examples of positive change-makers and possibilities:
Human Kind (2020), Rutger Bregman
“It's a belief that unites the left and right, psychologists and philosophers, writers and historians. It drives the headlines that surround us and the laws that touch our lives. From Machiavelli to Hobbes, Freud to Dawkins, the roots of this belief have sunk deep into Western thought. Human beings, we're taught, are by nature selfish and governed primarily by self-interest. Providing a new historical perspective on the last 200,000 years of human history, Humankind makes a new argument: that it is realistic, as well as revolutionary, to assume that people are good. It is time for a new view of human nature.”
Self-made millionaire, Harris Rosen, supports a Florida town: https://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/26/us/tangelo-park-orlando-florida.html
NEW ZEALAND: GUARDIAN 6/12/19 Last month the New Zealand finance minister, Grant Robertson, unveiled a major shake-up of his country’s annual budget. For the first time the budget puts social wellbeing indicators ahead of GDP when it comes to spending decisions. From now on, the health of New Zealand will not be measured by economic growth alone but instead by the overall wellbeing of its nearly 5 million people.
The wellbeing budget was promised last year by the left-leaning Labour coalition government, and is a passion project for Robertson and the prime minister, Jacinda Ardern. The two – who are close friends – have been united in their commitment to improving the lives of the country’s most vulnerable people, who they say have been left behind in the race for GDP growth.
“This budget responds to New Zealanders’ values. Yes, we want to be a prosperous country, of course we do, but we also care about who shares in that prosperity and how it is sustainable,” says Robertson, 47. “I genuinely think people’s sense of wellbeing is about the broader sense of the community, of the environment, and of their family and the people around them.”
He describes the overhaul as a “challenging” task, but strongly believes it has resulted in better spending decisions, with every penny allocated having the broader wellbeing of New Zealanders in mind. “It does require a different mindset,” says Robertson. “One of the reasons we [increased spending] is that once you go down this path, you are going to discover huge unmet need.”