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Weekly 3: Citizens are essential workers

Summary: Find the others. Curb your enthusiasm. Don't be a hero. (~2 min read)

Idea Journal Weekly 3

April 26 · Issue #136 · View online
We combine 3 ideas to help you think differently and be more creative.

Summary: Find the others. Curb your enthusiasm. Don’t be a hero. (~2 min read)

#1. Citizens, not consumers
Communications professor Fred Turner says in an interview on the Team Human podcast that a crucial step to becoming a more effective citizen is to stop thinking of yourself as merely a consumer. 
The consumer mindset is similar to a toddler’s: I want the things I want, and the world should provide them for me.
We develop this mindset as a result of living in a society largely driven by consumerism.
By contrast, a citizen knows that seeking to understand and engage with people who want different things is inherent in the democratic process – whether the context is a national election or a local school board meeting.
Turner acknowledges that it can be challenging to find common ground with people who have different motivations and views.
But that civic work is necessary, and it teaches us an important lesson about democracy: “that we can do things together, even when we don’t agree.”
#2. Citizens, not cheerleaders
Author and researcher Sarah Kendzior writes that low enthusiasm for politicians is a virtue.
The absence of enthusiasm for political figures can be a sign that the democratic process is working – “provided sensible caution does not transform into knee-jerk distrust and other forms of nihilism and zealotry.”
She notes that as citizens, “we are not meant to be cheerleaders for presidents; they work for us.”
And as voters, we are not obligated to like or be enthusiastic about a given candidate. Our job is to evaluate them on their words and actions. It’s an exercise in critical analysis, not choosing friends.
On the other hand, excessive enthusiasm for a political figure can be dangerous. It’s a pathway to demagoguery. 
As Kendzior puts it: “Blind loyalty, in the end, is merely blindness.”
#3. Citizens, not heroes
Marketing guru Seth Godin writes that citizens live by the following rule: “If everyone did what I’m about to do, would it lead to a useful outcome?”
For Godin, citizens don’t vote for party over fact. They do the right thing, even if the short-term cost is high.
Citizens look beyond themselves and beyond the present. They’re committed to the long-term.
Godin notes that we sometimes call citizens heroes, but this is a shame – “their actions should be commonplace, not rare.”
Quote of the week
“We can learn from these dreadful days that stupidity and injustice are lethal; that, in a democracy, being a citizen is essential work; that the alternative to solidarity is death. After we’ve come out of hiding and taken off our masks, we should not forget what it was like to be alone.”
- Author and journalist George Packer in his essay We Are Living in a Failed State
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