Saturday, July 30, 2011

Does the "citizen" belong to a class?

The idea of being a citizen is beautifully simple. You are defined exactly like other citizens: Native registered or naturalized members of a state, nation or other political community (Collins English Dictionary, 1994).

Recently, from conversations with activist friends, thinker friends, teacher friends, corporate friends, versatile friends and friends in general, I have begun to rethink class differentiations in Tanzania.

And each time I have thought about it, I end up confused about the assumed roles each of the classes play. Of course, their roles can be specified by the modes of production they interact with, but in Tanzania the gap between the person who benefits most from modes of production and the person who benefits least is extremely large (and larger in other countries). So I end up more frustrated at the gap and the status quo than keen to wake up tomorrow and get to work.

Not that bring frustrated at the status quo and being keen to work are necessarily mutually exclusive. But the motive to do something counts; in the former it takes longer to get up and go somewhere to pick up something to do something with, while in the latter there is a plan of action and it is anticipated, that is, it is waiting to happen.

So when I think of class differentiations in my country, I grow more frustrated than I can make a plan of action.

But when I think of myself as a citizen, the class differentiations disappear, and I am - just like everyone else around me - a registered member of the state.

From the outset, being a citizen doesn't seem to prescribe a responsibility. But a few seconds of thought will yield a question: Being a member implies there are non-members, that is, non-citizens, so doesn't that also mean that there are certain things a citizen does which makes them a citizen, and there are certain things which non-citizens do which make them non-citizens?

We need not look further than that. There are things citizens do that make them citizens in relation to one another. I will save the contemplation of what these things citizens do are for another post, but again, we need not look further than that when thinking of the definition of a citizen relative to the frustration of class struggles.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

On signs

Are signs mere coincidences? Or are coincidences signs?

In the former question, signs in nature and other interactions are explained away because they are seen through the lenses of scientific method. Specifically, they are seen to have a cause, and that cause is seen to have an effect.

In the latter question, the very explanation of a cause and an effect is generous in giving room to some additional cause and some additional effect. Even here, however, we are left only with the terms "cause" and "effect" as opposed to the something else.

Both questions are a point of departure for the consideration that somethings happen for no obvious reason, yet they happen. And their happening is an urgent call to think.

Thank you NW and AE for the contemplation.