Citizen is a brand. A brand for a watch. And maybe this is the only way „citizen“ should be used.
The expression and going with it the concept of citizen is around for quite some time. So it might be better to talk of concepts in the plural. Concepts formulate in different ways the social role, its rights and duties of the individual. As ideas of society changed, so did change the concept of the citizen. Ideas of society and its structure, the nature of the human being, and his role in society, being a citizen, are depending on each other, are inextricably linked. The ideas of how society should be, of how the ideal society should be, depend on the formulation of the ideal way of participation, of being a citizen – an ideal society consists of ideal citizens, and ideal citizens need an ideal society. The argument is circular, one of mutual dependency. The one is not possible without the other.

But these days, observing the political talk, the arts, science, the publication of numerous surveys taken, the thought could occur that we do not imagine an ideal society anymore. That we do not dream of utopia anymore. Looking back in history and the dystopian experiences that have been made this might be not a bad thing, especially since these old dreams were always ideal in the sense of perfect. And perfect might be not human, after all.
So the dream is over. We seem to accept the imperfect society – some maybe even supposing that the imperfect is the perfect in disguise. But if we postulate this society, what sense lies in talking of members of this society as citizens, as ideal, as perfect members of this society?  It makes sense if one is still dreaming. But it does not make sense out of the mouths of too many politicians. We are treated by our governments and bureaucracies in the best case as consumers, in the worst as a nuisance. And regardless of the political structure of a given state, politicians seem to adopt a patronizing attitude – be it by not even allowing votes, be it by forging votes, be it by expecting a vote to be voted „the right way“. If this does not happen, then the voters have not been able to understand, the matter at hand has been too complex. And they should be citizens? Ideal members of society?
So the use of the word citizen in this context is an accusation: you are citizens, you should vote this way. And if you would be citizens, knowing what is good for you, then we would have a better society – maybe even an ideal society. The connection between society and citizen described at the beginning of this text looses its circularity: the citizen is suddenly a prerequisite for a better, the ideal society. But since no thought is wasted on formulating a better, or even an ideal society, why waste a thought on the citizen? The talk of citizen has of course always followed a political agenda – but the only political agenda these days in the use of the word citizen seems one of disciplining. Of telling us that we never will reach that ideal, and that therefore we should obey. But then one should not talk of citizens, but of children, lost in the dark. Additionally the use of citizen as described above also insinuates that there is only the government and us, the citizens. It is a simple tool not to have to talk about other actors on the political and social stage that influences the government, society, our daily lives.
So the talk of the citizen turned from a thinking about possibilities how to structure our society, our living together, our daily lives, of where to go as a society and as individuals, of an ideal to strive for, to an accusation, to a shortcoming on our part, to an ideal that basically only implies its unattainability. We citizens that are not living up to being good citizens, not taking up our responsibilities and that therefore have to be lead, have to be taken by our hands, all while being the only ones responsible for the current state of affairs.

If we are not able and willing to say and think about in what kind of society we live and in what kind of society we would like to live, what our roles might be, who we are and who we would like to be, what our rights are, where our responsibilities lie, and to admit also our imperfections, then i can not be and don’t want to be called a citizen.

This is why the word citizen maybe should only be used as a brand name for a watch.

text by dkb. thanks to charlie and rayelle

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