What is “Active Citizenship”?
Upon our engagement as a group we decided to collectively agree on 5 topics that we could identify with Active Citizenship; what follows is my own conceptualised opinion of what these 5 characteristics are and what they entail.
The first characteristic that was identified is the fact it is an ongoing, long-term process. This is found in the word “Active” – It is not merely a once of action that ends, it is however the process in which we seek to achieve our goals.
Secondly, it was noted that in order to be an active citizenship you would need to be informed. This means that you should be aware that there is knowledge and information available and act accordingly to obtain this knowledge. This can be done through various manners but it is of vital importance that you as a citizen are informed with regards to your rights and responsibilities as this would ensure that action is taken when these rights are not being provided for.
The third characteristic identified with Active Citizenship was the need for a collective conscious. This, in essence, is understanding and being aware that you are not only an individual in your community, but that your needs and desires are shared with those around you. Individuals who are aware of this realise how much easier it is too stand together towards reaching a common goal.
The Fourth characteristic is the fact that Active Citizenship is multi-dimensional. This entails that are various means in which a person can be an active citizen. Ways in which a person can chose to be active can vary from outreaches, community service, living environmentally-friendly or partaking in protests or strikes. It is important to note here that all individuals are unique and can therefore contribute to society in different ways. Not everyone has the same interests and through each individual bringing their own unique contribution the idea of a collective conscious can be achieved and society is able to benefit as a whole.
Lastly it is important that Active Citizenship has a constructive approach. The bigger picture of things should always be kept in mind and we should realise the effects that our actions may have on others. The means of the actions should be positive and seek to be to the benefit of society.
To summarise the above characteristics in one point I would say that being an active citizen entails that you actively seek to benefit the community as a whole through working towards a collective conscious in which your actions are constructive and selfless. It can be done through various means and individuals should get involved in what they feel passionate about and what they feel they can help benefit others in return.
Is Active Citizenship always beneficial to democracy?
I personally feel that from what we have seen recently on our campuses that it would be impossible to say that Active Citizenship is always beneficial. While the intentions of various movements or protests might have good intentions the way in which some of these actions are played out can be harmful to society and to our countries democracy. Violent and destructive means in which some movements take in order to get their message across causes more pain and hurt than it does results. If we take the incident in Vuwani for example, although the actions taken intended to send out a clear message the effects of the actions taken have a long-standing impact on those in the community. Students are being denied the opportunity to receive any education now and pupils and educators feel unsafe in their communities. This is not beneficial for the country and highlights the flaws in the democratic system; that the needs and demands of society are not always achieved merely through having a representative government.