As Americans we enjoy the benefits of our well ordered country with good roads, schooling for our children, and a government which, while not perfect, keeps everything running. Are we supposed to sit back and enjoy while others do the work? Of course that is an option, but it is not the stuff of a good citizen. So, how does a person act as a good citizen? A good citizen is involved in society because he or she believes in working to help others. This aid can take many forms.
The most basic path is to follow laws, pay taxes to help the country continue, and stay informed about public needs and officials’ positions on these issues so the citizen can be a knowledgeable voter (Government of the people: Role of the Citizen 2000). But all this is armchair citizenship, things which don’t require much action or concern. How can the average person be more than just an observer of society? One way is to learn about public needs and work to make a difference.
With the internet, a person has a way to learn out about things which need changing in their neighborhood and to find groups to join to help the problem (Government of the people: Role of the Citizen 2000). Whether it is neighborhood cleanup, school reform, or civil matters, the good citizen steps up and lends a helping hand. Now that we have established what makes a good local citizen, let’s extend our view to the world. How can a person be a good global citizen? It isn’t so different from being a good neighborhood citizen.
When a person sees the suffering in the world, instead of thinking how awful it is then turning to something else, a global citizen does things to help. An example of global citizenship is the outpouring of worldwide help following the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004. On December 26, 2004, a tsunami hit the Indian Ocean and brought death to the shorelines near the epicentre (Wikipedia 2004). The total loss of life was tallied at 227,898 people, making it the deathliest tsunami in recorded history () When the world heard of this tragedy, people all over the world stepped up to help.
Of course, only a few could leave their homes and go work in the field, but many gave money to aid in relief efforts. The amount given was staggering, with millions of dollars donated by the average citizen to various private organizations. One extreme example is how citizens in the UK gave a total of $600,000,000, the same as $10 dollars for every person in the country (Wikipedia 2004). However, need knows no end and now our world is in the middle of another tragedy. The monsoon rains of Pakistan are bringing death and misery as they flood the country and destroy towns and crops.
The death toll as of August 20th was 1,497 with the number of people needing aid around 20 million (Sanina 2010). This brings the needy to more than the 2004 tsunami, the Kashmir earthquake, Nargis Cyclone, and the Haitian earthquake combined. While many counties have promised millions, more is needed (Sanina 2010). The citizens of the world have to step up again. So, what can the average person do? While most of us can’t book a ticket to Pakistan, there is much we can do to help. First, we can give our own money to aid organizations to help relieve the suffering.
But, doing just this is rather like being that armchair citizen who throws money at the problem then forgets the suffering. Everyone knows that we can go door to door or put up a can in stores and restaurants, but that is just a first step. We can take our concern up a notch by raising public awareness. By organizating sessions where information can be given and money collected, one person can have a much bigger impact. No one likes to be lectured to, so a better approach to raising awareness is to have fun and interesting fund raising events to accomplish your goal. For adults, there could be dinners, raffles, sporting events, etc.
to get others interested. But, that is leaving one group out; what about our kids? No one is too young to understand the importance of helping others and kids can play a big part. They can have bike races, skating days, or anything they can think of where they can take pledges for how much they perform, rather like the bike-a-tons we all remember from school. Also, kids can give talent shows; fairs in the parks for other kids, and many other things; the possibilities are endless. There are many opportunities to help and the need is great. So I end this talk with one question; what are you willing to do?
References US Department of State 2000, Government of the people: Role of the Citizen, viewed 23 August 2010, <http://countrystudies. us/united-states/government-18. htm>. Wikipedia 2004, 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami, viewed 23 August 2010, <http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/2004_Indian_Ocean_earthquake_and_tsunami#Death_toll_and_casualties>. Sanini, Mila 2010, ‘Pakistan crisis a ‘slow-moving tsunami’, a UN chief says. ’ CNN, 20 August 2010, viewed 20 August 2010, <http://edition. cnn. com/2010/WORLD/asiapcf/08/20/pakistan. floods/index. html#fbid=N9pVbbieuoC&wom=false>.