Of late as I try to set up a new office, I am a frequent consumer, something I’m not very good at. I regret my deficiencies as a shopper, because I take much pleasure in [other people’s] beautiful things. And while I suspect this will always be so, I also try to reframe it (to look for a plus factor) this being my shtick and all. By default, spending a minimum of time as a consumer gives me more time to be a citizen, or at least try to be. A consumer is identified by a commodity or a product; a citizen is identified by a nation or a community. Certainly the advertising industry, with its omnipresence everywhere from toddler TV to the perimeters around sports fields, would like us to primarily identify ourselves as consumers. Citizenship, however, involves a sense of shared responsibility for our communities and our country, and a willingness to see the difference between the corporate good and the common good. And citizenship is not necessarily patriotism, a traditional virtue which has unfortunately been hijacked as knee-jerk support for national policies, no matter how destructive to our traditional values. “My country, right or wrong”, is as silly as “My watch, right or wrong.”
Timing is everything when it comes to exercising our rights as citizens and participating in what may be called civil society. Often our families and our own well-being should not be put aside to make room for volunteer efforts. There can be times, however, when the common good becomes our personal good, and we find fulfillment in contributing to the health and well-being of our communities near and far.