We explain what a citizen is and the evolution of this term in history. Also, what does it mean to be a good citizen?
What is Citizen?
The concept of citizen alludes to those who exercise their citizenship, a condition that characterizes the aforementioned civic category and that can be defined as a series of recognitions expressed in rights and obligations, both individual and social.
In everyday life, we use the word citizen to refer to the people who live in a city. This overlapping of ideas arises in the historical concept of the term, which alluded to the inhabitants of the so-called city-state.
In the case of Ancient Greece, the definition did not include all since it was limited to free men who had been born in the city. Therefore, women, enslaved people, and foreigners were outside that category. In this way, an aristocracy (“government of the best”) was reproduced, and citizenship was limited to that.
In the case of the Roman Empire, there were different degrees of citizenship with privileges, being somewhat more inclusive than the Greeks. However, perhaps the culminating moment in this evolution was the French Revolution of 1789, in which the ideas of liberty, equality, and fraternity included all men born in the country, regardless of their social status (except criminals). Some years later, the ‘Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen meant the consolidation of this term extension.
The issue of women’s citizenship and their equality with men would come much later and be much more variable according to each country, with extensions such as the right to vote or equality in working conditions. However, it should be noted that even today, women’s fundamental citizenship rights are not recognized in certain countries.
In sum, the concept of citizen was modified over time: it went from alluding to belonging to a social class or relevance within a community to being born within a country’s territory.
In legal terms, we often speak of citizens who belong to a specific nation. It is a link that creates capacities and obligations which vary according to each country’s legislation. In some cases, citizenship is admitted for the children of citizens, even if they were not born in the country. In this way, many people in the world have dual citizenships, which grants them the same conditions as those born in the place (native citizens).
What does it mean to be a good citizen?
The concept of citizenship, however, also has a side that goes beyond the legal and objective framework. To the extent that it is believed that coexistence in society is built daily by all, the condition of good or bad citizens is given by the behavior of individuals in their relationship with their neighbors.
Here are some examples of what a “good citizen” is expected to do:
- Comply with the country’s obligations (tax, legal, democratic).
- Act with education and respect for others, especially the elderly, children, and the disabled.
- Get involved in the decision-making that must be given within society, participate in the available instances, and organize yourself to express the problems that appear.
- It helps to take care of the environment in which it lives, thus worrying about future generations.
The family and the first-instance relationships are the ones that will most favor the child’s acquisition of these values. Still, the sc is also a critical area in which one learns to be a good citizen. This is why there is, in many countries, a compulsory subject known as civic education or ethics and citizenship education, which helps reinforce these critical concepts for good coexistence.