Citizenship Reimagined - Part 2

In the previous post in this series (available here), we proposed reforming citizenship and residency as part of a systematic reform of the political, legal and social spheres. Aimed at bringing the nation/community’s core purpose of supporting the welfare and survival of its members back in focus. The reforms of citizenship and residency involved the creation of an additional class of residency compared to the current model. Instead of there being temporary visitors, permanent residents and citizens, there would be an additional class of National Subjects between citizens and permanent residents. This post will expand on the explanation offered in part one, exploring how this system would be implemented and work in practice.



Exclusivity

Transitioning from the current system of citizenship, which allows the possession of multiple citizenships and for automatic citizenship, to one that demands exclusivity and active affirmation would undoubtedly be politically challenging. Requiring multiple staged steps. Firstly, the prohibition on multiple citizenships would need to be imposed. In practice, the reform would demand that every citizen who possesses multiple citizenships make a non-revocable choice between keeping their citizenship of the community/nation or maintaining their other citizenships.


This decision would be a complex one as, in many cases, the possession of dual (or more) citizenships can provide real economic benefits to the individual and their families. Allowing them to work and live in those other nations as well as assisting them in maintaining their family and cultural links with their or their ancestors’ homelands. These individuals, regardless of their choice, would remain valued contributors to the community, but they would be forced to choose between affirming their exclusive citizenship to the nation and renouncing all other citizenships, or maintaining their other citizenships and renouncing their citizenship of the nation. If they choose to renounce their citizenship of the nation to keep their other citizenships, they and their children should be automatically granted permanent residency with the right to convert that residency to citizenship or national subject status on the revocation of their other citizenships.


Affirmation

The next stage of the reforms would be to make citizenship not an automatic grant due to the circumstances of birth, but instead, make it an active choice or affirmation. I.e., instead of a person being born a citizen, they would have to choose to become one and earn it through a period of service to the community. The implementation of this program would be as follows. On the completion of the exclusivity reforms, each citizen would be required to affirm or not affirm their citizenship. This would simply require each citizen to make an oath of loyalty to the community/nation. This need not be an unduly onerous requirement but could be done online, in-person, via mail or by any other convenient means. The important thing being that it is at least symbolically an active choice. Any person who chooses not to affirm their citizenship would be granted ‘national subject status’.


Simultaneously with this affirmation process, it should be declared that any individual who has not yet reached their eighteenth year (or is born afterwards) would automatically be ‘national subjects’. These individuals would, as all national subjects, have a right to citizenship. However, to receive their citizenship, they would be required after reaching their sixteenth year to choose to affirm that citizenship and complete a period of national service.


This national service should seek to provide each individual with the basic skills needed to fulfil their duties as a citizen. The minimum training each citizen should receive is:


· Basic Military Training – To provide each citizen with a basic set of skills so that they can defend themselves and the community if needed.

· First Aid and Emergency Response Training – So that they could help themselves, their families and members of their communities in times of need.

· Classes of Critical Thinking – To assist each citizen to be a good judge of situations and information.

· Legal Familiarisation – To provide each citizen with an understanding of how the legal system that they would be part of works and how laws are developed.

· Political Familiarisation – To provide each citizen with an understanding of how the political system that they would be governing functions.

· Instruction on Civil Duties – To encourage each citizen to adopt as a personal standard the protection of each other.


Subsequent to this basic training, which would take around six months if time permitted it, would be beneficial for the intakes to be split into various task-specific groups based on national need or individual preference for the remainder of their service. These groups could be military or civil in nature and include such groups as:


· Military Naval Service - Navy

· Military Ground Service – Army/Airforce

· National Labour Service – Labour for National Construction Projects

· National Wilderness Service – Labour for the maintenance and improvement of National Parks and wilderness areas

· National Health Auxiliary Service – Labour pool to assist hospitals, hospices, ambulance services and nursing homes

· National Foreign Aid Service – Labour pool to assist in Foreign aid missions


Or any other groups that it seems advantageous to employ citizens on national service in. During this time, citizens from all regions, social, religious and socio-economic backgrounds of the nation would mix together. This would assist in the development and maintenance of a sense of national identity and help to foster cross-regional connections. If designed and managed right, it would result in citizens who, on completion of their service, would be fit, healthy and united by a sense of purpose, belonging and ownership of their nation. They would have not only left their home towns, cities or suburbs, but have travelled extensively around the nation and seen and experienced much that they would otherwise have not. But much more than that, because their citizenship cost them something, it would be valued more.


The sense of ownership and personal responsibility to the nation/community, which such a system would foster, would be extremely beneficial to the maintenance of a more direct form of democracy such as suggested in the series on democracy of the hundreds. Where it is the citizens themselves who decide on what laws rule them and what legislation is passed or not passed. Furthermore, it could be expected that the citizens would slowly develop a true sense of camaraderie with each other due to the shared experiences and mutual and reciprocal values instilled in them during their service. This camaraderie would be similar to that shared between ex-service members who at least, in my experience, on the recognition that the other has also served, share an instant and mutual respect and friendliness.


Mutual Recognition

The final element of the residency reforms would be to incorporate mutual recognition of citizens. This reform refers to two distinct concepts: one, the institution of symbols, modes of dress or other markers, which allow citizens to recognise each other, and two, the ability of the community to rescind citizenship in cases where the citizen has egregiously breached the minimum expectations of the community.


Symbols of Recognition

To indicate the symbolic freedom and mutual recognition of citizens from non-citizens, it would be beneficial in such a system to encourage the citizens to adopt the wearing of symbols that would indicate their citizenship or freedom. Examples of this practice historically include the wearing of the Toga in Rome, the Phrygian Cap in the Balkans and the carrying of a dagger or sword in the Holy Roman Empire to name just a few. In each case, the intent was to indicate to others that the wearer was a free person or a citizen.


As these worn symbols serve the role of publicly affirming the value, importance and duties of citizenship, it is important that they stand out from the general accoutrements of general society and be symbolic of the duties of citizenship. The symbols which best fit this purpose are:

· the ring and

· the dagger.


The ring has a long history in western civilisation, symbolising devotion, membership and an agreement between parties. Thus, it is an ideal form for a symbol of citizenship. Each ring could include various runic symbols that represent the virtues and duties of citizenship and the particular national character. Serving as a symbolic reminder of the duties that each citizen has sworn to uphold and (like the wedding ring) the chain, which binds each citizen together. There is also a potential that the ring could be bio-coded to serve as a form of ID for the citizen (though with rapid technological changes, opalescence may be an issue).


Daggers also have a long history as ceremonial symbols of nobility, freedom or independence. In addition, as the dagger historically was primarily a defensive weapon, it well represents the duty of a citizen to defend each other and the community. Thus, coupled with the ring, the dagger would serve as powerful totems, reminding each citizen of their duties and oaths to each other and the wider community.


The wearing of these particular symbols of citizenship should be restricted to citizens only with strong penalties attached to discourage misuse. It would be my expectation that the dagger would only be worn on ceremonial or formal occasions, but that the ring or jewellery fashioned to incorporate the symbols of citizenship would likely be worn more generally. These symbolic gifts would be provided to each citizen on the completion of their national service and be available for purchase by any other citizen. In addition, as a recognition for their service on completion of their period of service, each citizen should be issued with a medal such as the Australian Service Medal, perhaps modified depending on which national service corp they served with.


Revocation of Recognition

The second element of these reforms would be to allow for the revocation of citizenship in cases where a citizen has committed a heinous crime or betrayed the nation. This revocation of the rights of citizenship and downgrading to the status of a national subject would form partly a symbolic shaming of the criminal as well as excluding individuals convicted of serious crimes from the governance of the nation. This revocation should be ceremonial, requiring the citizen to be brought before their peers and have their ring clipped and their dagger blade broken to symbolise the severing of the bonds of citizenship as well as their disgrace.


It is important to note that this would not be a form of exile resulting in expulsion from the nation, nor would it result in the individual being rendered stateless. The convict would be allowed to remain in and work in the nation, however, they would lose the additional rights possessed by citizens. This should be held as a severe punishment to be inflicted only in cases of murder, rape, child sexual assaults, treason or repeated severe criminal convictions that make them a danger to the wider community. As an aside, if a citizen was to renounce their citizenship, they would need to attend an embassy or police station to clip their ring and break their dagger blade to symbolise their renouncing of their duties and bonds.


Conclusion

The reforms to the institution of citizenship and the classes of residency suggested in this series while being difficult to implement, are nevertheless achievable in the long run. If implemented, they have the potential to radically refocus the nation/community away from the narrow self-interest of individualism, which considers only the self. Instead, moving towards a more enlightened form of self-interest that recognises the benefits provided to the individual by membership of the community and thus refrains from actions that harm the communal welfare (see The Framework for Moral Decision Making).


Furthermore, these reforms, by promoting exclusivity in citizenship and developing through sacrifice a greater sense of ownership of the nation by each citizen, would have the most laudable effects on citizen engagement. This increased engagement coupled with reforms to the legal and political system, allowing for an active and decisive role in the administering of the state by each citizen, would be likely to result in a citizen body who, compared to now, was politically and socially engaged with the welfare of their own community. Gone would be the passivity and torpidity of the modern citizen content to leave the politicians, judges and media to make the laws. Instead, each citizen conscious of their duties and democratic sovereignty would take a personal interest in the communal welfare.



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