There has been an upward tick in visits during the last two posts that dealt with the difference between nationalism and shared personal feeling. It appears that most of us are self-evaluated based on self-adopted, doctrinaire rules that are supposed to yield a successful life. By their nature, these rules of life are self-oriented and place each of us in an isolated role where our own achievement is the measure of our social worth (those without jobs are unworthy; I have a job therefore I am worthy).
This strategy for defining meaningfulness for ourselves becomes aggravated in times of rapid, significant change in society. It seems that our assumed measures of self-value don’t work as well; especially when we see success in other parts of our society. This is the insecure energy that feeds populism and identity politics. We blame our social structures for not accepting what we thought were ‘inalienable’ rights and values. There are real conditions that feed the flame of insecurity; for example, living longer than our generational culture, a drop in financial security, changes in religious culture, and artificial constraints to personal dignity brought on by racism and class stratification.
We forget that we belong. We are charter members of our civic population. We belong despite the fact that we are conservative, liberal, greedy, selfless, ill, jobless, persons of different classes, cultures and races, green card citizens, or immigrants. We belong to a civic organization, from township to nation, which provides a philosophy of life that values every resident as equal. In some civic organizations, belonging may require the experience of commonly applied severe and brutal abuse as in Syria or Venezuela. The United States philosophy, however, stated in our Declaration of Independence and iterated in our Constitution, requires a working democracy where every vote counts and thereby provides life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for everyone. As the reader may know, life ain’t perfect.
Having a feeling of belonging introduces a feeling of equality which is important to each individual. Despite the inequalities of society and opportunity, one can always say “I am an American citizen – no less important than any other citizen.” Belonging to an idea rather than an artificial doctrine is what Bono’s message is all about.
Mariner, long an advocate of practiced empathy, sees a link between civic-mindedness and empathy. Civic-mindedness acknowledges an equal basic value for every citizen; every citizen is a member of the greater idea – which generates a feeling of belonging even under different individual circumstances.
When a citizen quits belonging and instead identifies with an adopted value system – as the Congress of the United States has – the feeling of citizenship and belonging to the US suffers. Suffered enough, citizens form counter values and adopt populism as a remedy. As the mariner is doing in an effort to find his garden among the weeds, the reader, too, should rummage about looking for the feeling that you belong to your country along with everyone else – despite your personal evaluations.