The Conscientious Citizen

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Vermeer, Johannes. Girl with a Pearl Earring (Meisje met de parel). 1665-1667, oil on canvas. Mauritshuis, The Hague.

In the American Democracy, it’s our moral imperative to develop the youth into good citizens, for citizens will determine the country’s actions, progress, and enduring values. Good citizenship starts with ethical thinking.

Therefore, we must assist the youth in becoming conscientious adults—a pedigree of people who can think critically, morally, and competently. The conscientious adult is critical but not cynical, collaborative but not coercive, inclusive while unafraid of difference, favorable of equitable structures without undermining self-interest. If there is confrontation, it’s with systems of injustice—those old institutions and habits.

We must also develop the youth into global citizens—to see this planet not as a competitive arena to exploit but a community to improve. Every person can be both independent and interdependent—not only promoting their own life, liberty, and happiness, but actively promoting the dignity of others.

girl with a pearling earring 2

In Desmorious, I want to engage this process (making conscientious citizens) by examining politics, philosophy, pop culture, scientific inquiry, and story. Especially important are the Sciences and the Humanities. Both offer moral instruction and the tools for truth-testing; both are necessary to prevent the demise of virtue and critical thought in the United States. To ignore either is to invite disorientation, perhaps disaster.

Russell Kirk in “The Moral Imagination” (1981):

Every major form of literary art has taken for its deeper themes the norms of human nature. What Eliot calls “the permanent things”—the norms, the standards—have been the concern of the poet ever since the time of Job, or ever since Homer: “the blind man who sees,” sang of the wars of the gods with men. Until very recent years, men took it for granted that literature exists to form the normative consciousness—that is, to teach human beings their true nature, their dignity, and their place in the scheme of things. Such was the endeavor of Sophocles and Aristophanes, of Thucydides and Tacitus, of Plato and Cicero, of Hesiod and Vergil, of Dante and Shakespeare, of Dryden and Pope.

Carl Sagan in The Demon-Haunted World (1995):

Science is more than a body of knowledge; it is a way of thinking. I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time – when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness.]

Here’s to Kirk’s moral imagination and Sagan’s baloney detection kit, to the importance of a critical mind mixed with a creative spirit—a toast to the conscientious citizen and to the future of the world.