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 a citizen?
The concept of citizen refers to those who exercise their citizenship , a condition that characterizes the aforementioned civic category and can be defined as a series of acknowledgments expressed in rights and obligations, both individual and social.
In everyday life we use the word citizen to refer to 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 them all, since it was limited to free men who were born in the city . Women, slaves and foreigners, therefore, were out of that category. In this way an aristocracy was reproduced (“government of the best”), and citizenship was limited to that.
In the case of the Roman Empire, there were different degrees of privileged citizenship , being somewhat more inclusive than the Greek. However, perhaps the peak moment in this evolution was the French Revolution of 1789, in which the ideas of freedom , equality and fraternity included all men born in the country, regardless of their social status (except criminals). The ‘Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen’, some years later, meant the consolidation of this extension of the term.
The issue of women’s citizenship and their equality with men would come much later, and would 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 in certain countries the fundamental rights of citizenship to women are not recognized.
In sum, the concept of citizen was modified over time : it went from referring to belonging to a social class or a relevance within a community to the mere fact of being born within the territory of a country.
In legal terms, people who belong to a specific nation are often spoken of . It is a link that creates capacities and obligations, and that according to the legislation of each country varies. In some cases, citizenship is admitted for the children of citizens, even if they were not born in the country. In this way, there are many people in the world who have double citizenships, who grant them the same conditions as those born there (native citizens).
What does it mean to be a good citizen?
The concept of citizenship, however, also has a side that exceeds the legal and objective framework. To the extent that it is believed that the coexistence in society is something that is built on a daily basis among all , the condition of good or bad citizen is given by the behavior of individuals in their relationship with their neighbors.
Let’s look at some examples of what “a good citizen” is expected to accomplish:
- Comply with the country’s obligations (tax, legal, democratic).
- Act with education and respect for others, especially with the elderly, children and the disabled.
- Engage in the decision-making that must be taken within society, participating in the instances at its disposal and organizing to express the problems that appear.
- It helps to take care of the environment in which he lives, thus worrying about the next generations.
The family and relationships first instance are the ones that encourage the child to acquire these values , but the school is an important area in which you learn to be a good citizen . That is why there is, in many countries, a compulsory subject known as civic education or ethical and citizen training, which helps to reinforce these key concepts for a good coexistence among all.