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Forward Thinking: What Civic Responsibility means to me.

January 16, 2013

Libby Anne at Love, Joy, Feminism , in collaboration with that Dorito fueled Nietzsche freak Daniel Fincke at Camels with Hammers, has launched a new blogging project; Forward Thinking: A Values Development Project  .  From her introduction:

Like many other bloggers, I spend most of my time criticizing the ideas of others – toxic religious beliefs, patriarchal gender roles, the elevation of virginity, and the agenda of the religious right – and comparatively less time building positive alternatives. While it’s critical to contest values and ideas we find harmful, it’s also important to build up positive alternatives, and it’s that understanding that birthed Forward Thinking.

On the first Monday of each month I will offer a prompt and invite input from readers and fellow bloggers alike. Two weeks later, on the third Monday, I will post a round-up of responses, complete with links and short excerpts from blog posts and especially insightful comments, and direct readers to Dan Finke’s blog, where he will post the next prompt. Then, on the first Monday of the following month, Dan will post a round-up of responses and direct readers back to my blog for the following prompt. In this way we will cover two prompts per month, one on each blog.

I personally think that this is an excellent idea. As I remarked at Daniel’s place, it is always nice for those of us with BAD (Blogging Anxiety Disorder) to have a prompt to get us off our ass and blogging. Because I could be killing monsters right now and that would be much  more relaxing… hang on… I’ll be right back…

(Intermission… accompanied by the sounds of horrible amounts of video game violence)

Ok, We are back. The first subject in the series is ” What Does Civic Responsibility Mean to You?

Well ok then. What does “civic responsibility” mean to us here at Raising Hellions?   Since our focus tends towards secular parenting issues, lets walk down that path and see what is revealed to us.

For starters, Civic Responsibility , as defined by The Free Dictionary, is merely “the responsibilities of a citizen”.  At first this doesn’t sound too helpful, but from the point of view of a secular parent it is actually quite salient. I see my most important Civic Responsibility is to raise citizens.  I don’t mean that in a creepy dystopian science fiction fashion, but as a practical matter of raising my children with the knowledge and skills to participate meaningfully in the life of the civic community around them.  I need to encourage them to engage with our civic institutions in a constructive manner, starting with their school and radiating outward to the wider community. I intend to make sure that they are aware of how the various cogs and levers of our community function and impress upon them how inescapably interconnected we are with the community around us.  From the post office to the community council and the city arts institutions to the local news teams to the little league to the health inspector to the community college, all of our various and varied institutions connect and support each other in some way, sometimes in ways that are really obvious and sometimes in ways that are really obscure.

This is especially important to us as secular parents because we have chosen to avoid the parallel institutions provided by the church.  I want my community to have a vibrant public sphere because I am intentionally avoiding the alternative provided by religion.  Part of having a vibrant public sphere is raising children who are aware of its existence and invested in participating in it.

I will admit that much of what I am talking about is aspirational. I certainly am not the best embodiment of civic responsibility myself.  But I aspire to do better and I aspire to instill in my kids a sense that we all can do better.  In fact I think that last sentence may very well sum up a big part of my thoughts on the subject at hand. “We all can do better” is the basic  message of  the progressive movement, of which I think the secular and atheist movement is a part. Civic Responsibility is the embodiment of how we come together in order to do better.  Or to paraphrase Bill S. Preston, Esquire; how we can “Be Excellent to each other.”



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