Western civilisation is grounded upon Enlightenment thinking that argues that man is an island. Free, rational, independent.
Individuality and freedom are inalienable rights. Intellect is more superior to emotion. Abstract triumphs concrete work. Citizenship is a right that expects contribution.
The ideal citizen is someone who participates in the democratic process. Capable of understanding the affairs of the state in order to bring their representatives to account. Actively doing their part for the good of the nation.
What happens to the inherent rights grounded in human equals rational when the majority of citizens are unable to meet this standard?
I’m referring to the overworked taxi driver, the exhausted single mother, the drug addict, the child at school, the elderly with dementia, the depressed, the exploited nurse. When do these citizens have the opportunity to be the citizen?
Are they excluded from the democratic process by virtue of being overwhelmed and overworked? What is democracy if only a privileged few have the true capacity to engage?
Are we excluding individuals based on the fact that they aren’t whole individuals? If a person can’t stand on their own two feet, according to Western reasoning, this person is less of an individual and deserves different treatment?
We see this with the intrusion into the lives of children and young adults, as well as the elderly, because they aren’t considered able to handle the freedom and liberty that is meant to be birth right.
We see this with the lack of consultation of minority groups because they aren’t considered experienced enough to develop their own working solutions for their struggles.
We see this with the way those diagnosed with mental illness are often stripped of their parental or work rights because they are deemed unfit to perform.
Who isn’t constrained and controlled by a paternal state that treats those who cannot be independent as burdens? Are they burdens? Or are we living an arrogant fantasy that denies vulnerability?
That strips humans of their nature as social, emotional, weak creatures? Man is not an island. Man is a slave of God. Man is incapable of surviving alone. Even when alone, man is informed by their familial, environmental influences that shaped their personality.
Instead of man is an island, why can’t we humble ourselves to accept that we are dependable. Why can’t we embrace our imperfections? Why can’t we begin to value our need to compliment each other?
When God distributes our personality traits and skills, He ensures that society has all the needed attributes for it to function independently and sustainably. But he did not implant these skills in each of us separately. He forces us to be in need. To depend.
Enlightenment thinkers fought for independence. What about the right to depend without stigma? For an elderly person to be in need? For a child to be embraced without strings attached? For a disabled person to deserve dignified treatment?
Just because someone is incapable of showing gratitude, of monitoring and accounting that their rights are met, it doesn’t mean they are less worthy of being viewed as whole.
Whole isn’t the man who can venture into the world. Whole is our community when it appreciates its members.
Who of us is an individual? I personally, as a mother and wife, find that I depend and I cooperate, and that life becomes burdensome unnecessarily if I am to live as the ideal citizen.
A functioning democracy cannot exclude its citizens by idealising an impossible kind of citizen as a participant. Democracy is rule by the people – together. It is only in deliberation and cooperation that we can deliver a just society that dignifies all its members.