Citizen State Essay

“What is the relationship between the citizen and the state?”

We are not citizens but subjects, being subjected to the ruling of one power. We claim that we despise the government and that the government is out to get us, but if you think of what our society would be without a government we would be in total chaos. Sometimes we try to free ourselves from the state, and run, just as Tim O’Brien did in “On the Rainy River.” O’Brien didn’t want to be drafted out to a war in which he didn’t believe in, so instead he dropped his life and ran away; just ran away from facing the government.

"My conscience told me to run, but some irrational and powerful force was resisting, like a weight pushing me toward the war. What it came down to, stupidly, was a sense of shame." (O’Brien pg.964) The realization of having to face return and accept the consequences of the government forced O’Brien to acknowledge his fears and return home. He couldn’t escape the government forever. "I survived, but it's not a happy ending. I was a coward. I went to the war." (O’Brien pg.973)

The relationship between the citizen and the state is that both are interdependent to each other. Without the citizen, the state wouldn’t be capable of laws; laws in which the citizen will denounce and/or praise. Citizens are only citizens until they acquire political power. There wouldn’t be a government without the citizens to make up our government. Everyone in the state was a citizen before they were a politician.

Our relationship with the ruling class is as usual, we ignore their rules with all regards. “I cannot for an instant recognize that political organization as my government which is the slave’s government also” (Thoreau pg. 942) The practice of slavery in the united states is the single most hypocritical aspect of the government as far as Thoreau is concerned. If you believe your government is being hypocritical, then why would you obey by their laws?

For instance Malcolm X had a more violent approach to disobedience, whereas MLK Jr. was nearly pacifistic. Jamaica Kincaid in ‘Upon seeing England for the First Time’ also claims that not her government but her views on the country itself have been just as hypocritical. She was raised in Antigua with the views of England being the most prosperous and flourishing of beauty place in the world. However, after maturing and having the mindset that England was a dream, she finally had her chance to visit her fantasy. England turned to be not a dream world but a nightmare; it didn’t live up to any of the expectations she’d had. It was all but the opposite.

“That the idea of something and its reality are often two completely different things is something no one ever remembers; and so when they meet and find that they are not compatible, the weaker of the two, idea or reality, dies.” (Kincaid pg.909) The citizens of England were no different from the state.

Citizens, or people, without rules and laws would lead to total anarchy. Though who is to say that anarchy wouldn’t be profitable for our country (if it is a country at all)? Without laws to follow, laws can’t be broken. If everyone were to fend for themselves and do as they please, there wouldn’t be a need for control. We need order to guide us, but there is no need for complete control. We may be inclined to the government but without the government there wouldn’t be a regulatory economy and without an economy we strive for our own good.

‘That we aren’t a people of a nation, but a citizen of the world.’ (Oliver Goldsmith-National Prejudices) “Among all the famous sayings of antiquity, there is none that does greater honour to the author, or affords greater pleasure to the reader (at least if he be a person of a generous and benevolent heart), than that of the philosopher, who being asked what countryman he was, replies that he was a man of the world.”

(Goldsmith pg. 934) Goldsmith strongly believes that we are citizens of the world and that we only have as much power as we give to ourselves. The government wouldn’t house nearly as much power as it does if we didn’t give it such authority. We, as citizens are responsible for the power the government is capable of. The state relies on this allegiance by the citizen. It’s just like the reliance between the press and the government.

The press too is made up solely of citizens. The press influences what the public thinks about that government by the stories and editorials that they publish, and the government influences what the press publishes by giving out press releases. They depend on each other in a complex manner. The state has control over citizens but no real connection with these citizens. The majority rule cannot determine justice. Thoreau had said in “On the Duty of Civil Disobedience”, “I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterwards.” (Thoreau pg. 941)