Thursday, 28 September 2006

Who are the citizens ?

I see the BBC website today reports that UK schools are failing to teach citizenship.In the 'have your say' section there is a predictable chorus of Middle-England bigotry. 'Why not a flag in every classroom and start the day with the national anthem - it works so well in US schools ?'

Blairites call this 'respect' - the same thing the Thatcherites used to call 'traditional values'. Either way it doesn't add up. You don't have citizens in a monarchy; we are subjects and our national anthem is 'God Save The Queen'. Even in a republic where the concept of citizens does belong, there are a few inconvenient problems.

All the great republics were founded on the existence of a disenfranchised underclass. Athenians had slaves outside the body politic, as of course did the US founding fathers, and even the Jacobins didn't embrace universal suffrage. The same is true today, whether it is migrant workers in the 'black' economy or rigged electoral registers in Florida.

You can't teach citizenship without citizens. And nobody is a citizen unless we all are.

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