Somehow the question of civilian vs citizen wafted into my head as I'm now thinking about obligations anyone has towards any social institution.
And of course, this is related to a previous post on paternalistic view of persons under the charge of social institutions in Singapore.
I think the term active in active citizenry is by definition, or at least the ancient, classical Greek definition, superfluous. By definition, a citizen in ancient Greece ought to participate in political, democratic debates. Similarly, by definition a citizen ought to be contributing actively to the affairs of the local community or the nation as a whole. Governments then, from one definition, ought to be allowing these impulses of contribution – which in Singapore, they don't. Initiatives are deemed to be upsetting existing institutional orders, or subjected to tremendous bureaucratic review. This bureaucratic coddling seems paternalistic, and increases the transactional costs of wanting to do something meaningful for the local community.
I am also thinking of an "attention"-centred society. I'm not entirely sure how that works out, could be another victim of selection of ideas (in the sense of natural selection). A citizen needs to be educated on the ways to contribute. I can imagine some sort of grassroots leadership in local neighbourhoods. Politics is ultimately local – how to train local leaders assess the needs of citizens, and to think up ways to address those needs.
If followed through, a true citizenship education is one that involves hands-on work… That really is all there is to it. And the effort involved is tremendous – after all, this is about giving personal attention to the lives of people under the responsibility of the grassroots leader. In the process, one has to pay special attention to the ethical issues on going about the ways to do the right things rightly.
This is capacity-building on a nation-wide scale. As one can observe. And this about the allocation of funds, of manpower, and most importantly, a compassionate attention to the lives of ordinary people.