Central to my work over the last 23 years has been the idea of citizenship. One central idea has been that the organisation of the social care system (and many other public services) operates in a way that is hostile to citizenship: support is a gift coming from, and defined by, the professionals funded by the state.
In order to feel true gratitude (the case of friendship being set aside), I have to think that it is not out of pity, sympathy or caprice that I am being treated well, it is not as a favour or privilege, nor as a natural result of temperament, but a desire to do what justice demands. Accordingly he who treats me thus wishes that all in my situation may be treated in the same way by all who are in his own.
Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace
Whatever our circumstances we can choose to see each other as equals – as citizens.
But the fly in the ointment is obvious if we think about this politically. Citizens were never granted citizenship by their kings or oligarchic rulers. Citizenship had to be fought for. In this sense citizenship cannot be a gift.
Over the past few years I have watched ideas I helped realise and the concepts which I helped define lose their way. I know this is partly just the effect of reality. You can imagine things – but reality will always be different. You can build small things and control them – but large things will have their own logic, way beyond your control. And that is as it should be. Life will not be controlled.
But there is also a sense in which my own ideas are failing because they require a different kind of political support – and that support is missing. It is okay to work ‘under the radar’ but in the end it is the political process within which ideas will be developed, defined and instituted.
How the idea of citizenship can become the reality of citizenship must, I think, be a task of citizenship. That is, it must be a political happening.