Friday, November 19, 2010

Bhikhu Parekh on "active citizenship"

. . . from his speech in the House of Lords that can be read here. The speech concludes with great wisdom (as usual from Bhikhu):

"[. . .] I will end by saying that in order to cultivate a sense of national belonging, there must be equal respect for all citizens. The definition of the nation must include everybody and it must have equal regard to the interests of all its citizens. It should seek and value the opinion of everyone. Freedom of speech is not enough, because I can speak to my heart's content, but if nobody listens, it has no meaning. Listening can stop in a variety of ways. People can filter out my views or close their minds to what I say. Therefore, freedom of speech on my part implies an obligation on the part of others to open their minds to what I say.

In this context, it is very important that we realise that sections of our country are deeply alienated from the wider political system. They feel neglected, ignored, disempowered and angry at their unfair treatment; and they wonder why, when the bankers made a mess of our economy, the ordinary folk have to pay the price. Some of them sulk and withdraw into their own unhappy world. Others provide combustible material for extremist individuals, ideologies and organisations. How do we bring in alienated ethnic minorities, the working classes on council estates and other sections of people who feel resentful at the way in which they have been treated? How do we foster in them a sense of belonging? When we do that, we will have begun to address the question of active citizenship."

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