the good citizen and the good person

(In Gainesville, FL, en route to Orlando)–Yesterday, as I guest-taught a University of Florida class on “redefining citizenship,” several questions arose that I found interesting. Here are the questions, with answers that the students suggested (or that I have added myself):

1. A life of very active civic engagement and commitment is …

    a. No better than any other life, as long as each life meets some basic ethical standards such as not violating just laws.

    b. A good life, but no better than several other good lives, such as a life devoted to caring for family or creating art.

    c. Equivalent to a good life. If you devote yourself to art or to God (for example), you are doing it for the good of the world, so you are civically engaged.

2. If you are a resident of the People’s Republic of China today …

    a. You can be a good person and lead a good life, but you cannot be a good citizen, because that means exercising democratic rights and powers, which do not exist. You are not a citizen; you are a subject.

    b. You can and should be a citizen of China as a democracy. Since China is not a democracy, you are a good citizen to the extent that you fight the current regime in favor of democracy.

    c. Many people in China are good citizens. That means that they promote the common good by serving others, joining groups, fighting corruption, and supporting the Rule of Law.

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