June 19, 2018 Common Good

The Difference Between Citizen and Consumer

A citizen is one who is a participant in a democracy, regardless of their legal status. It is one who chooses to create the life, the neighborhood, the world from their own gifts and the gifts of others. Many who have the full legal rights assigned by their country continue to wait for others to provide them with satisfaction and contribute little to democracy or the well-being of their community. At the same time, there are major contributors to community and democracy who do not enjoy the legal status of “citizenship.” [Nevertheless, these people still] function as full participants in what is necessary for a democracy to work.

A consumer is one who has surrendered to others the power to provide what is essential for a full and satisfied life. This act of surrender goes by many names: client, patient, student, audience, fan, shopper. All customers, not citizens. Consumerism is not about shopping, but about the transformation of citizens into consumers.

Citizenship is a hotly debated political subject. Look for ways to participate in this discussion by contacting elected officials and supporting grassroots organizations assisting refugees and undocumented neighbors. As you do, consider, how might I call everyone I meet into deeper participation in our community? How might I loosen the grip of consumer culture on my life, noting and offering “care” in ways that move beyond transaction? 

 

McKnight, John. The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods (p. 7). Berrett-Koehler Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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