A shared sense of place in the world

Sitting on the stairs opposite the French embassy in the afternoon I enter my final debate. We are watching as a huge trail of French people queue around the embassy and back again waiting to vote. The amount of people is astonishing. I later learn from my contact Elise, at FUNDESO who spent an hour and a half in the queue, that she joined other voters recruited by desperate embassy staff to count the piles of votes until way beyond midnight.

A phenomenal 85% voted in the French general elections. We watch as all kinds of people of all ages release huge sighs of relief as they leave the embassy; this is a huge success for political engagement. The questions of the weekend follow me and continue, the politics PhD students I am with wonder how it is possible for the U.K, a monarchy, to talk about citizenship when the British are subjects and not citizens? “The U.K. is a constitutional monarchy”, I hear myself say. These simple, fascinating and, often wonderfully difficult questions have made this such a valuable experience and so refreshing.

I still have lots of unanswered questions to take back with me………….

Views expressed on this blog are not necessarily those of the Citizenship Foundation.

One thought on “A shared sense of place in the world

  1. The Madrid discussions are interesting indeed, especially the debate around ‘citizen’ or ‘subject’, one that we have had pitched to us at the Foundation on many occasions. Of course, it depends not on what kind of state you live in (monarchy or republic) but on what kind of citizenship you mean. If we define citizenship in the narrow legal sense of status, then the suggestion that subjects cannot be citizens has a technical truth about it. But that is not what we mean by citizenship – we mean a citizenship of process: individuals engaging in society, effecting change (or seeking to effect change) in society or in a given community or institutional setting, building and rebuiding their senses of identity, belonging, commitment in so doing.

    Legally, those of us who live in monarchies may by the strictest of definitions be subjects but all of us who live in democracies have the opportunity (and some would say the oblgation) to be citizens.

    Whether we take that opportunity as often as we should is another thing, and whether we sufficiently encourage and empower our young to be citizens is a moot point. Citizenship Education on our school curriculum (an innovation that in England is as recent as 2002) is a good start and many schools and young people are now reaping the benefits. But, as the daily news bulletins remind us, we have a long, long way to go.

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