Review of True Citizenship
Reviewer: Dr. Simon Duffy, Centre for Welfare Reform
True Citizenship is a guide to exploring the meaning of citizenship from the inside out. It offers a framework of values to live by and it explores how those values can be used by individuals, families, professionals, services and commissioners in order that all of us can be better citizens.
At the heart of the book is the framework for citizenship, which is rooted in a commitment to seven values:
1. Support and care
4.For future generations
5.Freedom of heart and mind
6. Hope and courage
7.Productive living and working
As is obvious, this is not a simplistic account of the `point' of human existence. Instead it is an attempt to provide a broad and holistic framework for reflection on the integrity of your own values - do they make sense and do you live by them?
This is a development of the approach to values that is found in Anna Eliatamby's earlier book Principled Leadership for Sustainability. Instead of preaching it assumes a degree of moral awareness in the reader and it invites further reflection on the meaning of those values for the reader.
Primarily I think the book will serve people who want to organize opportunities for personal or group planning and reflection. In fact, I think this could be a good book for those people who are tired of the way in which person-centred planning has been corrupted by the consultants and professionals who have turned it into a tool to `do planning to people'.
Instead this book gives a framework by which citizens can think together about the quality of their own citizenship. It may inspire action - but it is action that will be rooted in authenticity, personal control and moral awareness.
In a sense the book is also in helpful opposition to books like my own Keys to Citizenship. Keys to Citizenship explores what citizenship looks like `from the outside' and offers lots of practical advice on how to design supports that are consistent with citizenship. But True Citizenship starts `from the inside' and explores how we each construct a life of citizenship for ourselves. For this reason it does not offer advice. Instead it gives food for thought, snippets from real life and lots of questions to think about.
I hope that this book will act as a seed in the process of transformation we need to begin. For too long professionals have not only controlled the lives of people with learning difficulties, but they have also tended to dictate the purpose of life. Using whatever theory or jargon that has been in mode, professionals have tended to tell people how to live and to tell them what is important.
This is wrong, but we cannot swap bullying and preaching for heartlessness and `free choice' as some seem to suggest. We must find ways of exploring what is important in our shared lives and we must build on what works and resist those things which damage citizenship.
True citizenship starts by assuming that we are already equal, but that our responsibility to each other means we must talk, listen, think and act. We do not need to judge others from some privileged position where some people have all the answers. We must sit humbly together and explore what we can do together to advance our own true citizenship.
by Civitas Vera