Posted: September 3rd, 2013
Paul Rogat Loeb’s book Soul of a Citizen: Living with Conviction in a Cynical Time is a classic work that buds veteran organizers, social activists and anyone who is interested in making a positive world change, be it small or big. This book has inspired numerous people to make actions count, and their voices heard by acting as a solution to despair and powerlessness, enabling them to continue their involvement in the long haul. Loeb highlights on issues that steer people who get involved in daily issues in the community, as well as where other individuals have a tendency of feeling uncertain or overwhelmed by the same issues (Vavrik,13). He goes further to speak about how they maintain their focus in the long-term, and how involving oneself in the activism of citizenship restores connection senses and purpose in a person’s life. He stresses that citizens should work towards a common goal in a citizenry form (grouped citizens). This book can prove to be helpful by giving the reader an insight on matters related to citizenship, as well as offering advice on the impact of citizenship in community engagement.
Loeb’s work is one that can assist both the younger and older generation, in coming together along the same thought in a common theme and belief of contributing towards a positive change in society. Loeb’s work looks to call each generation to become actively involved in strategies that are both ideal and realistic; strategies that enhance a balance between public and private needs, encouraging a small advancing step towards great impacts. Loeb’s purpose and argument are direct and outright; aiming to convince the interested parties to embrace the fact that the most serious encumbrances, public or personal, are mainly common problems affecting all of us. However, these problems can be solved through our own combined efforts, but not singly. According to him, sanctuary in privacy is a mere illusion that would only hamper our progress by dampening our larger sense in connection (Vavrik, 23).
Loeb enforces his work through religious words, hope, compassion, as well as faith, and rightly so standing for his ideology. They accurately fit into the implicit social change theory that he is soliciting. Loeb’s passes his messages mainly through stories, telling us about how ordinary citizen’s endeavor in large issues mainly brought about by personal encounters involving a neighbor’s plight, because something they mostly cherish is under threat. In one scenario, Loeb talks about a woman who is compelled to involve herself social community efforts when her elderly neighbor died in preventable means (Vavrik, 36). Then there is Adam, a boy who is fascinated by the adventures of camping and hiking with his family. Adam is prompted to act when he witnesses his environment under threat. Then there is a housewife named Alison who hails from a small rural community town. She is immersed into the public eye when she identifies a developer with an ill will to drain all the water that boards her yard in a marsh. These and many other stories are incorporated into Loeb’s work as he attempts to persuade us against the saying that, ‘I cannot involve myself because I am not important enough to bring about change’. Real life scenarios like those of Adam and Alison play a big role in dismissing this petty argument.
Loeb intends to affirm his attitude on towards involving yourself in positive activities and should often come because of self-interest. It should be a case of even getting involved in large arenas regardless of whether the party involved is something dear to us or not. By incorporating stories of ordinary individuals involved in local scenes, as a means of tackling issues that hamper development in the society. One issue in particular is the historical amnesia that mainly targets the younger generation. Loeb finds that students in the United States have a superficial understanding on pivotal issues, therefore posing a significant impact on their personal choices.
In relation to historical amnesia affecting the young generation is in terms of the notion that an ordinary citizen is not endowed with sufficient education to foster or spearhead a change in societal views. Loeb refers to this as a perfect standard, a concept that he incorporated in his previous work. He explains on this concept by stating that many individuals are hampered from engaging in certain issues because they feel that they should first analyze, and then select the most appropriate issue that seems to suit them. It is only after they identify the most appropriate issue that they move on to act accordingly as long as they are permitted to get involved in the matter. Loeb brings out his ideology clearly; if at all we want to foster a world characterized by adequate justice, more compassion, equality, and one that all citizens are involved in, we therefore cannot permit ourselves from continually uphold false standards.
Loeb provides his readers with his theories on social changes through appropriate stories and their pinpoint interpretations. According to him, change will always come about when ordinary people who deem themselves powerless, begin to embrace their self-interests. We can involve ourselves in these changes slowly yet confidently; in reasonable pace with a framework of one-step at a time, while adequately balancing our lives. This can be supported by communities or societies that share our passion as well as affirming our identity; while at the same time sustained core values, humanistic, or religious faith pivoted by better visions to improve the world, backed by desires to propel that vision (Maitles, 32). Nevertheless, changing the negative societal views is not as easy as some of us might think. There will most certainly be occasions despair and at the extreme frustration. Loeb is however helpful as he helps the reader to be in a position of identifying a potential threat, and coming up with effective and appropriate means of tackling that particular threat.
As Loeb tells us, we need to assign ourselves visions constructed to sustain us. There is a need of acknowledging our anxieties and doubts, as the cure for the vice doubt is not certainty, but none other than commitment. He continues to say that the only way of sticking to endeavors of social change in the long haul is through tireless steadfast commitments in justice, and at the same time relishing the struggle (Vavrik, 42). As we take our small steps we enjoy the feeling of our progress, but it cannot be compared to the celebration feeling we encounter when we progress as a group. We will always gain strength from a communal vision that requires us to participate in any means we can, having in mind that there are other people in other places playing their roles in vouching for justice human dignity, and freedom. As Loeb says, we are a portion os something far greater than our individual selves. The main challenge lies to identify only what we are supposed to stand for, and act in our best manner and beliefs. Loeb’s work is as realistic as any can get. His ideologies are profound and straightforward. In his words, he opens our eyes on an area where we can all play a part in making the world a better place to live for us, and even for the next generations to come.
Our current generation is being faced with different struggles and issues on careers, relationships, balancing between public and private arenas, tensions between religion-spiritual and social economic challenges, have all made their mark as factors that we should all consider. Some of these challenges are similar to those every generation has to face, but others dramatically differ mainly because the times have changed. I personally thought about these issues and wondered how my generation and the next would come up with relevant advice. Loeb himself has stepped forward and come up with valid solutions as to how we can achieve this. We can make the generation aware of these strategies, but the main question is, how to encourage them to get involved in these life-changing measures.
Vavrik, Dawn. “Soul of a Citizen: Living with Conviction in a Cynical Time.” Journal of College and Character. 7.3 (2006). Print.
Rogat, Loeb P, and Joerg Rieger. “Books – the Soul of a Citizen: Living with Conviction in a Cynical Time.” Cross Currents. 50.3 (2000): 420. Print.
Loeb, Paul R. Soul of a Citizen: Living with Conviction in Challenging Times. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2010. Print.
Maitles, Henry. “Political Literacy: The Challenge for Democratic Citizenship.” The School Field. 11 (2000): 125-134. Print.
Mather, Janet. “The Citizenry: Legitimacy and Democracy.” European Union Enlargement. (2004): 103-117. Print.
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