Achieving a life of dignity - a life where every human being enjoys basic freedoms and a respectable living - is a universal yearning. Yet such a goal has remained elusive for many societies despite repeated experiments and efforts. The top-down approach, depending on the generosity of the rulers, even when they are elected, has not in many cases succeeded in providing better lives for most citizens.
Rather a donor-client relationship - where the ruling elite dispenses ‘favors’ and the ordinary citizens are their passive recipients - has emerged in many such countries.
Just as an old key is unable to open a new lock, the outmoded top-down ideas are incapable of assuring lives of dignity for most people. Achieving such lives would require social movements, engaging citizens from the bottom up, not only to assert their ‘rights’ to entitlements and freedom, but also to assume responsibility to take both individual and collective action to improve their own conditions. Given such active citizen engagement, the state’s responsibility would be to enhance its own capability to create an ‘enabling environment’ so that people can succeed in achieving lives of meaning and dignity.
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