No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as a manor of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
[John Donne, “No Man Is an Island”]
Like justice, citizenship is multi-faceted. By most definitions, citizenship is the “relationship between an individual and a state to which the individual owes allegiance and in turn is entitled to its protection”. Per the current Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, a citizen “is a member of a political community who enjoys the rights and assumes the duties of membership.” These quasi-legal definitions substantially miss the Humanist point.
Other people focus less on the legal relationship, and more on the ethical dimension of citizenship. The Council of Europe identifies political, cultural, social and economic dimensions of citizenship. Westheimer and Kahne identify three kinds of citizens: personally responsible, participatory and justice-oriented. While these concepts of citizenship come closer to the ideal, they do not fully capture it.
Our Humanist model begins the analysis of citizenship exactly where it begins every ethical analysis: with the intrinsic worth, and the expressed dignity of every person. Based on this starting point, the main aspects of citizenship include being public-spirited, becoming and remaining informed and socially aware, being involved through activism, being generous toward others, supporting and being part of democracy, opposing injustice, through direct action and through dissent. Each of these is expressed in our art, as well as in our histories. As with justice, citizenship cannot easily be captured in a single work.
Technical and Analytical Readings
- James Arthur, Kiistján Kristjánsson, Tom Harrison, Wouter Sanderse and Daniel Wright, Teaching Character and Virtue in Schools (Routledge, 2016).
- Richard Dagger, Civic Virtues: Rights, Citizenship, and Republican Liberalism (Oxford University Press, 1997).
- Richard C. Sinopoli, The Foundations of American Citizenship: Liberalism, the Constitution, and Civic Virtue (Oxford University Press, 1992).
- Stephen Macedo, Liberal Virtues: Citizenship, Virtue, and Community in Liberal Constitutionalism (Clarendon Press, 1990).
- David Thunder, Citizenship and the Pursuit of the Worthy Life (Cambridge University Press, 2016).
- Martha Gardner, The Qualities of a Citizen: Education, Immigration, and Citizenship, 1870-1965 (Princeton University Press, 2005).
Among a citizen’s most important roles are speaking out, and taking action. Here are some accounts of people who pushed back against the most nightmarish “presidency” in American history:
- Andrew G. McCabe, The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump (St. Martin’s Press, 2019): “ . . . a concise yet substantive account of how the F.B.I. works, at a moment when its procedures and impartiality are under attack. It’s an unambiguous indictment of Trump’s moral behavior.”
- James Comey, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership (Flatiron Books, 2018): “ . . . former F.B.I. director James B. Comey calls the Trump presidency a ‘forest fire’ that is doing serious damage to the country’s norms and traditions.”
- Bob Woodward, Fear: Trump In the White House (Simon & Schuster, 2018): “We knew things were bad. Woodward is here, like a state trooper knocking on the door at 3 a.m., to update the sorry details.”
- Michael Wolff, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House (Henry Holt & Co., 2018): “Wolff is strongest when he’s writing on what he knows best: the insecurities and ambitions of Trump and other media fixtures.”
- Edward Snowden, Permanent Record (Metropolitan Books, 2019): “Snowden, of course, is the former intelligence contractor who, in 2013, leaked documents about the United States government’s surveillance programs, dispelling any notions that the National Security Agency and its allies were playing a quaint game of spy vs. spy, limiting their dragnet to specific persons of interest.”
From the dark side:
- Adam Schiff, Midnight in Washington: How We Almost Lost Our Democracy and Still Could (Random House, 2021): “. . . when Trump became the Republican standard-bearer, Democratic lawmakers were at once horrified and delighted. They were shocked Republicans would nominate somebody they viewed as wildly unfit for the job but thrilled because surely the electorate would reject a crass demagogue and the party that enabled him.”
Film and Stage
- Cabaret, a cautionary tale about decadence
From the dark side:
- Margaret Atwood, The Testaments: A Novel (Nan A Talese, 2019): “How did the United States of America become the totalitarian state of Gilead — a place where women are treated as ‘two-legged wombs’; where nonwhite residents and unbelievers . . . are resettled, exiled or disappeared; where the leadership deliberately uses gender, race and class to divide the country? It started before ordinary citizens like herself were paying attention, Offred remembers: ‘We lived, as usual, by ignoring. Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it.’”
Music: Composers, artists, and major works
This page presents some of the music associated with each of citizenship’s components. Under this global heading of citizenship are lesser-known works, which nevertheless well clarify the distinction and illustrate the point. On the pages that follow are the major works associated with each component.
- Jean Sibelius, Finlandia, Op. 26 (1899): “Finland’s Jean Sibelius is perhaps the most important composer associated with nationalism in music and one of the most influential in the development of the symphony and symphonic poem. Finlandia became the composer’s most enduring work . . .” “In the autumn of 1899 Sibelius composed the music for a series of tableaux illustrating episodes in Finland´s past.” Sibelius remarked: “We fought 600 years for our freedom and I am part of the generation which achieved it. Freedom! My Finlandia is the story of this fight. It is the song of our battle, our hymn of victory.” Excellent recordings are conducted by Koussevitsky in 1945, Sargent in 1963, and Segerstam in 1999.
- Sergei Prokofiev, Symphony No. 5 in B-flat Major, Op. 100 (1944): Composed near the end of World War II, this symphony evokes great challenge, great triumph, and deep involvement with the human condition. Prokofiev remarked: “I regard the Fifth Symphony as the culmination of a long period of my creative life…I conceived of it as glorifying the grandeur of the human spirit…praising the free and happy Man—his strength, his generosity, and the purity of his soul” Top recordings are conducted by Karajan in 1968, Neeme Järvi in 1985, Dutoit in 1988, Levine in 1993, and Jurowski in 2005.
- Alexander Glazunov, The Kremlin, Op. 30 (1890), “is purely program music, elaborately constructed and national in character.”; a symphonic poem “revealing the heart of Russia in the great monuments of the Kremlin, its palaces and cathedrals . . .” (Teresa Pieschacón Raphael, from the notes to this album.) Best recorded performances are conducted by Ceccato in 1979, Svetlanov in 1990, and Krimets in 1995.
- Alberta Ginastera, Panambi, Op. 1 (1937) (ballet) and Panambi Suite, Op. 1 (1937), “is based on a romantic and supernatural legend of love and magic from the Guaraní Indians, a tribe from the headwaters of the Rio Paraná in northern Argentina.” It is “a young man’s statement about his country’s heritage” (Simon Wright, from the notes for this album). “The ballet exemplifies one strain of Latin-American nationalism from the Twenties and Thirties: the evocation of indigenous Indian culture, as shown by such works as Chávez's Sinfonia India and piano concerto and Villa-Lôbos's Amazonas and Uirapurù.” Best audio-recorded performances of the ballet are conducted by Borejko in 2013, Ben-Dor in 2010 and Gorelik in 2014 and Mena in 2016. Best recorded performances of the suite are conducted by Goossens in 1960, Robertson in 2001, and Baldini in 2016.
Being informed and socially aware:
- Luciano Berio, Coro (Chorus), for forty voices and forty instruments (1976; extended 1977), is based on Pablo Neruda’s poems, from his book Residencia en la Tierra (Residence on Earth) (1931-1947). “A line repeated often is 'come and see the blood on the streets', a reference to a poem by Pablo Neruda, written in the context of savage events in Latin America under various military regimes.” The composer conducted the Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra and Chorus (I-VIII; IX-XX; XXI-XXVII; XXVIII-XXIX; XXX-XXXI); he also conducted the WDR Sinfonieorchester and Cologne Radio Chorus in 1980. Grete Pedersen conducted a version for eight voices in 2020.
- Kurt Weill, Symphony No. 1, “Berliner” (1921), “reflects something of the turmoil of post-World War I.” Both of his symphonies represent a departure from the “decadent” music for which he is best known; that music too, comments on German culture at the time. Excellent performances are conducted by Bertini in 1968, de Waart in 1974, Alsop in 2005, and Beaumont in 2005.
- Kurt Weill, Symphony No. 2, “Symphonic Fantasy” (1934): “In 1933, with Hitler in power, Weill escaped to Paris where he wrote Symphony No. 2 . . .” Excellent performances are conducted by Bertini in 1968, de Waart in 1974, Jansons in 1998, Alsop in 2005, Beaumont in 2005, van Steen in 2021, and Shani in 2022.
- Weill, Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny (The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny) (1930): “In an imaginary American city, God consigns its licentious citizens to hell but they truculently reply that they are already there.” “The piece was intended as an allegory of exploitation and hedonism as well as an indictment of a capitalist world that was doomed to end in flaming destruction.” Recordings feature Lenya in 1956, Stratas in 1979, Silja in 1987, and McDonald in 2007 ***.
- Christian Lindberg, “2017” (2017), a 33-minute tone poem expressing what the composer thought of the election of a fascist President in the United States. The composer made the premier recording.
- Tālivaldis Ķeniņš, Symphony No. 7 (1980): “The mezzo-soprano solo links the composer more tightly with his family roots, expresses itself in more trusting and optimistic feelings; however, the unease in the harmonies and rhythm likely cannot hide the composer's fears about out era. The concluding epilogue is like an Agnus Dei. The finale should express hope and faith, which stands over life's troubles, soothing our darkest predictions, and suppressing our fears.” Andris Poga conducted the work in 2022.
Being publicly involved through activism:
- Franz Berwald, Symphony No. 4 in E-flat Major (1845), “is full of a compelling, almost intoxicating vibrance.” “Whether called Sinfonie Naïve or Symphony No. 4, the work radiates a feeling of contentment and lightheartedness.” This vibrancy and lightness convey the feeling that nothing is being withheld – a feeling of generosity. The symphony has been conducted by Markevitch in 1963, Neeme Järvi in 1985, Kamu in 1996.
- Raga Jan Sammohini (performances by Bhide and Bhattacharya)
- Raga Abhogi (Ābhōgi), a Carnatic raga adopted into the Hindustani tradition; the title means “sumptuous and luxurious” (performances by Banerjee, Banerjee, and Zia Mohiuddin Dagar)
- Shostakovich, String Quartet No. 8 in C minor, Op. 110 (1960), was dedicated “To the Victims of Fascism and War.”
- Boris Lyatoshynsky, Symphony No. 3 in B Minor, Op. 50, “Peace Shall Defeat War” (1951): “The four movement 3rd Symphony had a difficult gestation being banned by the Soviet authorities and only gaining performances after revisions to the apparently anti-Soviet finale.” “It’s an epic work, with emotions raging from despair to hope and reconciliation. Ukraine suffered doubly in WWII and the post-war era, first from Nazi occupation and then from Soviet suspicion of war-time Nazi collaboration. Lyatoshynsky’s greatest symphony puts all of this in perspective.”
- Zemlinsky’s Symphonische Gesänge for baritone or alto and orchestra, Op. 20 (1929), is a cycle of songs, in a symphonic setting, by a Jewish composer about the atrocities perpetrated against African-Americans, both ante-bellum and post-bellum.
- John Adams, Scheherezade.2, draws upon Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherezade but in contrast to the traditional stories, in which women are abused, Adams’ work offers a musical story of liberation.
- Xenakis, Nuits (1967): an a capella choral work drawn from the plight of political prisoners in Greece
Dissenting, the highest form of patriotism:
- Stevenson, Passacaglia on DSCH (1962), a work for solo piano, inspired by Shostakovich
- Janáček, Capriccio "Defiance" for piano left hand & chamber ensemble, JW7/12 (1926)
- Hindemith, Mathis der Maler (Mathias the Painter), an opera drawn from the life of Mathias Grünewald, “who lived during the time of the Peasant’s War in Germany, when serfs revolted against their feudal lords, violently turning society on its head in the name of justice before succumbing to hired professional armies”. His paintings focused on crucifixion, evoking suffering of the oppressed. Hindemith composed the opera in Germany in 1934. Performances are conducted by de Billy, Kubelik, and Muno.
- Garrett Fisher, The Passion of St. Thomas More