Stolen From Some Great Writer

“I’ll never put my finger on, just what I wanted to say, my motivation changes, when things turn out this way.”

IT IS COMPLETE! My 1,500 word masterpiece is finally finished and no longer hanging over my head like a black cloud intent on ruining my Spring break. Since I made you all listen to me talk about writing it and then complain about finishing it once I had started, I figured you might be curious as to what exactly the assignment was. So I just included my paper below. The essay question is: “Is citizenship more than just one’s legal status?” If the vagueness of the question had you scratching your head then the outline for the paper would have you slamming your head against the desk. “1,500 words” was the only useful piece of information included in the outline and it was only after several weeks of harassing my tut professor that he finally divulged the precious source and citation count he would be looking for. As excited as I was to finally have this information I wanted to throw a small fuzzy animal from the top of a building when I realized he expected 7 sources and 12 IN TEXT CITATIONS. 12 citations in 1,500 words. That is ridiculous. There is no room for original thought in that amount of space but I am aiming to please so I did the best I could. Without further ado, I present to you my Australian Politics paper entitled “Australian Politics Essay 1” (a true title will be thought of 5 seconds before I print it out). Enjoy.

*Note* This was not actually stolen from a great writer

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Australian Politics Essay 1

          The concept of citizenship has been around since the dawn of man. Even where there was no word for it, the practice of identifying with a community has always been a part of human nature. As our civilizations modernized, lines were drawn on maps and governments all over the world began to use citizenship as a way to operate day-to-day life. Citizenship was treated as a privilege that not everybody got and the method of becoming a citizen differed with every nation. The rights and responsibilities that came with citizenship were different as well. In today’s world, citizenship comes with a passport and rights to things such as free speech and voting; but that is not all citizenship is. “There is much more to citizenship than legal status and negative rights (Chesterman, p8),” and to narrow down citizenship to a person’s legal status would be to ignore all of the responsibilities, privileges, and emotional fulfillment that come with being a citizen.

To this day there is no singular definition of citizenship that wholly encapsulates the concept. To each nation, government, and person citizenship can have completely different meaning and this makes it hard to determine what citizenship is and is not. Andrew Heywood, author of Politics, defines citizenship as, “a relationship between the individual and state based on reciprocal rights and responsibilities (Heywood, p446),” but Chesterman, author of Defining Australian Citizenship, goes a step further to say that, “citizenship consists essentially of shared membership in a political community and commitment to its distinctive embodiment in the constitutional system and laws and practice of the particular country (Chesterman, p3).” There are many people who have attempted to define citizenship, but the best way to approach the idea of citizenship is to admit that “citizenship as a concept is ill-defined, poorly understood, confused and confusing (Dodson, p193).” In this approach one recognizes that citizenship is a much more complex subject than simple legal status and it cannot be acceptably summarized in a single definition due to its multi-faceted and personal nature.

Regardless of the country, every government in the world has some regulation on who does and doesn’t get to become a citizen. Many nations require you to live in the country for a certain number of years before applying to become a citizen and after that you must pass a test in order to successfully gain citizenry. In Australia, one must live here permanently for 4 years before applying for the citizenship process, which includes providing all required forms and a citizenship test or interview (Application Process for Australian Citizenship).” Once completed, a new citizen has access to a myriad of freedoms and responsibilities that T.H. Marshall divided into three categories: civil, political, and social (Marshall, p8). Civil rights Marshall used the term negative rights to describe and protect an individual from having things taken away from them. Freedom of speech, assembly, justice, and religion would fall into this category. Political rights are the rights and responsibilities that come with being a member of a political community. These would be the right to vote, run in public elections, and hold office. Finally, the social rights category includes education, public welfare, and is defined by Marshall as the right “to live the life of a civilized being according to the standards of prevailing society (Heywood, p441).”

All of these rights are formally gained when one becomes a citizen, but at what point does one truly become a citizen? Despite the tests and paperwork you have to fill out to formally become a citizen, citizenship ‘exists in a substantive form’ regardless of one’s legal standing (Chesterman, p5). The community in which a person lives has little regard for that person’s official legal standing. Just like you cannot tell someone is a Christian when they walk down the street, you cannot tell if someone is a citizen. The community sees the individual’s activity and involvement on a day-to-day basis. This is what they judge a person on, not whether or not they passed a Top 10 Facts test about Australia.

In 1994, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Committee on Migration adopted this approach to citizenship when they defined citizenship as “both a legal relationship to the state and a spiritual sense of commitment to the state (Joint Standing Committee on Migration, p37).” This spiritual commitment to the state is that feeling in your gut when you see your nation’s flag, the hairs that stand up on the back of your neck when you hear the national anthem, and the swelling of your chest when you see war monuments erected for your nation’s fallen soldiers. Citizenship does not just magically appear, either. It is an emotion that must be nurtured and built up through experiences both good and bad. Just like one’s life is a complex relationship between self, community, land, and country; citizenship is too.  To be a citizen is to be a part of a nation and every nation has a unique culture full of traditions and institutions. One cannot reduce a nation’s culture down to a singular aspect and therefore you cannot reduce a nation’s citizens, who live and participate in that culture, down to one aspect either. This includes their citizenship.

Australian citizenship, although not formally adopted until 1949 with the Commonwealth’s Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948, still existed before both the Act and the Commonwealth (Chesterman, p4). It even existed when Australians were still considered to be British subjects. An Australian’s devotion to his country and community made him more of an Australian citizen than a piece of paper calling him a British subject. Melbourne and London are just less than 17,000 kilometers away from one another (Googlemaps.com). A sense of pride in the nation of Australia far outweighed a piece of paper declaring you subject to a country halfway around the world. Life in Australia and Britain were so different and detached from one another there could be no way for an Australian to be a true British citizen because, “citizenship requires active identification of shared norms,” which Australian and Britain did not have outside of both being ruled by the Crown and the language that they spoke (Ignatieff, p6).

British subject was just a formal identification that people used for themselves and in no way represented where they were from or the life they led (Chesterman, p5). Australian citizenship was around far before the Commonwealth was formed and the term British subject dropped. An Australian’s citizenship “was not fully encapsulated in, or reducible to, dependent British subject hood (Chesterman, p5).” The quality and existence of an Australian’s connection with his or her country exists independently of the formal title given to it. This is true for all nations.

It is not just the concept of citizenship that is more than a legal status though. All the rights and responsibilities that come with citizenship also have an emotional value to them that surpasses the legal jargon. But these emotional attachments are different for every individual. In Australia, it is the law that a citizen must vote or face a fine while in the United States voting is a completely voluntary act (Australian Electoral Commission). This causes the citizens of the two countries to view voting differently. Australians are more likely to view it as a hassle, something that they have to do, while US citizens will be more likely to view it as a source of pride. In both cases, however, voting is viewed as more than a simple legal matter. The act of voting itself invokes a reaction just like using one’s right to free speech or receiving a welfare check does. For me, even being able to walk into the line that says “United States of America Passport Holders” in the airport has a deeper meaning than the physical passport in your hand. It is that feeling of being back where you belong, back in the country that you call home (Lynch, p9). For every legal right that comes with citizenship comes a human emotion of being part of a greater thing. Belonging to a community that accepts you and protects you. This community knows that “citizenship is not just a legal status, defined by a set of rights and responsibilities, but also an identity, an expression of one’s membership in a political community (Kymlicka, p192),” and so it does not rely on the government’s standard for citizenry but rather its own measure based on one’s involvement and actions within the community.

Citizenship is not a human concept; it is a human experience. As it is with any experience people will interpret meaning, reason, and purpose from the experience of citizenship on an individual level. Where some may take the right to vote as the ultimate privilege others may feel that it is second to the right to a fair trial. The personal nature to which people connect with their citizenship and everything that comes with it makes it a much deeper relationship than simple legal status.

Bibliography

  1. “Application Process for Australian Citizenship.” Australian Citizenship. Australian Government Department of Immigration and Citizenship, 2012. Web. 02 Apr. 2012. <http://www.citizenship.gov.au/applying/how_to_apply/conferral_app_process/&gt;.
  2. Chesterman, John, and Brian Galligan. Defining Australian Citizenship: Selected Documents. Melbourne: Melbourne UP, 2000. Print.
  3. Dodson, Michael. ‘First Fleets and Citizenships: The Citizenship Status of Indigenous Peoples in Post-Colonial Australia’, p193
  4. GoogleMaps. Google, 2012. Web. 3 Apr. 2012. <www.googlemaps.com>.
  5. Heywood, Andrew. Politics 3rd Edition. Houndmills, Basingstoke, England: Macmillan, 2007. Print.
  6. Ignatieff, Michael. Blood and Belonging: Journeys into the New Nationalism. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1994. Print.
  7. Joint Standing Commission on Migration. ‘Australians All: Enhancing Australian Citizenship.’ 1994.
  8. Kymlicka, Will. Multicultural Citizenship: A Liberal Theory of Minority Rights. Oxford: Clarendon, 1996. Print.
  9. Lynch, Phillip Reginald. People Make Nations. Canberra: [Govt. Pr.], 1970. Print.
  10. Marshall, Thomas H., and Thomas B. Bottomore. Citizenship and Social Class. London U.a.: Pluto, 1992. Print.
  11. “Voting within Australia: Frequently Asked Questions.” Www.aec.gov.au. Australian Electoral Commission, 2012. Web. 02 Apr. 2012. <http://www.aec.gov.au/faqs/voting_australia.htm&gt;.

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