A Spent Word / Fernando Damaso

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The word “people” is widely used by politicians, mainly by those who are leftists or populists. Phrases such as the power of the people, the people decide, the people command, the people’s opinion, the people aroused, the people condemn, the people support and many others are seen and heard with great frequency. For these politicians the people are all homogenous, and include only those who share their political and ideological views, lumping everyone together without taking into account others who might think differently. The reality, however, is something else. Among the people there are views that are similar and views that are different. It is not a closed circuit but rather an unlimited open space. It would be more correct to speak of one or more segments of the people, of minorities and majorities, but certainly not of all the people.

Because of this, but mainly because of its demagogic usage, it is not a word of which I am fond. I much prefer the word citizen, which seems to me to be more  precise and which suggests a higher degree of individuality and awareness of rights and responsibilities. I see a citizen as someone far removed from the masses (a word which fortunately has been out of favor for a number of years), as someone capable making his or her presence in society felt.

One of our principle problems (though not the only one, by any means), is having to accept being confined by this generic concept of the people instead of having defended our status as citizens. The people, as well as the masses, have always been manipulated, serving as a platform and basis of support for flawed ideas, much to the nation’s detriment. This would not have happened if society had been made up of citizens – people who fulfilled their duties while demanding respect for their rights.

Reestablishing the role of the citizen is an arduous and complex task, but a necessary one if we truly want to overcome the moral and civic vacuum in which we find ourselves. It is essential for the real economic, politic and social change that the country demands.

11 March 2013