Dipanjan MUukherjee Log

On Citizenship and Law

First, let’s examine citizenship in the context of a modern democracy. When one accepts to become a citizen of a state, the underlying contract is that one will abide by the laws of the state, will obey directives instituted by the state and participate in the society like other citizens. This contract isn’t totalitarian. After becoming a citizen, if a piece of legislation or a directive doesn’t comply with the well-being of the state’s people, citizens have every right to protest its existence or ask for it to be changed.

This brings us to another important question: What, if any, is the purpose of a state? Why not live in simple distributed societies with their own code of law? Large institutions, such as the modern-state, or even kingdoms exist because they align well with human purpose. They allow us to focus on what we want to pursue and not be bogged down with administrative and judicial duties.

The State

I believe the state is one of humanity’s most advanced acheivements. It is an indicator of the consensual purpose of the human collective. The problem with not having a state-like entity is the inability of people to advance or specialize. They are constantly bogged down with mundane details and cannot pursue their interests.

To work on anything in particular, we need two kinds of things. Familiarity/certainty, and corresponding unfamiliarity/uncertainty. We prefer that the things we find familiar are the ones we aren’t interested in and the ones that we find unfamiliar are the things we want to learn/know about.

Say you want to study plants, you would want to know how they grow, under what conditions they are able to survive best and the like. You would want some unfamiliarity in this field: you would want that there be more to know, you would want challenges because you want to study plants.

During the course of your study, you will interact with two systems. One being your garden or equivalent laboratory, and another being the rest of the world. Your expectations from these two systems will be different. You will want some form of novelty or surprises from your laboratory, something new to look forward to each day. From the rest of the world, you will expect a reasonable amount of order. If the world changes its interaction with you everyday, you will not be able to focus on your laboratory, and that will be counter-productive to you and all humans. To you, because you will not be able to gain satisfaction from your work, and to others because you will not be able to codify your insights and expand human knowledge.

The state exists for that purpose. It is a framework that is capable of ensuring an environment that provides for certainty, familiarity and predictability in daily life. From conventions to assist daily life such as a correct side of the road to provisions to sustain daily life like laws against murder etc.

Purpose of Human Life : Spirit of Inquiry

I will side step the question of how humans came into existence and why they exist to a more question more pertinent to this essay: Asssuming humans exist, what do they now do?

The way I see it, humans are best at acquiring and utilizing knowledge. Amongst all the intelligent life-forms on earth, we are perhaps best suited to this purpose. The collective effort of humans should be to expand knowledge and to as far as possible assist other humans in doing so.

When I say research, I don't mean simply academic research, I mean all forms of knowledge transaction and increments. Cooking new dishes is research. Woodworking, art, improvisation, anything that seeks to improve the quality of human life and assist them in further creating value is research.

If somebody is to do original research, they are the primary pursuers of the human purpose. If somebody creates value for the researchers by providing products and services, they are secondary pursuers, but equally important.

On the other hand, if there are people who negatively affect the pursuers, they are detrimental to the spirit of inquiry and must be dealt with by the large mass of humanity who want to pursue inquiry.

That is where the state steps in. It provides methods of recourse, corrective and punitive protocols to deal with such people. The state also holds a monopoly on these corrective and punitive protocols. If law and order were to be privatised, the monopoly of the state would break and the private corporations responsible for law and order would become unaccountable and we would head towards a non-democratic, possibly tyrranical setup.

Obligations of Citizens

One must comprehend the nature of the contract with the state and thus obey the rules and regulations. There must be a deep sense of respect towards the law and judgements based on interpretation of those laws.

One must align oneself with the purpose of human life, the sprit of inquiry. Every attempt must be made to either become original researchers or to provide services and products to the community so that the community as a whole can create new knowledge and utilize it for internal benefits.

May, 2013