The First Step: Civic Desires
By civic desires, I am referring to what we desire as members of the city—the original meaning of “citizen.” Civic desires are about what “we” want instead of about what “I” want. They are the first step toward developing intentions, engaging in deliberation, and making choices. We can thank the occupiers of streets throughout the nation for igniting such desires.
Civic desires are quite different from consumer desires. As a consumer, my wants are based on my view of what I need. As a citizen, wants are based on what I believe—on shared values. As a consumer, I belong to a crowd. As a citizen, I belong to a community. As a consumer, I want a job. As I citizen, I want to become involved in the work that needs to be done. As a consumer, I want things. As a citizen, I want a just distribution of things.
It is not easy or simple to maintain civic desires. Political campaigns are now run by marketing consultants and voters are treated like consumers. Check out the GOP debates—a mixture of cheap television programming and live advertising. Actually both political parties are largely run by focus groups and other commercial marketing strategies.
So the real contest is whether the commercial will continue to occupy the civic, or will the civic occupy the commercial and thereby provide a civic foundation for our economy.