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Is Lithuania experiencing the desertification in participatory citizenship?

As children most of us experience an intense desire to grow up but years later we begin to miss the life we had in childhood. We dwell into memories of those responsibility-free days, of smearing ice-cream all over our cheeks; of naive smiles and times when even the tiniest mundane discoveries brought joy into our little hearts.

This tingly sensation made us feel like we could conquer the world. I admit that even now there is still that gullible, adventurous little girl living deep down inside of me who hurts hearing people's ongoing complaints about their hard life and bleak future. Did everyone forget to smile naively like they once did, where did the joy disappear? It seems that the moths of inadequacy began breeding massively in our society, and these moths bravely spread their wings and fly away never forgetting to sting painfully beforehand. What I have in mind is the state of citizenship in Lithuania and its role in our daily life. In my opinion, it's crucial to trace back the aforementioned problem to its root causes and it's even more important to find the most effective solutions.

 

We could picture the word citizen as an umbrella: some are of substantial size and diverse colors, while others - small and bland; but the person under the umbrella is an equal mystery in both cases. So who is hiding under the umbrella or, in other words, behind the word citizen? For some the definition of citizen is limited to the stamp in the passport, for others it's more of a feeling but I think it extends beyond these meanings. Every citizen has certain something that determines their role in the state but this underlying force needs to be set in motion - then it could tear down the walls of absurdity, shatter futile illusions, unchain the hands, erase the days of emptiness and bring the childish smile back. It is the force that shapes the state or at least that is what it supposed to do. The state is like the labyrinth of Centaur where each individual leaves behind their Ariadne’s thread. I think this is where the force lies: belonging to the whole, one is aware that next to their own individual way is someone else's path, therefore it is less daunting to find oneself in unfamiliar crossroads because sooner or later someone would follow the thread and help you out. Some refer to this savior as England or Norway but it would be nicer to hear it named Lithuania instead. The state is obliged to lend the helping hand to its people in times of misfortune but apparently nowadays the situation is different. This issue is especially apparent - the citizens are unable to find new opportunities in their own country or they tend to perceive the arising opportunities with harsh skepticism.

 

On the other hand, Lithuanian people have every right to create the life they would like to lead. Each of us comes to this world with a white canvas and a clean palette. We get the brushes, discover the variety of colors and without even realizing we start to paint the canvas of our daily lives. Later there come the teachers who bring their own ideas. The colors of the paint we have become less clear, and our brush strokes take certain direction. Each time we discover new shades and our palette becomes richer. That is also the way we all, no matter how different, are creating our joint masterpiece - our state. Therefore, unless you are mighty Žydrūnas Savickas, you have to realize that it is impossible to change it all on your own. We all have to engage and contribute to the process of creating our state, then there will be less yelling and moaning about the exhaustion and lack of will. The obvious problem here is that people lack willingness to mend the flaws in their own state.

 

The biggest problem, in my view, is the lack of connection between the citizen and the state. It would not be fair to attribute all faults to only one side. We could depreciate the importance citizenship and reprehend the state and its government, but it is important to discuss both of these aspects simultaneously as inseparable from one another. Unfortunately, there are no guidelines drawn up for us to follow in order to bridge the gap between the state and the citizen. I could argue that the desertification of the citizenship and public spirit which is tormenting the state and its people only adds up to the problem. The upcoming parliamentary elections also raise substantial concerns because it is absolutely unclear how people are going to vote: participation could be passive, skeptical or on the contrary – civically active, positive. It is also curious whether and how we managed to adequately commemorate the European year of citizens 2013 (EYC2013) if it is so difficult to grasp the meaning of citizenship in one's own country. Or perhaps the European citizenship is more valuable than the Lithuanian? On the more positive note, the variety of events, conferences and seminars organized in the framework of the EYC2013 aimed at deepening the public knowledge about the European citizenship may have encouraged to view the concept of citizenship as a whole in a different light.

 

All in all, I believe that the loss of hope seen in the majority of Lithuanians is just temporary and that they still remember their rights and obligations as citizens. Equally, I also believe that adults are still capable to return to their childhood land where there is still plenty of joy. After all, there was a time when in this piece of land now drowning in tears and complaints there were rivers of blood flowing in the name of freedom. Perhaps my words now sound as coughing Old Testament but nevertheless let us not forget that it is the citizen who shapes the future of the state, and what this future will look like depends on each and every one us.

 

Ingrida Jotkaitė, young journalist of Eurodesk Lithuania and EU programme “Youth in Action”

Published: Mon, 20/01/2014 - 13:48


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