Cells of Citizens

Take a microscope and observe the tiny particle that is the root to all life: the cell. Now zoom in even further and see how elegant each organelle facilitates its job, how everything in this amazingly tiny snippet of life beautifully falls together in the best possible way so that we can breathe, see, feel, live. The cell is a powerhouse, an extremely functioning civilization, a microcosm (literally) of an ideal world. It’s a civil society within us. The nucleus is the government, the headquarters that contains all genetic information that’ll code into the proteins that we desperately rely on to continuing breathing. These proteins are the structures that our cell and organelles utilize for every single responsibility they have. Each organelle does their own DUTY in order for the cell to live and function, and if something in this civilization is in need of repair, the cell makes sure that it gets repaired.  We can see it as each organelle doing its civic duty for its society, the entire cell. If one organelle or structure within the cell malfunctions, detrimental ramifications ensue. We see cancer and cystic fibrosis. We see diseases that are life-threatening because these cells, naked to the eye, aren’t functioning quite right. So these organelles work for a common goal: keep the civilization that is the cell working the way it’s supposed to work.

Zoom out of the cell. We are standing in a lab, a lab full of scientists working to defeat a disease. There is a community all over the world where scientists are furiously working on finding a cure, finding a cleaner energy source, finding a solution. They are working to help others, an act of selflessness done every day. They are engaging in their civic duty, just as the organelles of the cell are.

The life of a cell can be seen as a civic life. The life of a scientist or researcher can be seen as civic as well. This is the notion of citizenship that Schudson would approve of: each organelle doing its civic duty and responsibility for the cell, each scientist dedicating themselves for others.

We are all made up of cells, made up of little pieces of civic engagement. Maybe it is part of us, then, to become good citizens.

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3 Responses to Cells of Citizens

  1. Sarah Summers says:

    I agree with PPs, Sarah, that this blog post is really thought provoking. What an interesting metaphor for civic life! Not only does it show that you have an in-depth understanding of both of these topics, but it helps explain the civic to others in a new way. Very cool!

    Matt’s point is a smart one. Is the cell-version of civic life too tidy? What about conflicts over commonplaces and ideologies? What about those who are excluded? Maybe defects like cancer have a place in this metaphor, too?

  2. Matt Swatski says:

    This was literally one of the best blog posts I’ve read so far. It is extremely creative and its not even the passion blog! That is impressive. However, I don’t think Schudson would like this analogy. He would have to agree that this is definitely a version of citizenship and civic engagement, but he would argue that this ignores the members of society who “fought” for their rights (e.g. workers, women, African-Americans). This version of citizenship would be similar to the one promulgated by J.F.K. and George Bush, but not the version promoted by M.L.K. and Susan B. Anthony. I would venture to say that M.L.K.’s version of citizenship would say that citizens have a duty to protest injustices.

  3. Amy Ketcham says:

    THIS IS SO GOOD <3 I love this so much because I love cells! They are great! This is such a good analogy though. It's so true. There is this part of Judaism that I really love called tikkun olam. It basically says that the world is broken, and there are a million pieces that must be put together again in order for the world to be fixed. It's the basic tenant of charity for Judaism. If we all come together with the pieces, then the world will be good again. It should just be in our nature to bring the pieces together.

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