Over the course of the past few weeks we have been discussing the idea of citizenship. More particularly we have been discussing how Shklar believes that earning is one of the most important aspects of citizenship. While reading Douglass we encountered the idea that earning is key to freedom. When Douglass was able to finally earn some money of his own he got his first glimpse of freedom and what he should feel like. While this little feeling was important he wasn’t truly free until he was still a slave and was not supporting himself with his earnings. It wasn’t until he could go out and earn a full wage on his own accord that his freedom was achieved. I do not want to compare my situation at all however I do feel similarly about earning and freedom/citizenship. In this blog post I will take you through my journey towards Shklar and Douglass’ elusive idea of citizenship with respect to earning.
When I was young my father allowed me to work at his restaurant doing basic tasks. I would file papers and carry boxes on the weekends and summers and he would pay me a nominal fee for my duties. This was my first taste of the freedoms that come with earning. It was a very minor amount however I now began to understand the importance of earning. I was able to afford a few things on my own without having to ask my parents for some cash. I would proudly pull out my billabong wallet and present the guy at the movie theater with my ten-dollar bill I had earned on my own. I also began putting small amounts of money into a bank account to save up for my car. It was this feeling of independence that I believe on a much greater scale Douglass felt when his master allowed him to keep some of his profits at the beginning.
The next step in my progression was when I got my first real job when I was 16. I now was earning a real wage and could afford a lot more things on my own. I was saving a lot more money now. That feeling of spending my own money gave me a brief “victory” of being free from my parents. Yet this was not true freedom. I was not truly a citizen because at the end of the day I needed to retreat to my parents house where I was once again reliant on them for all of my essentials. Finally being able to purchase a car was another huge step but it still did not represent complete freedom.
Now in my current situation, a senior in college with a steady job, most would probably define me as having freedom and being a citizen. I however do not see it that way. I see the pile of student loans I have accrued and the fact that I am not yet truly supporting myself and realize that this is not true freedom. I still feel a bit of inadequacy when I go out to eat or for drinks with my older brothers or older friends and when the bill comes they have to pay for me. Not until I am out in the world earning my own salary and paying my own way through will I feel true freedom. With law school looming at the end of this year it does not look like I will have the citizenship and freedom that Douglass and Shklar value so much for another three years. As Douglass probably would have felt as well I believe that the wait will make the day that I achieve this illusive freedom taste that much more sweet.