When we talk about people in broad terms, we use lots of descriptive nouns. I’m not talking about the role that specific people play, like student or mother or engineer. Those, in fact, help distinguish individuals and groups from each other: student versus teacher, mother versus non-parent, and so on.
What are the nouns we use to talk about everybody? One of the most popular these days is consumer. But what this says is that your most important function in life is to consume things. If you’re not spending money and consuming, then … you’re not doing your job.
In previous ages, the most important role everybody was expected to play was citizen. This highlighted your engagement in civil discourse and governance of your community and nation. I find citizen to be a much more valuable description, something which will improve the world I live in.
Two other terms to ponder are viewer (old media) and user (new media). Both of these seem a bit denigrating, as if your job is to merely sit back, spend money, and give your attention. They don’t really give you much of an active, contributing role.
Okay, so this is a bit of a rant today. How do we bring this down to personal action?
It comes down to not being content with how others describe you, especially in broad terms. Someone may think of you as a consumer, but that’s not how you have to think of yourself.
What is the contribution you’re going to make in the world?
What is the mission you’ll decide to take on?
How are you going to make others’ lives better, not just your own?