Civil Service

Arlie Hochschild suggested an idea I read in similar kind last month in John Glubb and Avoiding the Fate of Empires by Leo Nicoletto: That obligatory civil service could be a solution to political division and help the unity of a country. It would bring people in contact with different people in other regions of a country, and teach respect.

It’s not only a contempt that really bothers me now whenever I hear it or see it, and that is buried to some degree, but there’s a kind of reluctance to reach out. It’s as if, on the left, there’s a lot of good political will, but it’s gotten curled up onto itself and become a kind of a self-monitoring program, Oh, you said this wrong or that wrong, instead of reaching out to build coalitions — because we’re a big country. Not everyone’s like us; not everyone’s like them. What we need are sturdy coalitions. And I think labor unions — when the labor movement was much larger, there was a way that people of different colors and classes got together. When you had a compulsory draft, people of different colors and classes got together in a natural way. […] Public schools have done this. But we’re down on those crossover, connective institutions. I think we need to build another one. I would like to see a civil service, one year required of everyone. […] Yeah, of everyone, and you go to a different region and get to know people — first of all, get to know how to treat people respectfully and listen actively and be immediate. Everybody should learn those skills. And then go across to see if we can rebuild that connective tissue. […] I’m sure people have said to you, and I get into this conversation myself, this critique that there are all kinds of groups of people, including people of color, who have long felt like strangers in their own land in this country.

Arlie Hochschild, Arlie Hochschild – The Deep Stories of Our Time