— why the key to fixing everything is all of us
by Jon Alexander and Ariane Conrad
with foreword by Brian Eno
published by Canbury Press (2022)
reviewed by vivian Hutchinson
This book is not just about the importance and urgency of active citizenship amidst today's challenges. The book itself acts as a window through which to look at our world and those challenges.
What we see through this window is how the shift to a citizen perspective changes everything ... and it point us towards both age-old and completely fresh tools with which to transform our most stuck issues and regenerate our environment and our communities.
As Brian Eno says in his foreword to this book, when you see the world through this window, you might well notice that there is a “revolution in progress”.
There is no doubt that this book is going to be a useful resource to us on many fronts. It is refreshingly and practically relevant right now to our activist networks and community development groups. As such, it will naturally become part of the conversations that matter within many of our organisations.
But this book also stretches our understanding of the role of public service organisations, trusts and foundations, councils and local authorities, government departments, businesses and political parties when looked at from the viewpoint of genuinely engaging citizens. You may be surprised at the stories in this book that describe new approaches emerging in each of these areas as they also find themselves coming to grips with a “revolution in progress”.
The book can be ordered online from Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Citizens-Why-Key-Fixing-Everything/dp/191245484X where there are hard cover, paperback, Kindle and Audiobook versions.
Citizens is superbly written. Jon Alexander, who used to work in the advertising industry, is a gifted communicator. And he gives a lot of credit for the wordcraft in this book to his co-author Ariane Conrad, who has been behind several bestsellers.
Central to the framing of the book is the concept of the meta-stories we tell ourselves about our place in the world and our responsibilities.
Alexander describes a continuum where for centuries we have considered ourselves “Subjects” under Kings and Queens, and then, more recently, “Consumers” under corporate capitalism. He suggests we are now being invited to awaken as “Citizens” who are the key to healing our adverse impact on the world and are the real creators of the communities we wish to live in.
Alexander has a 15-min TEDx talk which dives deeper into these ideas.
If you want to immediately dive deeper into the ideas behind Citizens, take a look at some of the following links:
Brian Eno: The Citizenship of this book is not about the passport we hold, and it goes far beyond the duty to vote in elections. It’s a state of engagement, more verb than noun.
Jon Alexander: It’s not us humans that are broken, it’s the stories.
Jon Alexander: New Local Lightning Talk on Being Citizens, not consumers. Local councils have massive agency at this important time.
Playing ‘spot the story’ is a great way to retune your radar and reboot your faith in humanity.
Jon Alexander visited New Zealand in November 2022 to speak at an event at Massey University in Wellington. Here's the Newsroom report:
And former Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel writes about her own reactions to reading Citizens, and what it may mean for the current New Zealand political landscape: