Soul of a Citizen: Living With Conviction in a Cynical Time

December 10, 2004

An excerpt from Paul Loeb’s book about how average, imperfect people can help change the world.

“We often think of social involvement as noble but impractical. Yet it can serve enlightened self-interest and the interests of others simultaneously, giving us a sense of connection and purpose nearly impossible to find in private life. “It takes energy to act,” says Pete. “But it’s more draining to bury your anger, convince yourself you’re powerless, and swallow whatever’s handed to you.”

How then shall we characterize those who participate in our society as active citizens? They are persons of imperfect character, acting on the basis of imperfect knowledge, for causes that may be imperfect as well. That’s a profile virtually any of us could match, given a willingness to live with ambiguity, occasional failure, and frustration. Imperfection may not be saintly, but wielding it in the service of justice is a virtue. Whoever we are, we can savor our imperfect journey of commitment. Learning as we go, we can discover how much our actions matter.”

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