Our Collective Responsibility: The Responsibility of Citizens, Our Generation, and You.

Written by Pervez S. Agwan | Twitter | Instagram | Author Page 


This article is also available on our YouTube channel as an informational video; both discuss the tremendous weight of the troubles that afflict our society today, and how best the citizens of this country (USA) and this earth can come together to “make gentle the life of this world.”

My inspiration to dive deeper into the topic of a collective/societal-level moral responsibility, as well as the inspiration to discover why individual moral responsibility amongst our young generation is so critical, both stem from a few of the books I’ve been lucky enough to read while living here in Boston. I’ll attempt to draw on the wisdom and speeches left behind from some of this country’s greatest leaders, including brothers President John F. Kennedy, and Bobby Kennedy (R.F.K.), as well as the brave Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, and author Noam Chomsky. My greatest inspiration came after following my roots back to India where my parents were born, and attempting to follow in the footsteps of Mahatma Gandhi, known back home as Bapu (Gujarati: endearment for father).

A few books that helped me
think on this theme are:

  1. The Story of My Experiments with Truth: An Autobiography – M.K. Gandhi
  2. The Autobiography of Malcolm X
  3. Profiles in Courage – John F. Kennedy
  4. To Seek a Newer World – Robert F. Kennedy
  5. The Responsibility of Intellectuals – Noam Chomsky
  6. Team of Rivals, The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln – Doris Kearns Goodwin


“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea.”


– Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Letter from a Birmingham Jail


What is our collective responsibility?

What is our collective responsibility, as one body of humanity, that as Martin Luther King said is tied together in a “single garment of destiny?” What is the responsibility of citizens, of our generation, and you? What is your responsibility in this great nation of unshackled liberty, and powerful promise? How can we direct our efforts, our minds, and our hearts to a greater purpose that allows all people to come together as one collective body of global citizens to “tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world?

We see today as clear as ever with our very own eyes the heart-breaking issues that plague our society, constantly replayed in our bombarding 24/7 news cycle.

So what then is our responsibility? As people of this singular time, and this unique irreplaceable era, we can shape our generation’s history, and write our own story as we maintain an urgency for the present. We belong only to this place in history. We can carry forward the weight of progress as our ancestors and heroes laboriously did so before us.

Our responsibility is to speak the truth, to expose outright lies, and to toil endlessly for the betterment of society, even if it is against ourselves, our friends, and our own government.

Our responsibility is to hold ourselves true to certain indispensable & cherished values such as: Integrity, courage, compassion, love, and a desire to triumph with a stern resoluteness in our hearts.

Our responsibility is to exercise our god-given autonomy, independence, and constitutional right to partake in our tender, and delicate democracy, which we must protect in its hour of maximum danger.


What is speaking the truth?

In the 1930s when the country was in shambles during the Great Depression, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt courageously proclaimed that it is now “the time to speak the whole truth, frankly, and boldly,” as he didn’t cover up the transgressions of the financial sector when the banks speculated and gambled away the common person’s money.

Our responsibility, as citizens, as people, as intellectuals, is to speak the whole truth, and to expose the lies of governments when actions are undertaken only to benefit a select few. We must speak out against wrongdoing by private entities, public establishments, the government, and against crippling corporate greed that strips away dignity and sustenance from the lives of the common citizen.

Our responsibility is to be decent human beings, and use our privilege, education, intellect, and autonomy of thought to advance justice, freedom, compassion, and peace.



Living in the United States where we enjoy freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, an abundance of resources, democracy, and privileges of education, confers on us heavy responsibilities, and duties to humankind. As injustice and cruelty stand in front of us, we must be dissidents; we must speak truth to the power structure, and the forces that have tied our hands, that have entrapped our thinking, and that have subdued our voices. Perhaps by engaging in a dialogue, and seeking mutual understanding through facts, and truth, we can guide our fellow Americans and citizens to the light of the truth that we so clearly perceive.

Our responsibility is to follow the path of integrity, regardless of where it leads. We must not deny the heinous sins and depravities committed by our militaries, our police forces, and our governments, under the deceptive guise of freedom, liberty, and patriotism. (Drone warfare, Iraq, etc.)

Our responsibilities of being truthful and seeking justice will be difficult, but just as Teddy Roosevelt asked of his fellow Americans, I urge you, to boldly face the life of strife, to be resolute in your duties, and to uphold righteousness. The greatest success comes to those who do not shy away from danger, or toil, and instead embody resilience to the eventual and ultimate triumph.


What are our values? What values should we hold?

As people, as societies, and as a collective body of humankind, nothing can bring us peace but the ultimate triumph of our principles.

We must confront wrongs with courage, and we must be brave in our actions when speaking for the irrefutable truths of justice, equality, decency, and what is fundamentally right.

Bobby Kennedy resolutely endured the heart-shattering pain of his brother’s assassination, and then went on to continue the struggle for equality, justice, and progress in the late 1960s. He famously proclaimed, before his own assassination, that “Each time a man stands up for an idea, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”



Our values, and our principles must be steeped in love for one another, not hatred. Compassion, not animosity. Brotherhood, not division.

Principles, and morals are contagious. They cannot be contained when fearlessly paraded in the open with noble truths. Power structures can suppress our movements, they can subdue our voices, and they can overwhelm our protests, but they cannot kill our principles that reside deep within the depths of our hearts.


Defending Freedom, Liberty, DEmocracy, & Independence

Finally, we must defend and further our interests by strengthening our democracy, and exercising our constitutionally granted rights to shape our republic. No nation can endure, and no country shall last if its foundations are not laid deep with a passionate vigor for civic involvement, and a populace that actively seeks to spark progress.

Our responsibility is to engage, to vote, to participate, and to further the causes that strengthen our democracy. Bringing about societal change is difficult. Challenging policy is demanding. Yet, many in the great history of this nation have successfully done it through brutal struggle, and enduring patience. Voter turnout, youth turnout, and civic participation is abysmal in this country. Our country holds strong sentiments on certain issues, yet we don’t show up when it matters most. We must organize, we must march in the streets for what is right, and ultimately, we must vote.

Failure is a heavy burden to bear, yet it is worse to never have tried to succeed. We must wrestle triumph and victory from toil, and pain. Our responsibility, and YOUR responsibility, is to ensure the final success of our course. As JFK famously said in his inaugural address: “In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than mine, will rest the final success, or failure of our course. Since this country was founded, each generation of Americans has been summoned to give testimony to its national loyalty.”

And that we shall do. It is our duty, and it is our responsibility, with god as our witness, to speak truth, expose lies, be principled, and further progress our democracy: for us, for our families, for our neighbors, for future generations to come, and for all mankind.

Thanks for reading everyone, and I will leave you with this quote to end from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1963.


“No… no… we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness in a mighty stream.”


– Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.