The relationship between the citizen and the state is typically characterized by a form of mutual resentment. They try to extract stuff from you (money, time or both) and you try to extract stuff from them – education, healthcare, justice. “They’d take your last drop of blood if you let them“, mutters the aggrieved and resentful citizen under their breath.
And yet … and yet … blood – real, physical, sticky red blood – is one of the few things that citizens, many citizens, give freely, whole heartedly (so to speak), even joyfully to the state. Because (tell it not in Gath) we trust the state with our blood – we trust the state to use it for the good of our fellow citizens, where it is most needed.
For a long time, I was one of those people who didn’t give blood – I can’t even remember why anymore. I sort of though I should, but vaguely assumed that they always had enough or maybe I didn’t fancy the needle or was scared of fainting. I was shocked into becoming a blood donor when I discovered how much blood was needed for some kinds of operation – not a couple of pints, but gallons of the bloody stuff. Once I knew that, it became morally indefensible not to sign up and I’ve been giving blood on and off ever since 32 pints (4 gallons) to be precise
But there will be no 33rd pint – as of last Monday, I have been banned from giving blood. Never again will I have to answer questions about exotic foreign travel or plans to go sky diving within the next 24 hours.
There’s nothing wrong with my blood, but, as regular readers may recall, my heart is not all that it might be and that has put me in the “banned form donating” category.
Fair enough, just one of those things. And yet … I feel sad, even bereft. And it comes back to citizenship – it wasn’t about “doing something amazing”, to quote the Blood Service’s silly slogan – it was about about being a responsible citizen; it was about doing, to coin an old fashioned phrase, one’s duty.