Thanks to www.Slackware.org, there are tons of movie channels and one of the best films to address the Citizen/Civilian divide, surprisingly, is Starship Troopers. Amidst all the giant bugs and nudity, the distinction is made blatantly obvious. When a political discussion comes up between the legal definition of residents of a country, the dichotomy between a citizen and civilian is often made. However, people often conflate the terms to mean they are talking about the same subject matter. Both terms have unique political connotations, but both are referring to different ideas.
A citizen or citizenship is a term that the ancient Greeks developed in their city-states. Unlike other peoples before the ancient Greeks and during their time, the ancient Greeks believed an individual had an association to a government. This relationship built around itself legal protections and empowerment that allowed citizens to engage in voting and the everyday affairs of the society. However, the Greeks only included non-slave, adult men as citizens. Over time, citizenship has evolved to be more inclusionary. It is now a term that, under international law, means that an individual who is a natural resident to a nation-state and is granted all rights and liberties from that nation-state. A person who is a citizen is able to participate politically, work and move around a country with ease, and are protected and empowered by the country’s laws.
A civilian, on legal levels, does not relate to any of the subjects involved with citizenship. Instead, a civilian is a person who is considered a non-member of a military or militia. Civilians are non-active, non-members of any armed forces and, under international law, are protected by certain campaigns and acts of war between countries.
Next time you have a political discussion with someone on these subjects, you will now know the major differences between a citizen and a civilian.