It is clear that the welfare of the community is directly related to the welfare of the individual. Do not think I’m downgrading the importance of the individual. Healthy individuals make up a healthy community. But a healthy community can heal unhealthy individuals much better and faster than the individuals could otherwise do themselves.
And then there’s the infrastructure.
Consider this: Who among us can afford to build and maintain their own interstate highway? Who can afford to build and maintain their own school, their own airplane, car, refrigerator, washer and dryer, etc.? Who among us can be their own brain surgeon, dentist, lawyer? We’ve got needs, we’ve got stuff, and we need each other to help with all of it. The question is how do we order all that stuff and all those needs?
It seems to me we’ve chosen hierarchy, as in a power- and position-based order—alphas and betas and the untouchables. That’s our community. Oh we’ve got some philanthropy and altruism and I’m glad about it. But the point is that those on lower rungs are always a bit nervous as they’re at the mercy of those on higher rungs. This works exactly like the principle in war that those who occupy the high ground have the advantage. We know that, whether it’s conscious or unconscious. It makes sense to have the advantage.
The principle of a democratic community, of freedom, of the U.S. Constitution, is to level the playing field a bit—to give all of us advantage. It’s a good thought and to be sure, it changes the way our neural structure fires and it changes the way we remember and think. Sometimes, it even changes the way we behave. That’s something. But we’ve got a conundrum, as in we like the principle, but we want the advantage anyway. It’s as though we set up community so individuals can have rank, even as we set-up community to help. I mean, just how much fun would advantage be if it wasn’t recognized? And certainly we need help to gain advantage. That’s why sports and games are important—to exercise our natural need to have advantage, to win out. And sports and games are important in teaching us how to lose as well. However, that’s also why gaining advantage is not generally important in setting up a cooperative—again, if it’s fundamentally about gaining advantage, the winner wins the loser. And yes, I’ve heard it before and written about it before, but it bears repeating: For those who say one must gain power (as in get the position) to do anything, I say don’t listen to them, they don’t get the proper order of things. If our sole purpose is to gain advantage, we’ve got a culture based on lunacy. For the professional politician who thinks I’m espousing nonsense, I did italicize the word “sole.” To the professional politician who thinks they’re off the hook because they have higher ideals than just gaining advantage—I think the ongoing state of human affairs indicate those politicians either have not been so professional or they’re simply fooling themselves and/or others.
It might be annoying, but let’s quit following loons. When someone’s pattern is about relying on their position, they’re probably nuts simply because if all they have is position, they don’t have enough enlightened thinking and feeling to be proper leaders. Colt 45s may have made all men equal in some sense, but it didn’t make them too much smarter. Personal power is not real if it’s basically about one’s position and one’s stuff. And I don’t mean to say that someone who owns the watershed can’t be real trouble, I’m saying that a pattern of leveraging position doesn’t make them someone to follow in the community. Besides, good leaders need to know how to be good followers, and good followers need to know how to be good leaders.
Make no mistake, it will cost us. But it will cost less then what we’re paying now.
Maybe it’s time for a kind of Boston Tea Party, only a peaceful one. It will take work, but practicing the art of working intelligently is not just humdrum busy work, such work is intrinsically important to both the individual and the community. Let’s organize what’s bull and what’s good and change the former and enhance the latter. What we can’t do in that organization is to create yet another “us and them” scenario—let’s fix the problem and not the blame. And that means practicing the art and science of thinking, feeling, interacting, cooperation and conflict. And maybe most of all, the art and science of active listening—as one who truly listens cannot, at that moment, be running a personal agenda.
As I said, the purpose of a community is to cooperate, to share in our successes and our burdens. And I think it true that a burden shared is half a burden and a success shared is twice a success. Again, do not misunderstand, I’m not saying we should give our burdens to others so we can go merrily on our way—we’re talking about real interacting, real cooperation, not an emotional and/or cognitive Ponzi scheme.
Consider this: community building doesn’t actually start with freedom, it starts with work. If we’re going to make the positive changes necessary to improve the quality of life and to mitigate running off a cliff, we might consider that in building a community, all of us need to perfect our discipline before we perfect our freedom. When we really do it together, we really get it together.
Actually, that’s nothing to be afraid of, that’s a great reason to get up in the morning.