Big corporations often seem to behave with disregard for the humanity of citizens and community. Geared to function with a singular profit-making intensity that is resistant to compromise, these are not human creatures.
Living with a dominant corporate culture, we find ourselves perceived as economic units, “consumers” pressed into service by a materialist mindset.
And so we have been isolated from one another, forced apart by social forces that are difficult to overcome. The personal experience of meaning and interconnectedness that civil society depends upon has evaporated.
Americans need not submit to such a sorry destiny.
Independence is always relative, but it is an attitude and a choice. Self-sufficiency could actually become a matter of life or death. It can mean food security or financial stability or being a good parent. Its’ meaning will take on new dimensions when crises strike. But, there is much more to it than survival.
It is in community and in the quality of our active relationships that we form the matrix of a free society. Freedom is realized in serving a principled purpose, and in the vitality of lives that are engaged and in motion.
It is in productive interaction with others that ideas are shared and problem-solving is most effective. In trustworthy relationships, self-sufficiency gains strength and dependability.
But, are we willing to take this on?
We might not want to put up with community. A few try to avoid it all together. But, it is impossible to completely ignore it – unless we take snowshoes, an axe and a rifle, and walk into the wilderness.
I know how attractive solitude can be. I also know that it would deny me the opportunity to grow as an individual, as well as the honor and adventure of dedication to the country I love.
Historically, the basic building blocks of the American Republic have been communities. And, the bonds that held everything together were the personal relationships that make communities work.
Communities are formed by the inspiration and determination of individuals and families, interwoven into mutually supportive networks, and networks of networks. And, no, it will not be easy to regain what came to us so naturally in the past.
Let me state again, however, that the ultimate visionary force can only be that loyalty to the American Idea that welcomes diversity and rejects hostile divisiveness.
Americans are accustomed to contentious politics and unconstrained partisanship. There will always be value in the clash of differing opinions. However, we have entered a period of instability and potential danger. It is time to rise above our differences in the interests of ensuring the balance and cohesion of the Republic.
We face the instability of extraordinary complexity, deteriorating infrastructure, and institutions that are trapped in the past. Things are not going to work the way we think they should, and there will be no one to resolve the problems except ourselves.
If we are to rebuild a society in which the foolishness of the past is not repeated, we must think constructively about the qualities and principles that are needed. Generosity and good will are essential human virtues. We must keep them strong in our hearts, but help one another to understand why they are not enough. Some things just don’t work.
Finding solutions to community problems will demand that we put our heads together. It will require consultation, deliberation, and creative imagination. And, it calls for the most diverse range of minds and perspectives possible. The way to maximize effective problem-solving is to include people with a broad range of experience and practical skills.
This might sound idealistic. In fact, it is the only way to restore a broken society. Learning how to do it will be hard work, but people of good faith will always have the capacity to succeed.
We must hold our personal beliefs clearly in mind, while keeping in mind that we can expect less conflict and far greater security if we connect, listen and learn, understand and influence.
Holding ourselves apart from one another in disagreement while hurling insults can only reap destruction. Engaging with one another can be extremely challenging, but there is no other way.
Next week: Foundations for security.