Big corporations sometimes show little regard for local communities. Geared for profit-making, not citizenship or moral responsibility, giant business organizations are resistant to compromise. They are neither human nor humane.
Living in an economy dominated by corporate culture, we find ourselves perceived as economic units, “consumers” pressed into service by a materialist mindset.
It should not be surprising to find ourselves alienated from mass society, isolated from one another, and struggling to find meaning in life. The interconnected relationships that civil society depends on have evaporated.
Americans need not submit to such a destiny. Ours is a nation of people, not machines. We are prepared to work, but not as tools. We are social beings, but independent in mind and spirit.
In reality independence is relative, but always an attitude and a choice. The independence that leads to self-sufficiency could actually become a matter of life or death. It can mean food security or financial stability or being a good parent.
The meaning of independence takes on new dimensions when crises strike. But, there is much more to this than survival.
It is in communities and in the quality of active human 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, responsible, and in motion.
Constructive relationships with other people allow ideas to be shared. Our ability to solve problems is enhanced. In trustworthy relationships, self-sufficiency gains strength and dependability.
Are we willing to take this on?
We might not want to put up with community. It’s hard work. Some try to avoid it all together. But, it is impossible to ignore it in a civilized society – unless we take snowshoes, an axe and a rifle, and walk into the wilderness.
I know how attractive solitude can be. But, I also know it would limit my opportunities to grow as an individual, as well as the honor of dedication to the country I love.
Historically, the basic building blocks of the American Republic have been communities. There was a time when the bonds that held everything together were the personal relationships that made communities work.
Communities are formed by the inspiration and determination of individuals and families, interwoven into mutually supportive networks, and networks of networks.
It will not be easy to regain what came to us more naturally in the past. Yet, our future depends on loyalty to the “American Idea”, a vision that embraces unity, diversity, and trustworthiness.
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. This is the time to rise above our differences to repair and protect the interwoven fabric of the Republic.
We face unprecedented complexity, deteriorating institutions, and a growing scarcity of resources. Things will not work the way we expect 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 principles and human qualities that are needed.
Generosity and good will are essential human virtues, but they are only the beginning.
Finding solutions to community problems requires consultation, collaboration, foresight and creative imagination – all of which call for a maximum diversity of practical skills, knowledge, and perspective.
This might sound idealistic. In fact, it is the only way to build communities and, I believe, to restore a broken society.
Learning how to do it will be difficult and often frustrating. But those with steadfast patience and vision – who can see the end in the beginning – will carry though and prevail.
Resolving differences of opinion or non-core values is not necessary for this to work, and may often be impossible.
While giving one another space to have genuine differences can be uncomfortable and aggravating, holding ourselves apart over disagreements while hurling insults can only reap destruction.
Rising above our differences can be a formidable challenge, but there is no other way.
Dear readers: Please look for the next post on or about March 9.