Big corporations often show little regard for local communities or the people who live in them. Geared for profit-making, not moral responsibility or citizenship, giant business organizations dominate our lives today. They are neither human nor humane.
Living in a society dominated by corporate culture, we find ourselves perceived as economic units, “consumers” pressed into service by a materialist mindset.
It should not be surprising that we find ourselves alienated and irritable at a time of crisis, isolated from one another and struggling to make sense out of chaotic circumstances.
The interconnected web of relationships that civil society depends on has evaporated.
Americans need not submit to such a destiny. Ours is a nation of people, not machines. We are prepared to work, but not to be used. 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 financial stability or food security 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 as autonomous individuals, and in the vitality of lives that are engaged, responsible, and in motion.
Constructive relationships with other people allow ideas to be shared and understood. Our ability to solve problems improves. In trustworthy relationships, our self-sufficiency gains strength.
Are we willing to take this on?
We might not want to put up with community-building. It’s hard work. Some try to avoid it all together. A few might prefer to 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 real.
Communities are made functional 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 in diversity, trustworthiness and dependability.
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 dangerous period of instability. This is a 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 are not working as we expect they should. And there is 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 local problems will require consultation, collaboration, foresight and creative imagination. All of these call for a diversity of practical skills, knowledge, and perspective, and therefore a diversity of membership.
This might sound idealistic, but we can no longer depend on outside help.
Learning how to do it will be difficult, requiring learned skills and determination. Those with steadfast patience and vision – who can see the end in the beginning – will carry through and prevail.
Resolving differences of opinion or non-core values is not necessary for stabilizing a crisis. While giving each other space to have differences can be uncomfortable, holding ourselves apart over disagreements while hurling insults can only reap destruction.
Rising above our differences is a serious challenge. But there is no other way.
Note to regular readers: Please look for the next post on or about October 9.