Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Creating Positive Community Identity

Living Mosman: Community Gardening
Living Mosman: Community Gardening (Mosman Council)
by Paul Born, UTNE Reader: http://www.utne.com/community/creating-positive-community-identity-ze0z1407zhou.aspx

Positive Community Identity

Marlene and I want our children to have not only a positive self-identity but also a positive community identity.

However, the complexity of our times makes living in community perhaps the biggest challenge we face.

I believe that Charles Dickens would not find it difficult to extend his description of the eighteenth century, in his novel A Tale of Two Cities, to our century, for we, too, live in the best of times and the worst of times.

For an example of the best of our times, consider how so many countries have come to understand the importance of the rights of every individual. We have embraced feminism and dismantled racism - or at least have built a broad social consensus against racist language and attitudes.

We have welcomed gays and lesbians into greater participation in social institutions. We have spoken out against torture in war and violence toward children.

There is a growing understanding today, from our youth on up, that we must care for those in need and fight the downward pull of hatred based on ethnicity and ideology. There is a growing consensus that we must work for a just society and the protection of the rights of the individual.

Is it possible, though, that the pendulum has swung too far? In making it a priority to enhance individual rights and opportunities, have we made it easier for people to ignore community responsibilities?

Tracking along with the positive gains we have made with regard to individualism are examples of the worst of our times: when families struggle to find appropriate day care or schools, as if children were an individual responsibility, or when we walk past or even over the homeless, believing that they must have done something to deserve their plight.

If someone were to win a million dollars, the world might say, “Good for you. Go ahead and spend it; you deserve it - it’s yours.” But our culture’s individualistic approach does not bring deep satisfaction.

Compare this with cultures in which people share windfalls with one another through potlatches or at large community weddings. Do we live in a time when an excessive focus on self is dismantling our need or sense of responsibility for one another?

We are tempted, when so much that comes at us is a mixture of the good and the bad, to throw up our hands in bewilderment and do nothing. But many individuals and groups are fighting against the worst-of-times aspects of life today.

I see people of every socioeconomic bracket and faith and employment level struggling to make sense of the changes they’re facing, desperately seeking a future for their children that is better than the one they see coming. They - we - are seeking new answers and, in turn, are finding deeper connections.

For example, in an age of globalization, many of us are “going local.” We’re rediscovering local foods and gardening, the simple pleasures of walking and cycling, and our neighbors. Each connection we make in these contexts deepens our resolve.

We’re using the Internet to offer people who want to visit our cities a free or inexpensive week’s stay in our homes. We’re sharing services. Consider the “casual carpools” in the San Francisco Bay Area, whereby pedestrians line up in certain locations and, on the basis of trust, take the next car in line, driven by a stranger - no, by a fellow citizen.

To read more, go to: http://www.utne.com/community/creating-positive-community-identity-ze0z1407zhou.aspx#ixzz37V85sFVJ

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