Tuesday, December 12, 2017

What does it mean to be a community? Mutual aid and care

"Locally, we are the site of Care.

Our institutions can offer only service— not care— for care is the freely given commitment from the heart of one to another; it cannot be purchased. As neighbors, we care for each other. We care for our children. We care for our elders. We care for those most vulnerable among us. It is this care that is the basic power of a community of citizens. Care cannot be provided, managed, or purchased from systems.

 Health, safety, environment, economy, food, children, and care are the seven responsibilities of an abundant community and its citizens. They are the necessities that only we can fulfill. And when we fail, no institution or government can succeed. Because we are the veritable foundation of the society."

McKnight, John; Block, Peter (2010-06-14). The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods (p. 4). Berrett-Koehler Publishers. Kindle Edition.

In my study of community, it is interesting how the boundary of community is drawn. Who and what is in the community and who and what is out of the community? What is the unit of functioning we are considering?

My community, the Village of Brockport, has its geographical and governmental boundaries and it is situated within the larger community of  the Town of Sweden which is situated within Monroe County which is situated within Western New York State which is situated within New York State and the United States of America within the Northern Hemisphere of the planet Earth.

An awareness has been developed with the proposal of dissolution of the Village of Brockport about the importance of the function which the community of the Village of Brockport plays within its larger forms of organization. If the Village of Brockport were dissolved and its community absorbed into a larger entity of the Town of Sweden how would the community responsibilities for health, safety, environment, economy, food, children, and mutual care be carried out?

John McKnight and Peter Block in their book, The Abundant Community, state that there are three universal properties of an abundant community: the giving of gifts, the presence of association, and the compassion of hospitality.

The Village structure provides multiple opportunities for people sharing their gifts of talent in its multiple committees and groups which care for our village trees, parks, welcome center, merchants association, historical preservation, library, museum, ethical relationships, etc. This structure would be lost with dissolution and it is unclear what, if anything, might provide the same degree of functioning for the well being of the relationships within the village community.

Associations would be modified with many functions centralized diminishing more local attention and activities. With the goal of cost reduction, more local participation and focus is sacrificed. More institutional service provision is required since volunteer labor is lost, and either costs in the long run go up or quality of life diminishes. Compassion of hospitality is diminished as pride  and appreciation of more intimate bonds are displaced by bureaucratic organization which is alienating and difficult to negotiate because of its objectification of relationships with policy and procedure rather than subjective appreciation of human needs and preferences.

To use McKnight and Block's terminology, what is the "site of care?" Does how we define the "site of care" make a difference in the quality of life? The dissolutionists main argument for eliminating the Village community is the cutting of tax costs, but this is a very thin argument and overlooks the thicker description of the resources available from the mutual care, association, and hospitality when the "site of care" of the Village of Brockport is maintained.

The Village of Brockport's voters voted "no" to dissolution on May 24, 2016 832 to 617. They had voted "no" to the same dissolution proposal in 2010 959 to 662.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Why write a blog?

Edublogs uses questions to prompt people to blog. The first question posted today, 01/04/17, is why do you blog? Here are a few of my reasons:

1. It helps me clarify my thinking about a particular topic or idea. This clarifying process some might call "metacogntion." Metacognition has to do simply with the question, "What do you think about what you think?" or as the bumper states in the negative, "Don't believe everything you think." There are some follow-up questions to the first one which are: "How do you know if what you think is true?", and "How would you feel if what you thought were true turns out to be false?", and "How would you manage those feelings?"

2. Another reason I blog is it allows me to articulate and distribute ideas that are unconventional in such a way as to be unacceptable because of the cognitive dissonance they create in established media publications. Some of my ideas may seen heretical or blasphemous of accepted orthodoxy and editorial decisions get made to silence them as "inappropriate" for the editor's publication. New ideas are often perceived as threatening to the status quo and so are excluded from ever seeing the light of day. Blogging allows ideas to be shared without the fear of censorship.

3. Blogging allows the author to develop and share ideas with other kindred souls and it is in this sharing that a resonance can occur which can be very validating and satisfying. Validation is not the same thing as agreement. Validation involves the experience that one's thoughts, feelings, and behavior are recognized, acknowledged, and understood even if the reader (listener) does not agree. A relationship is formed that can be dialogical from which the participants can learn if engaged in with open minds and compassionate hearts.

People who write blogs, if they are to be successful and beneficial, must engage in blogging as a regular practice and be faithful. Whether the blog is successful or not depends, of course, on the definition of success which can be thought of as threefold: does it achieve the intended results, is it efficient and able to be produced within the parameters of available resources, and lastly, is it satisfying to its multiple stakeholders?

The intended purpose of this blog is to help people live more happy and satisfying lives. Please let me know how reading this blog affects you, if at all.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Mountain Men - the film

Mountain Men is an independent film on Netflix streaming about the re-union of two brothers, the management of their conflicted relationship with their father, and their grieving his mysterious death.

Questions about brotherly relationships, relationships between fathers and sons, and identity as one struggles to figure out one's place in the world especially in relation to the people one is related to and loves are addressed.

Mountain Men is a coming of age story but an unusual one in its depth and rawness. While funny in places, this movie takes the questions of existence and relationships seriously. We observe these two twenty somethings attempt to understand what it means to be a "man's man." This question is addressed in a nuanced way well worth considering.

This is recommended for general audiences and especially for people interested in family dynamics and sibling relationships especially between brothers. Cooper the younger brother, demonstrates what interpersonal psychotherapists might call an "avoidant attachment disorder" which his older brother, Toph, persistently and patiently attempts to manage by manipulative tactics of engaging Cooper in a closer relationship.

Toph, himself, struggles with what interpersonal psychologists call an "anxious attachment style" in relation to his girl friend who is pregnant with his child. Restoration of some level of rapport between these two brothers facilitates their growth, development and maturity into manhood in lovely ways which leaves the viewer pleasantly satisfied at the film's conclusion.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

How large is your circle of caring?

In this time of Donald Trump with its sexism, racism, xenophobia, bigotry, it is more important than ever to remind ourselves of our ethical responsibilities to our fellow inhabitants on the planet.

From Theory of Knowledge:

"How large is your circle of caring?

Certainly, one of the recurring knowledge claims in ethics is that as human individuals we owe something to others – attitudes of respect, concern, or even love, and actions that promote their welfare along with our own.

Ethical systems based on consequences aim for the maximum of human happiness. Ethical systems based on principles present doing good for others as an obligation. Furthermore, ethical systems based on care stress nurturing relationships as important. All of these ethical systems agree that we should care for others. Religions of the world teach variations on the golden rule – to treat others as you would like to be treated yourself. Together, they lead to concern, caring, and compassion. "

Eileen Dombrowski;  Lena Rotenberg;  Mimi Bick. Theory of Knowledge (International Baccalaureate) (Page 271). OUP Oxford. Kindle Edition.