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.

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