Source: A Genuine Willingness – QuakerQuaker.
We long for connections to others. We want to belong to something greater than ourselves. At the same time, we demand autonomy and freedom from constraints imposed by virtue of belonging to a group. These opposing pulls cause stress on both institutions and individuals as we try to meet the requirements of our outer and inner worlds. How do we genuinely balance our need to be self-determining persons and, at the same time, contributing members of society?
The answer depends on our definitions. If my interpretation of self-determination is how much I can gain for myself in terms of power, prestige and wealth, then the possibilities for balance between a person and community are negligible. On the other hand, if I characterize myself primarily by my role in a given social unit, then I risk losing my true identity.
These are some pretty heavy words from my Quaker friend David Madden over at the QuakerQuaker blog site. As usual he has given me a lot to think about in this area. The first thing that came to mind was a blog post I made months ago about how if stoplights were invented today Republicans would be against them. 🙂 After all isn’t the purpose of stoplights to get you to do something you don’t really want to do. It definitely impeded our autonomy in getting someplace as fast as possible.
It does seem that my Republican friends, and much of the world for that matter, view almost everything from a very self-centered viewpoint. If something does not benefit them directly they are pretty much against it. They are tuned in to the “survival of the fittest” worldview. Where is the balance point between self and community? That seems to be a big question especially in today’s political sphere. I think this very question gets down to the basic difference between our two political parties. One is focused almost entirely on autonomy and the other toward community.
All of us, especially in the U.S. treasure our autonomy to one degree or another; we believe that is one of the defining differences between us in the U.S. and the rest of the world. Like most things in life that fact has a good side and a bad side. In that regard I want to also include a quote here from my hero Will Rogers:
All we hear is “What’s the matter with the country?” “What’s the matter with the world?” There ain’t but one thing wrong with every one of us in the world, and that’s selfishness. — Will Rogers
We like to think of ourselves as being compassionate. Even George W. Bush wanted people to think of him, rightly or wrongly, as a “compassionate conservative”. (I’m not at all sure there can actually be such a thing 🙂 ) In order to be compassionate we must be attuned to others in our society. We must also take to heart the words brought to us by Jesus Christ with his new covenant. We must at least put our brother’s welfare equal to our own. Selfishness is counterproductive when in comes to community. We no longer seem to understand that fact. And that is a very sad thing.
But what do I know….