This was originally a FB post. It resonated with some people and generated some good discussion, so I’m bringing it over here to the blog. It’s not as developed as what I usually post – but this way it won’t get lost in the misty depths of my FB wall. (Also, maybe if I let myself post shorter/rawer stuff, I’ll post more?!)
I worry about statements like these. It’s tempting to console ourselves with all kinds of individualism (and small-groupism) when we live in a culture where the fabric of reciprocity and solidarity has been most comprehensively unwoven. But we’re getting duped if we believe we face the question of individuals (or small groups) versus movements for making change – let’s ask instead how we as individuals come alive in groups and communities that are embedded, with scores of others, in movements as vast as the problems we face.
To come alive in this context we need to re-weave that disintegrated social fabric in old and new ways, within and across communities. But first, to even be aware of the need for that task, people of the industrialized world especially have to be mindful of how historically and globally unique our culture is: how effectively capitalism and colonialism have chewed up and destroyed any sense of community and collectivity, and how that violence has distorted our understanding of the world.
We chafe at collective action and gravitate toward individualism because we have mostly never experienced anything like an intact community. We have no referent for it. That blank space on our map is a chasm in between us and the world we desire.