The Problem with Small Groups 2

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?!)


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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.

  • I worry about your pessimism and a couple of other comments here. I’m from the generation between you and Margaret Mead and have a different perspective and can’t agree with every thing you say here. I’d like to pose a couple of questions and/or statements.
    Let me start at the end, I’m struggling to understand your use of the term reverent here. So that makes your conclusion difficult for me to fully digest.
    Allow me to ask you, Are we living in an industrial society or post industrial. I believe it is post industrial and the idle hand and heads of the masses of the first world are without direction. I believe this vacuum is responsible for the difficulty of our youth to find a place in a post industrial world. Much, not all, of the education system is still geared towards an industrial workforce.
    I’m no apologist for capitalism or colonialism, but our world has always been violent. So, to attribute violence to capitalism, colonialism and a lack of community and collectivity I think is a step too far.
    To worry about Margaret Meads statement is valid, but I don’t think you should underestimate the power of the individual and small group power to bring about change.

  • Thanks for your comment. To clear up a little confusion about terms – I use the term “referent” (not “reverent”), to mean example or experience. As in, we have no example or experience of real community to draw on.

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