The Responsive Communitarian Platform
an article by the Communitarian Network
(our site's article review)
Communitarians hold that a responsive community is one whose moral standards reflect the basic human needs of all of its members. They hold that individualism and community are both to be vigorously supported, without resorting to win-lose unnecessarily. Win-win is to be followed whenever possible.
They assert that the best place to start is at home, in the family. They remind us that bringing children into the world entails a moral responsibility to provide, not only material necessities, but also moral education and character formation which can not be delegated to babysitters or even professional childcare centers. It requires close bonding. (This is also the MC standard. See Why Register for an MC?.)
Moral education and character formation can not be delegated to babysitters or even professional childcare centers
They say “Above all, what we need is a change in orientation by both parents and work places. Child-raising is important, valuable work, work that must be honored rather than denigrated by both parents and the community.” They go on to make the case for increasing resources, and increasing flat-gradient nurturance, citing the fact that research has shown that two-parent families raise kids better than single-parent families, and that couples with extended family available nearby (their help is needed in addition to the parents’ caregiving, the authors stress) do better than those without this. They also stress that kids learn by examples to emulate, not words.
They state that we need to be our brother’s and sister’s keeper—it doesn't work to rely on government to ride in and save the day
They state that we need to be our brother’s and sister’s keeper—it doesn't work to rely on government, bureaucratized welfare agencies, and swollen regulations, police, courts and jails. No social task should be assigned to an institution that is larger than needed to do the task. (Like so many other sources, they validate the reasoning behind setting up MC neighborhoods that are not only adequate resources for meeting most of the social needs of the adults and children there, but also “institutions” that are as large as are needed to do the job. No government intervention or programs are needed, and no one is calling on larger institutions for any childcare help, morals-teaching help, character-development help, or any of the other roles that need to be assumed by those that love the kids, not those that cope with the kids.)
Finally, they say that “To achieve this major renewal and revitalization of public life, to reinstitute the prerequisites for attending to the public interest, requires a major social movement, akin to the progressive movement of the beginning of the century. . . . our first and foremost purpose is to affirm the moral commitments of parents, young persons, neighbors and citizens, to affirm the importance of the communities within which such commitments take shape and are transmitted from one generation to the next. This is not primarily a legal matter. On the contrary, when a community reaches the point at which these responsibilities are largely enforced by the powers of the state, it is in deep moral crisis. If communities are to function well, most members most of the time must discharge their responsibilities because they are committed to do so, not because they fear lawsuits, penalties or jails. . . . Social environments, like natural environments, cannot be taken for granted. . . . If more and more Americans come forward and join together to form active communities that seek to reinvigorate the moral and social order, we will be able to deal better with many of our communities’ problems while reducing our reliance on governmental regulations, controls and force.”
Real community members act decently from commitment, not because they fear lawsuits
Remember the Tofflers’ power concepts, now, wherein if we are to meet the challenges of the Third Wave, we need to transcend our reliance on lower-quality Second Wave power (money or the threat of losing it, force or the threat of it) in favor of high-quality power based on information and wisdom and the application of same.
We must choose between power from money (the current choice) and power from wisdom and knowledge
If the communitarian movement were to try to be a singular, monolithic, all-or-nothing solution to our country’s ailments, it would of course fail. There are missing ingredients. But as part of the solution they are an excellent and welcome complement to the overall solution.
Steep-gradient nurturance, which is practiced so often, and yet with so many liabilities in this country, is not likely to support character structures that manifest communitarian values and actions. The still-dominant, old, reductionistic-mechanistic paradigm with its obsession with win-lose, dominance, competition, and individualism is not a paradigm in which people comfortable with communitarian values will be bred. And the current authoritarian and permissive parenting methods breed anger, passive-aggressiveness, confusion, narcissism, win-lose attitudes, resentment, passiveness and apathy, hardly the character traits needed in communitarian communities. The authors are trying to jam the square peg of current American character into the round hole of communitarianism. The bad news is it won’t work. (The good news is that if done as a kind of political complement to the upcoming MC transformation, the establishing of a communitarian context in politicians and polity alike is not unreasonable.)
Trying to jam the square peg of current American character into the round hole of communitarianism
The American character is infused with a heroic individualism ideal. We like to see people be strong, self-reliant, willing to stand on one's own 2 feet. We honor independent people, cringe at dependent people. We make special allowances for kids and mentally ill, mentally challenged, and senile people. But adults better be independent—period. Conservatives think that needing social work agencies represents a failure of character in a family. Families should be like adults: independent. They should be so strong that they succeed at their childraising goal without help.
The American character is infused with a heroic individualism ideal
Even liberals feel this way but repress it. Their parents and the media infuse their character with heroic individualism just like conservatives. When either later develop a tolerance for others' needs and dependencies, and use the act of helping them or donating to them, it does not mean their characters have lost their ideal of heroic individualism. It means they have found a way to feel good about themselves, since helping others means they are not just generous but more than and higher than the one being helped. Look at me compared to them. I'm better.
Most adults are insecure and immature and at least somewhat neurotic. They do not feel good about themselves. They give and therefore feel better about themselves, whether they give to churches, charities, or panhandlers. Even better feelings result when others see this giving. "Other-directed" (see The Lonely Crowd) "indirect self acceptance" (see The Adjusted American) gives the giver a "fix." Additionally, insecure adults repress their own dependency needs and feelings and project them on the weak and needy so as to feel like independent people compared to the other person, who is shamefully dependent. Americans reflect win-lose, dominance, competition, and hyper-individualism such that when they give, they dominate, they win, they are best, they are winners, while the needy person is dominated, loses, is a loser, is worst, is second-rate. This is not usually conscious, but it is how their heroic individualism values relate to the giving and volunteerism and the sense of satisfaction they get from the giving is because they feel like a winner who is better than the other person.
Americans reflect win-lose, dominance, competition, and hyper-individualism
The reason we look at these underlying values is to understand how Americans relate to words like community, togetherness, and group. Logically they like the idea of a functioning community, but their heroic individualism values tell them they ought to be more independent than to need others in their community. So community is for others—for losers, for weaklings, for dependent, second-rate people. So they do their level best to not ever need other community members. When this turns out to be a ludicrous goal and they use nonfamily childcare, borrow from neighbors, or even get food stamps or unemployment in tough times, they feel shame and guilt—now THEY are the "losers," the "slackers."
American heroic individuals feel like slackers if they get food stamps or unemployment
In certain situations in groups, we pull together and need one another—this is the acceptable context when we play team sports or toil with sandbags in a flood. But we do not feel this way about community. United we stand, divided we fall is only okay for competitive sports, or for military operations using companies, battalions, divisions, or squads. But Americans don't have the right character to feel that way about community. A community, after all, is composed of a combination of people they barely know and people they don't know at all—nor do they wish to. Hardly a squad or team!
American character clashes with team situations
What remained when most social tasks were exteriorized in the 1950s was the isolated ‘nuclear family,’ held together less by the functions its members performed as a unit than by fragile psychological bonds that are all too easily snapped
MC (microcommunity) families live in normal houses and apartments as normal nuclear, single parent, extended, and mixed types of families. MCs are free to choose, if they prefer, only certain types of people, certain races, certain religions, all two-parent nuclear families, all singles, or whatever—people that choose each other really like each other and respect each other’s values and interests. The wrong way to maximize social resources is via communes, socialism, communism, fascism, gurus, cults, etc. They give the very idea of maximal resources a bad name. The right way to maximize social resources is to empower democracy and responsible independence and leave people’s physical living modes and family styles alone. Instead, concentrate on making the relationships work optimally between spouses, parents and children, friends, committed neighbors, and committed relatives, so that they produce happiness, optimal childcare, fulfillment, and self-actualization, not symptoms and dysfunctional lifestyles.
Neighbors are nearby people we are stuck with, not friends we have chosen—but MCs change all that
You can see that your community is not composed of people who really like each other and respect each other’s values and interests, but your MC is, which is why you feel at least as close to your MC members as you do with the military squad or the competitive sports teammate, so "pull together and need one another," and "united we stand, divided we fall" is acceptable. You help one another with childcare and eldercare, and you do things together because your MC members are also your best friends. Unlike your current neighbors, who you did not choose and who you are stuck with and who you have no interest in and nothing in common with, these MC people are great friends and you all care about all the kids and each other and you are very happy to have them do childcare for your kids and just as happy to do childcare for their kids. The same goes for eldercare.
Elder care is part of some MCs
The American character is infused with a heroic individualism ideal that believes in avoiding dependence and pursuing independence. When you are independent from your community members, you end up trusting your childcare needs to strangers or babysitters, which makes you feel guilty and somewhat ashamed at having this need and making your kids put up with inadequate childcare. Modern America simply doesn't support the heroic individualism ideal very well.
Modern America simply doesn't support the heroic individualism ideal very well
When you get let go from a job due to downsizing, you do need unemployment and food stamps. It makes no sense to feel ashamed and like a loser when this happens—it was out of your control. But you still do feel that way. Communities are necessarily places of both dependence and independence. You depend on power company and utility companies to send you electricity and water, plumbers to fix your pipes, mail carriers to bring you your mail—and the list goes on. You are a hard working, independent, working class hero until your factory job moves to Mexico, at which time you are another "loser" standing in the unemployment line.
Our national character makes us feel like a loser for standing in the unemployment line
In short, the idea that we are "independent" people in our communities is an illusion. Our heroic individualism ideals make us wince at every one of our actions that have any dependence connotations. But such actions are unavoidable—NO ONE is "independent"! We keep trying to be independent, regardless. And that's good. The healthiest people are autonomous and at cause, they stand on their own two feet, they run their lives according to the choices they make. But they're also dependent on family, co-workers, community, and, hopefully, their MC as well.
Ironically, MC people depend on their spouses, families, and MCs as much as anyone, but they become more autonomous and self-actualized than most people, because their needs are filled better than most non-MC people's are filled. Average non-MC people feel they are independent people, not needful dependent people. But the average non-MC person is actually needy and still a dependent (see Toward a Psychology of Being) type of person due to his needs not being well filled as a child and due to inadequate parenting. But the average MC person is actually not needy and is an independent (psychologically) type of person due to his needs being well filled as a child and due to optimal parenting.
Think of it like this: there is a parallel relationship between individuals being dependent on families and families being dependent on communities.
Individuals in normal families: But normal families' adults both work so individuals being dependent on families alone for their needs is unlikely to work well for the individual—especially if the individual is a child. And even if the mom stays home, mother-alone parenting results have been shown to be poor as well. Relatively few autonomous and self-actualized people result from either of these subpar childcare situations.
Families in normal communities: And families cannot depend on normal communities to furnish the needed childcare, jobs, security, or eldercare, either. And families that try to depend on normal communities find this often does not work that well. Families are often stuck with taking whatever they can get for childcare help—regardless of how poor the quality of care is or how it negatively impacts the children. Again, relatively few autonomous and self-actualized people result from this subpar childcare situation.
However, when an MC fills all childcare and eldercare needs and most friendship needs and most community-related needs, things DO work out well. MCs are the epitome of a responsive community, eliminating much need for relying on non-MC resources (like daycare and eldercare) since that is handled locally in the MC. And MCs help strengthen communities because instead of draining resources they supply resources when MC members volunteer to help non-MC people in various ways, including the most important way: showing them how they too can have MCs and start having lifestyles that really work well.
Remember, the Communitarian Network says that "If more and more Americans come forward and join together to form active communities that seek to reinvigorate the moral and social order, we will be able to deal better with many of our communities’ problems while reducing our reliance on governmental regulations, controls and force.” It also says to avoid babysitters and daycare centers in favor of care by people who really care about the kids and have a close bond with them. This will assure better "character formation."
And they are right, of course, but their formula is incomplete in that better character forming from the above will be incomplete and—worse—neutralized by steep-gradient nurturing which most families use in between sitters and daycare visits, the latter of which mostly involves more steep-gradient nurturing since kids rarely get to truly choose who nurtures them and when (like in MCs), in centers.
One person, whether parent or relative or babysitter or "nanny," usually does this main childcare task at home—often while doing housework, phone calls, or even home business running.
The Communitarian Network says that they want win-win character as much as possible. It also makes the case for increasing resources, and increasing flat-gradient nurturance (more truly caring caregivers per kid), citing the fact that research has shown that two-parent families raise kids better than single-parent families, and that couples with extended family available nearby (their help is needed in addition to the parents’ caregiving, the authors stress) do better than those without this. This is true but the situations they describe will not produce the needed amount of flat-gradient nurturance to result in win-win character formation. A two-parent family will mean steep-gradient nurturing because one will be working, one will do the care—even if they trade off it is still usually one caregiver. And couples with extended family available nearby will not result in increasing flat-gradient nurturance in most cases because it will simply mean there will be more people to give respite to the caregiver and steep-gradient nurturing will again result.
It must be said that the Communitarian Network is doing a great job of trying to reawaken community spirit and empowering communities with the right knowledge to function the way the Founders wanted when they designed our democracy. Most communities today are communities in name only so democracy is waning.
Corporatocracy prevails, therefore community and democracy take it on the chin
But it takes a great sense of humor to call the current American political system a Democracy. It has been an Oligarchy for quite a while now—using sham elections to keep up a front of freedom, choice, leaders chosen by the people, representatives who truly represent the people. We have to ask anyone who believes that leaders are chosen by the people and representatives truly represent the people: "what have you been smoking, fella?" (See The US is an oligarchy, study concludes.)
Do you believe that our representatives truly represent the people? What have you been smoking?
And anyone who believes the social safety net will keep existing for this century will hear the same question—they're already preparing to slowly decrease it until there's nothing left. And anyone who is waiting for the people in power to begin doing social spending to help the people will hear the same question. And anyone who believes they'll ever make a fair, progressive tax table where people and corporations support the government according to their ability and there stops being all these tax breaks for the rich will hear the same question. Remember Obama the "progressive" "Liberal" who swore not to give tax breaks for the rich and then turned around and sold us all out once elected? And now remember the swinging banjo in the movie Deliverance? Great ideals aside, surviving the rest of the 21st century is going to be about forming MCs just to survive, since forming regular communities that expect any kind of support, unemployment, food stamps, tax breaks, childcare waivers, or social services will be naive in the not-too-distant future.national debt
Unless American citizens start defecating money, the debt has put us all in deep doo-doo
The swinging banjo in the movie Deliverance is warning us about what it will take to survive the 21st century
We all want to see a future with a well-functioning democratic government like the Founders built. But the greedy and the corrupt have pulled the rug out from under that plan. So the best interim plan is MCs and planning for the worst relative to taxes, government, social supports, and the economy. And the best long-term plan is to have the MC movement create so many people with good, win-win, compassionate character and morals who are the opposite of the greedy and the corrupt win-lose characters who got us into this mess that MC people gradually and peacefully and naturally become part of local and eventually national governments so that we can begin the process of moving this country back in the direction of the great democracy the Founders created, run by wise, responsible, community-friendly leaders who have the people's interests at heart, not their own selfish interests!
We all want to see a future with a well-functioning democratic government like the Founders built, but the greedy and the corrupt have pulled the rug out from under that plan
MC people are very different from the normal American—who is other-directed rather than autonomous, full of indirect self acceptance focus, dependent (psychologically) rather than the independent he thinks he is, full of heroic individualism ideals and win-lose character traits that make it hard for him to stomach community ideals, easy to fool and manipulate by politicians and corporations with their psychologically-targeted marketing—and so on.
Did the powers-that-be create these sheep-like people as a conspiracy to create an oligarchy disguised as a functioning democracy—all so that a few rich elites could get wealth and power? No, we doubt they are that smart or proactive. However, see Rogue State: A Guide to the Worlds Only Superpower.
Did the powers-that-be create these sheep-like people on purpose as a conspiracy in order to create an oligarchy cleverly disguised as a functioning democracy—all so that a few rich S.O.B.s could get the wealth and power and the rest of us could people the New Feudalism? No, we doubt they are that smart or proactive. But now that the perfect types of easy-to-fool win-lose characters comprise the vast majority of American character types, these powers-that-be are surely wasting no time taking full advantage of the situation!
Did our leaders condition us to be sheep so the rich could be aristocracy and us sheep could be serfs?
You may well ask how our education systems and parenting practices can support this benevolent goal of American character rebuilding. Check out Beyond Discipline and Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn and P.E.T. by Thomas Gordon. These 3 books will tell you what you need to do to have your parenting and our educational system both support creating win-win, wise, responsible, community-friendly, compassionate character types.
Let's quit looking to social engineering superheroes and rely on local community efforts
Will politicians or social engineering "save us"? Don Eberly, in Building a Community of Citizens: Civil Society in the 21st Century says that we need, above all, civic revitalization in which the politicians clamoring for attention are summarily dismissed from our minds and we opt instead for what he calls: “. . . an all-fronts mobilization of individuals to improve the social and moral infrastructure of America.” [Think MC.] It will be a movement, not a political phenomenon. We will need to form a values consensus. We will need to “. . . rebuild American greatness around the tripod of character, community and culture.” This fine author has written some great communitarian books. He should be heeded.
The powers-that-be treat us as sheep to fleece every 4 years—and every year in between
Americans are so infused with their heroic individualism ideals that they keep waiting for the next politician up to bat to be our knight in shining armor heroically riding in to save the day—like a human Mighty Mouse. Ain't gonna happen. EVER! This is an "at-effect" idea of other-directed citizens who the powers-that-be treat as sheep to fleece every 4 years—and in between. Let us allow MCs to create "at cause," conscious, aware, autonomous, self-actualized (see Toward a Psychology of Being to grasp the essence of this type of person) people that lead the MC movement to cure this deteriorating pseudo-democracy while there is still time.
Any attempted solutions without MCs at their core are predestined to fail, since without a very basic character change, trying to use our society's people to usher in a community-movement-based brave new world of equality, peace, freedom, and love will be trying to force a square peg into a round hole. There is simply no real way that good intentions and community organizing will change basic character type enough to make truly win-win character, unless the organizing is done around MCs. Communitarians' responsive communities are one piece of the puzzle. As MCs form they will be examples (of community building) to emulate. Several MCs in an area make up a full community without the "micro" part. See Why Register for an MC? and the rest of this website to grasp the whole picture.
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