Thursday, November 23, 2006


Social Infrastructure

There is, of course, a difference between moral theatrics and moral sanction. Consolidating a cultural base of support inevitably requires both intellectual development and spiritual growth.

J. Alva:
Exactly the case. The anti-war movement fizzled after that awful open letter from the putative leaders. It had the appalling stink of celebrity showboating and selfish, disingenuous abrogation of responsibility. No baseline means no place to plant your feet and grow.

One of my mentors once observed that my exemplary yet tragic activism served as a cautionary tale to others considering whether or not to become directly involved in public affairs. Judging from the price we and others like us paid, it is not unreasonable to conclude that principled participation is an inherently bad experience to be avoided at all costs.

Assuming this is how dutiful citizenship is viewed by those sympathetic to our sacrifice and gallantry, how might we construct social support infrastructure that would enable meritorious community service to withstand the inevitable adversity and personal hardship encountered in this arena?

J. Alva:
I think that that kind of community support can't be built outside intentional communities, indigenous groups and some religious affiliations, most of which already have that as an essential component of the face they present to the world. Building it from scratch on a nation-wide level is an ambition worthy of a fool, or many such. I am hoping that Lohmann, who has studied this
intensively, and done work in the area, will post soon on the topic -- because I am out of ideas.

A network of affinity groups, associated scholars, institutionalized organizations, is certainly a different organism than a clan, tribe, or aboriginal nation, but as anomalies in a vastly dysfunctional society, it's what we have to work with. Likewise, the synergy created and symbiosis developed may not be as strong or majestic as an extended family with millenia of experience together, but it's better than nothing.

J. Alva:
The thing, then, I conclude from your comment is that time would be better spent networking affinity groups. I have to look more closely now at the CWIS, among others.

Having chosen to express and act on sympathies in opposition to the dominant society, we can hardly expect to be rewarded by mainstream organizations.

With the Internet, self-determined people previously isolated can now connect. It's always nice to have friends and colleagues close enough to meet face-to-face, but that isn't always an option. I think I mentioned once that individuals with exceptional abilities and ideas aren't that hard to find. They are usually doing or saying something publicly, and if we strike up a correspondence, we might find a mutually beneficial result.

For the decade I was able to affect local politics with other members of my community, I enjoyed a more tangible prestige and sense of belonging. The subsequent trauma as a result of our community's disintegration, and our individual scattering thousands of miles apart illustrated for me just how fragile our communal relationships are. My former activist partners are still part of my network, as are my new online associates, but the relationship is now reflective--not active.

I don't miss the level of stress involved in sustained community organizing amidst intense social conflict--ten years of that is enough. So my role has changed, but my methods remain. My more socially rooted indigenous and religious colleagues continue to inform my theses, as well as keep me connected and involved. With luck that might once again lead to more intimate forms of exchange.


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