Friday, September 25, 2009

Essays: Ideas on The Paradox and Promise of Community

“We form our communities from two needs—the need for self-determination and the need for one another: But in modern society we have difficulty embracing the inherent paradox of these needs. We reach to satisfy one at the expense of the other. Very often the price of belonging to a community is to forfeit one’s individual autonomy. Communities form around specific standards, doctrines, traditions. Individuals are required to conform to obey, to serve, “the greater good” of the community. Thus inclusion exacts a high price, that of our individual self-expression. With the loss of personal autonomy, diversity not only disappears but also becomes a major management problem. The community spends more and more energy on new ways to exert control over individuals through endlessly proliferating policies, standards, and doctrines.”

“Our communities must support our individual freedom as a means to community health and resiliency. And individuals must acknowledge their neighbors and make choices based on the desire to be in relationship with them as a means to their own health and resiliency.”

These excerpts are taken from Margaret Wheatley’s Finding Our Way Leadership for an Uncertain Time.

Wheatley challenges us to embrace the paradox of being an individual and yet being dependent on neighbors in the spirit of community. It is essential that we preserve our sense of individuality as it fosters a diverse and an enhanced form of community. Diversity brings in differences and new ways of being and doing which are essential elements of community organization. Ultimately we need each other to survive in healthy and harmonious relationships.

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