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How to change “people aren’t united”

Are people not united? Do they distrust each other? You don’t need courses, you need causes. You don’t need deep, emotional introspection, you need to distribute responsibilities and get to work.

colaborando kibutz
In times of decomposition, culture turns dark, it’s taken for granted that’s “every man for himself (or woman for herself),” defeatism is embraced, the dream of a better world is substituted with the perverse desire for disasters that would exonerate alternatives of demonstrating on a community scale that they are capable of improving everyone’s life. In an environment where disasters are considered irredeemable, holding things in common is represented as a sacrifice of individuality and communalism, if it works at all, is considered the complex result of a Baroque system of rules that calls for its own bureaucracy. In a world where fear becomes ideology, authoritarian solutions are legitimized, and at the same time, feed a spiral of despair, passivity, and tedium. We “freeze up” like little birds after a shock, unable to reason, enjoy, or take risks, hopeless about having any kind of trust with loved ones, and, as a friend from Curazao said yesterday, “people aren’t united.”

Responsibility comes before trust

refugiados italia 1950Belden Paulson is an old American communitarian activist. In the ’50s he started off on a adventure to settle the refugees stuck in Naples after the war in Cerdeña. After years on the run and a dependent life camping in fields with miserable conditions, social relationships were breaking down. The authorities didn’t trust his project and as he tells it, his beneficiaries even less. And yet, it worked. In Cerdeña, the refugees started doing physical work together, and with work in common, they started to learn new skills together and to enjoy doing so. As individual pride was recovered, the ability to trust in others took hold.

When the project showed itself to be a success, Paulson asked a psychiatrist how it had been able to turn out so well. The psychiatrist gave him two keys. According to him, the trust of others restored everyone’s faith in life, but the view of activists also helped: the dossiers that told of the life and miseries of each refugee were never read. According to the psychiatrist, thanks to that, to not learning about the problems and traumas they were burdened with, they believed in them and their potential without a shadow of a doubt, and that was transmitted in their proposals. The refugees didn’t need gentle, sweet experience that took their limitations into consideration. On the contrary: they needed to be given responsibilities, and for the bar to be set for them where it would be put for someone who was strong, sure of him/herself, and perfectly autonomous.

Conclusions

acuarela kibutzWe can draw three very practical lessons from this story:

  1. The supposed “way we are,” our past trauma and pain, is dead weight. To think that identity and intimacy are built by sharing them is a mistake made by teenagers. Trust is not born of what “we are” in that sense, but of what we are able to do for others and others for us.
  2. Touristy experiences don’t help to improve the helplessness that the setting feeds. There’s no “vaccine” for the character and trust in oneself. Taking unsweetened responsibilities is the path.
  3. Conquering work, transforming the setting, seeing the material results of your wits and your work, above all,, seeing that they serve those around us and raise expectations that they have of us and that all we have of working together, is what “makes community.”

Are people not united? Do they distrust each other? You don’t need courses, you need causes. You don’t need deep, emotional introspection, you need to distribute responsibilities and get to work.

Translated by Steve Herrick from the original (in Spanish)

«How to change “people aren’t united”» recibió 1 desde que se publicó el Viernes 26 de Febrero de 2016 dentro de la serie «» . Si te ha gustado este post quizá te gusten otros posts escritos por David de Ugarte.

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