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Ch. 3 - All for One, One for All 
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Post Ch. 3 - All for One, One for All
Ch. 3 - All for One, One for All


Please discuss Chapter 3: All for One, One for All within this thread. You are welcome to create your own threads if you would rather not post within these chapter threads. These exist only as a means of organizing the book discussion for those people that prefer such a structure. ::204




Fri Apr 06, 2007 11:50 pm
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Post Re: Are communities that wonderful?
I'd like to start this thread, since it seems to be where McKibben sings his full praise of communities, which is the main point of my disagreement with the solution he puts forward. Not that I don't believe that humans are social beings and that we can only survive and flourish when cooperating with each other, but I think communities require a deeper analysis than that. Isn't this forum of ours a kind of community? I think McKibben advocates for a narrow definition of community which reminds me very much of the traditional kind of community, one I would not like to live in.

I do agree with him that our individualism has become so extreme that it sometimes plays against us, and that we should find a solution, or rather, find each other again. But there are many positive sides to this individualism which has developed over the last half of the last century. It has allowed people whose lifestyle is not 'mainstream' to live their lives in freedom, and that is no small achievement.
I was born in a Mediterranean country, where family and community ties are much stronger than they are in Central/Northern Europe, where I live now. Luckily I was also born in a big city, and as a city dweller I have always be thankful for the freedom that comes along with living anonymously. I know the tale of many residents of Madrid or Berlin who came from their smaller towns or villages because they couldn't have developed fully in a close-knit community. That is so because communities favour certain behavioural patterns in individuals and relationships of power, and the coertion of the group to conform to their rules can be suffocating.

True, McKibben puts it nicely:

Quote:
Living in a community comes with drawbacks, small societies can be parochial, gossip-ridden, discriminatory. There was something liberating about escaping them, about being on your own. That's the story of much of American literature, with Huck lighting out for the Territory.


But that is his only reflection so far (I have read over 3/4 of the book) about the negative side of living in small-sized communities), the rest of his writing is decidedly advocating for this kind of life as the solution to our energetic/environmental problem. He criticizes repeatedly Smith's argument of the 'invisible hand' of economy, but I think he relies too heavily on the 'invisible hand' of communities, and sometimes that hand slaps hard.

McKibben's main argument in favour of communities relies on the fact that they allow a sustainable economy and they have a positive influence on our mental health. To some extent or other both assertions are true, but they



Mon Apr 30, 2007 5:01 pm
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Post Re: Are communities that wonderful?


A thousand times yes, Raul. Great post!

I have the same hesitation you do about McKibben's unreserved praise of the virtues of community. Particularly, I think if he intends to advance his claim that these communities make happier people, he needs to give fuller consideration to the limitations of such communities, as you noted. Additionally, McKibben's rather narrow definition of community does not give full consideration to the vital communities people participate in every day. Really, I have nothing to add; you have perfectly outlined my thoughts on the chapter. I got through half of the following chapter before I finally put the book down. I just don't appreciate the unjustified causal relationship McKibben attributes between his perceptions of "community" and "happiness."




Mon Apr 30, 2007 10:24 pm
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Post Re: Are communities that wonderful?
I hear you both...

I haven't read this chapter yet, because I've been chewing over my feelings about the last one. I started Chapter 2 feeling really distressed at the prevalent attitudes of economists he was quoting...then left it feeling like there was some hope ("If Cuba can feed itself in a crisis, then maybe North America can!"). It almost sounds to me that he's on a high of solutions to what ails us, and in Chapter 3 he's going to keep it up, at all costs.

"All beings are the owners of their deeds, the heirs to their deeds."

Loricat's Book Nook
Celebrating the Absurd




Tue May 01, 2007 11:01 am
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Post Re: Are communities that wonderful?
Actually, I agree with the picture McKibben paints. People in modern American society are more isolated than in almost any other society in the history of mankind. Since human psychology evolved in more of a community, the weak community structure in the world today makes people unhappy and distressed. Bowling Alone, an excellent book that McKibben mentions, makes that case quite strongly.

Now, I don't how to solve that problem, especially as someone who's more solitary than average. The farmer's markets and related local economies that McKibben advocates won't have that big of an impact. Still, recognizing and highlighting the underlying issues, as this chapter does, is an important first step.

Edited by: JulianTheApostate at: 5/4/07 2:29 am



Fri May 04, 2007 1:29 am
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Post Re: Are communities that wonderful?
I find that I'm agreeing with what McKibben is saying as well.

Julian: The farmer's markets and related local economies that McKibben advocates won't have that big of an impact.
The fact that they are there, and growing in popularity, provides people with an option. No, not a huge impact, but each person that experiences it may be enriched, even if they don't understand why.

The opening day of my Market on Saturday was utterly brilliant. The weather was perfect, there were a lot of people walking the street, LOTS of conversations happened (more than 10 times the conversations in supermarkets, I'm sure!), and at least 5 people mentioned the 100 Mile Diet to me, and I had a few conversations about local food! The word is getting out!

The 100 Mile Diet book is out now. I'm totally planning to go to the local bookstore, and get him to get in extra copies of Deep Economy, Omnivores' Dilemma, and the 100 Mile Diet, and we'll do a joint press release, or a party or something...

"All beings are the owners of their deeds, the heirs to their deeds."

Loricat's Book Nook
Celebrating the Absurd




Mon May 07, 2007 9:28 am
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Post Re: Are communities that wonderful?
Here again, I think McKibben is offering very little that is new. David Reisman published The Lonely Crowd more than 50 years ago. I recall lots of articles and books about the angst and loneliness of American psyches, especially young American psyches, throughout the 1960s and into the 70s.

I think a large part of the unhappiness of middle America is not so much because of loneliness or isolation but because so many people are working so hard to accomplish very little. I agree with McKibben that one of the things that's needed is a recognition that life needs to be about more than the pursuit of more stuff, but I also think many people came to that realization long ago.

On the subject of communities, I think McKibben is too wedded to the idea of the traditional small town or village model and fails to understand that with the sort of global communication and interaction that exists today communities can exist in a variety of ways that were not possible even 20 years ago. I think there is tremendous flexibility and potential in how we may define communities and some of the new style communities may offer potential for growth that simply didn't exist in the older models.

For example, BookTalk is a kind of intellectual community. We can communicate, exchange ideas, argue, joke and so on with people far outside our neighborhoods, even outside the nations in which those neighborhoods are located. It's an enriching experience, one that simply was not possible when I was a young adult.

So, while I agree we need communities, I have to reject an approach like McKibben's that seems too formulaic. Small towns can be wonderful. So can big cities and all sorts of living arrangments between those two. There's a very good reason why so many of the young people raised in small towns can't wait to leave. There's also a good reason why many of them like to return to such places in their later years. There isn't any one model that's going to serve the interests of human beings. We need the mix.

And I really have to say that I've been on this planet for nearly 66 years and, all things considered, my life is far more satisfying than ever before. That doesn't mean I live in a perfect world. It does mean that, in my own experience at least, McKibben's description of the loneliness and isolation of modern Americans does not seem to be true. Not for me. Not for most of the people I know.

Lastly, his description of hyper-individualism leaves me wondering as well. I think American society as a whole is better described as having a herd mentality than exhibiting the kind of hyper-individualism he describes.

George

"Godlessness is not about denying the existence of nonsensical beings. It is the starting point for living life without them."

Godless in America by George A. Ricker




Mon May 07, 2007 6:31 pm
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Post Re: Are communities that wonderful?
garicker: ...I think McKibben is too wedded to the idea of the traditional small town...

I would disagree -- I think he's going into the small town/village descriptions in such depth because he's talking about an ideal, but it's the social interactions that are important. I moved to a smaller place just recently, but I used to live in Vancouver, BC. Now there's a couple of million in the GVRD (Greater Vancouver Regional District) -- so as a whole, no, there's no real grand, central community. But there are plenty of neighbourhoods that do have it...where people know their neighbours, chat with people in the local shops, and the like.

garicker: I think American society as a whole is better described as having a herd mentality than exhibiting the kind of hyper-individualism he describes.

I see what you mean, george -- is it really the move of an individual to get a tattoo anymore, when all of your girlfriends have the same vague celtic design on the lower back? Herds.

What I really agree with in his discussion of hyper-individualism is what it means on a social/economic scale. It's great for ME to buy this item at super-cheap prices, ignoring the ramifications of that choice, but for me to think about the benefits (or lack thereof) to the community I live it (whether it's my town or my country or my earth), and perhaps not buy the really cheap coffee, instead buy the fair trade, shade-grown, organic coffee...that's being community-minded.

And yeah, while not much of what he's said is original, maybe this is the book that get people talking a bit in this generation, and hopefully acting on it.

"All beings are the owners of their deeds, the heirs to their deeds."

Loricat's Book Nook
Celebrating the Absurd




Tue May 08, 2007 8:43 am
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Post Re: Are communities that wonderful?
Loricat: What I really agree with in his discussion of hyper-individualism is what it means on a social/economic scale. It's great for ME to buy this item at super-cheap prices, ignoring the ramifications of that choice, but for me to think about the benefits (or lack thereof) to the community I live it (whether it's my town or my country or my earth), and perhaps not buy the really cheap coffee, instead buy the fair trade, shade-grown, organic coffee...that's being community-minded.

Yes, and I agree with that also. Thanks for reminding me. I've thought for a long time that our much publicized American standard of living has been purchased at the cost of a lot of suffering around the globe. It's not just the impact on our local communities but also on that larger human community of which we all are members.

There was an article in The Independent last week called "We shop until Chinese workers drop" that puts things in perspective. While the Chinese government is grudgingly trying to adopt some protections for workers, the American Chamber of Commerce and other commercial interests from the West are apparently lobbying against those protections because they are "too expensive."

Read the article at:

www.commondreams.org/arch...05/03/936/

George

"Godlessness is not about denying the existence of nonsensical beings. It is the starting point for living life without them."

Godless in America by George A. Ricker




Tue May 08, 2007 6:35 pm
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Post Re: Are communities that wonderful?
Thanks for the article. Interesting, guilt-producing. :\

"All beings are the owners of their deeds, the heirs to their deeds."

Loricat's Book Nook
Celebrating the Absurd




Mon May 14, 2007 9:53 am
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Post Neighborliness
McKibben's challenge is to reorient ourselves away from autistic economies of "hyper-individualism" toward local economies geared for "neighborliness" and ecological sustainability, what he calls "post-autistic" economic systems.

Our dominant economic model creates an autisitc world of hyper-individualistic self-absorption and increasing isolation: less time with family and friends, working longer hours, hidden away in internet alcoves, profound disconnect from those who farm, harvest, transport and deliver our food supplies, or make our clothes, or own the businesses in our community, or make the decisions in our political arenas...and a general growth apart and away from each other. In 1920 we could expect to find 10 neigbors per acre; by 1990 it has reduced to 4. New homes have doubled in size since 1970 with a decreasing density of 2 homes per acre. We are occupying 8 times more developed land (per capita) than 80 years ago.

Economists view human beings as primarily individuals, and not as members of a community. Their ideal of the human being is a self-contained want machine bent on maximizing utility. This has created a surplus of individualism and a deficit of companionship. I like how McKibben puts it:
Quote:
We don't need each other for anything anymore. If we have enough money, we're insulated from depending on those around us- which is as much a loss as a gain. By some surveys, 3/4 of Americans do not know who their neighbors. That's a novel condition for primates; it will take a while to repair those networks. (117)


RaulRamos: McKibben's main argument in favour of communities relies on the fact that they allow a sustainable economy and they have a positive influence on our mental health. To some extent or other both assertions are true, but they



Tue May 15, 2007 3:31 pm
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