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L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 570, May 16, 2010

"Prepare for the future by getting to it"


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Community, Meaning, Importance
by Bob Wallace
ProfessorBigBrains@gmail.com

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Exclusive to The Libertarian Enterprise

In some ways people aren't that hard to understand, if you have some of the keys. One of those keys is that everyone, in varying degrees but not any difference of kind, seeks community, meaning and importance. Those three things make people feel alive.

That particular key is not original with me. Dostoevsky, in The Brothers Karamazov, observed that people seek to form "communities of worship." The sociologist Robert Nisbet wrote a famous book, Community and Power. Chris Hedges wrote recently wrote a book, War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning.

Unfortunately, many communities—be they countries, religions, ethnic groups, political parties—are communities of victimization and blame. They consider themselves victims and blame their problems on other people. In doing so, they seek to turn those other people into a scapegoat onto which they project their own imperfections.

One thing this seeking of and blaming a scapegoat does is help hold the community together. This means for groups, enemies are a necessity. Then, invariably, it seeks to exterminate the scapegoat. That's wrath—hate, anger, self-righteousness.

These communities of victimization and blame exhibit every one of the Seven Deadly Sins—and more.

For one of the main examples, the members of some of these communities cheer war, as long as a very small minority does the fighting. And in their love of war, against an "enemy" onto which they project their own unacknowledged flaws, they engage in what the Bible warns against as "the lust of the eye." Hedges wrote about this particular sin in his book.

There is a scene in the movie The Triumph of the Will that I allude to frequently. Near the beginning Hitler is standing up in a touring car as it travels down a street, both sides of which are crowded with thousands of smiling people.

The expressions on these people's face show they are worshipping Hitler—they are engaging in Dostoevsky's "community of worship." What they realized far too late is they were worshipping an idol.

The people in these communities of victimization and blame exalt themselves individually by becoming members of their collective mob. That is the sin of Pride, or what the Greeks called Hubris, which is always associated with violence.

Many times people join these communities of blame out of despair, loneliness and boredom. Despair is a sin, as is boredom—acedia.

Wrath, lust, idolatry, despair, and acedia—these are the sins (along with all the others) that are inherent in all communities of victimization and blame. The meaning and importance that comes from these communities are false and temporary ones, and lead to destruction of the community. It is a false "aliveness" that the members feel.

These communities always seek a leader whom they idolize and to whom they immediately give their freedom. I consider this idolizing of a leader the main and most significant indicator of the coming destruction of a community. It may take a long time, but I believe it will always collapse.

I saw this idolization with both Bush and Obama. Idolizing politicians whose main purpose in life is to engage in fraud and force—simply amazing.

I suspect that in the long-run all communities turn into communities of victimization and blame, unless it understands what is going on and prevents it. That's a sign of its degradation—denying its own responsibility and blaming its problems on others. I believe this is particularly true of countries.

What, then, should a community be based on? If communities of victimization and blame are based on the Seven Deadly Sins, then a good community, one with true meaning and importance, would be based on based on the Seven Cardinal Virtues—prudence, justice, temperance, courage, faith, hope and charity.

The word 'sin' derives from the word 'hamartia,' and is an archery term that means 'missing the mark.' 'Virtue' means 'strength' or 'power' and is also derived from the word 'man,' It means 'the strengths and powers of Mankind.'

Communities that 'miss the mark' are always political communities—ones based on force and fraud, as all politics is based on force and force. A community that does not miss the mark would be one based on persuasion.

Alfred North Whitehead, in his book, Adventures of Ideas, had this to say about the difference between persuasion and force: "The creation of the world—said Plato—is the victory of persuasion over force...Civilization is the maintenance of social order, by its own inherent persuasiveness as embodying the nobler alternative. The recourse to force, however unavoidable, is a disclosure of the failure of civilization, either in the general society or in a remnant of individuals...

"Now the intercourse between individuals and between social groups takes one of these two forms: force or persuasion. Commerce is the great example of intercourse by way of persuasion. War, slavery, and governmental compulsion exemplify the reign of force."

You cannot force people to be prudent, or just, or temperate, or brave. Or force them to have faith, hope and charity. It is a community based on persuasion that would be one with true, permanent meaning and importance.


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