Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Essay: Communities and their essential limits on personal freedom

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Communities and their essential limits on personal freedom

From the book: Chum for Thought: Throwing Ideas into Dangerous Waters by David Satterlee

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Communities are inherently intrusive, coercive, and very necessary

Chum For Thought:
Throwing Ideas into Dangerous Waters

Communities and their essential limits
on personal freedom

“No man is an island.” Communities are the foundation of civilization. It is almost impossible to be entirely self-sufficient. We need each other for our variety of abilities, interests, and ideas. Our individual differences make us stronger as a group.
Farmers understand that monoculture crops require extra care because they are more vulnerable to disease and disaster. Colonies of single-cell bacteria do not need diversity in the same way because they just reproduce rapidly to consume whatever they find and then die back.
For people, it is easiest to create communities when everyone shares mostly the same values. But, the more we isolate ourselves from others who are different in some way, the more extreme, intolerant, and fragile, our group becomes.
In the natural environment, thousands of
different plants and animals work together to fix nitrogen, provide shade, hold soil from erosion, cross pollinate, and such. Our human communities also prosper when they embrace diversity.
Communities do not allow unlimited personal freedoms. In fact, one of the properties of communities is that they are intrusive and coercive. People in communities voluntarily give up some individual liberties and, in the spirit of Ephesians 5:21, “submit to one another” for the common good.
For instance, if you catch my child throwing rocks and breaking windows, I should appreciate, or at lease accept it, if you bring him to me, explain the problem, and expect me to discipline and correct him.
As communication tools and speeds rapidly increase in our modern world, we find ourselves to be involved in larger and larger communities of interests and communities of relationships. This can be fearful for those who prefer the comfortable memory of things like they used to be.
Nonetheless, we are obliged to keep on extending ourselves to understand, or at least accept, that we are all in this together and that the Golden Rule works both ways.