Unity or Bust!

I wish, you wish, our parent’s, our siblings, hey, maybe even our pets wish. It’s hard to argue that no one wishes, for someone, or something, that can bring happiness our satisfaction to his or her future pursuits or endeavors.

So yeah, everyone wishes. People we might not be tolerant of, groups we might not be supportive of, even those we thought had it all.

But the wish or aspiration of the individual pales in comparison to that of the community; at least if you ask a civic republican. Apparently, these folks never had aspirations beyond the progress and furtherance of society as a whole. As they would put it back in the days of our once and no longer monarch, “Forget about your tea parties and sport my colonial fellows, there are mass meetings and mobs to be organized!”

Yes, when we were mistreated and mishandled by our British cousins it was too easy to say ‘that ain’t right’. Committees were made, meetings were organized, and mobs ran amuck. It seemed everyone had a similar Christmas list; one that read ‘freedom’.

James Morone was happy with this premise. His ‘Democratic Wish’ prescribes community with shared interests and goals as the ideal.

But Morone’s wish had many pitfalls. Impossibility was one of them. But his theory was correct. Once there exists a common enemy to the public, as a whole is it easy to rise, but once the multitude of issues comes back into the fray, it is easy to lose sight of the common objective. That comes with an increase in population and in diversity of a nation’s peoples.

Although the colonials were realistically not all in agreement over the fundamentals of political and civic life, they were all for the most part ‘out of doors’, a clever way to say they were done taking crap from the Brits. That’s when all the rabble rousing came. And with that came Thomas Paine, a man who clearly believed in the uniformity of the ‘American wish for independence’. But Paine believed in a different type of community; free of those who lacked the outlook of the civic republican. It was public good and hatred toward the British or bust.

We are human beings. We clash, and as individuals we all have our own moral compass. The idea that we put our own well being ahead of the common people is not necessarily a bad one; actually it is not bad at all. It is our own prerogative. It’s what gets us writing these blogs in the first place.

The question I raise is, although the idea of community is well and good, when is it right to think for ourselves, for our families, and for our future without suffering the scrutiny of our fellow citizens? Likewise, is it ever so readily apparent that the community may need to come first, or is our society too large, too diverse, too divided?

I wish I knew the answers to those questions.

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2 Responses to Unity or Bust!

  1. paranpi says:

    I think in a lot of cases the well being of community goes hand in hand with well being of an individual, or a smaller group within the community that most times, the issue of community vs. individual isn’t conflicting at all. For instance, community would benefit tremendously from individuals who pursued intelligence, technology, etc. Vice versa, an individual would benefit from a community that could foster such growth in different people. So I think in the end, the best outlook of this is to combine civic republicanism with Rand’s concept of individual creator, and say community is not “mooching” off of brilliant individuals, but that communities create brilliant individuals…

  2. nmajie says:

    It is extremely difficult to classify cases when someone should or should not put their individualistic ideals above those of the community. However, I would argue that these cases are not mutually exclusive; in fact, I believe that there is an important link and crossover between classic liberalism and civic republicanism.

    Kemmis’s argument in “Barn Raising” shows the importance of civic republicanism as opposed to classic liberalism. Albert and Lilly put aside their extreme personal differences for the betterment of the community. “This acceptance…broadened them beyond the boundaries of their own likes and dislikes and made these personal idiosyncrasies seem less important” (Kemmis 121). However, his argument is an extreme. I wonder how Kemmis’s argument would differ if Albert and Lilly did not contrast in their individual interests? In other words, what if they would not have needed to sacrifice or alter their personal perspectives to move forward? Then would their desire to build a barn be both an individual and communal interest? Unlike Kemmis’s example, I do not believe that an example of a civic republican implies that there must be an individual sacrifice for the greater good of the community. In other words, to be a civic republican, we do not always need to give up our individual ideals. A classic liberal’s ideals can often mirror that of the community so that the transformation to a civic republican just includes immersion in a community setting.

    So, as you stated in your example with the colonists fighting for independence in the 1770s, everyone wanted freedom. Freedom was an ideal of both the community and the individual. I would infer that the colonists were fighting for their own individual rights and for the common good simultaneously and not exclusively of one other. In reality, there was not a large separation among the colonists as to whether or not to fight for their independence. The unique interest of each colonist at the time (however “selfish” it may be according to Rand) is the same as the communal interests. The individuals rallied around their shared individual interests in order to create a much stronger communal interest; they did not need to sacrifice their personal ideals in the process. I believe that the colonists were classic liberals who, when united, became civic republicans.

    So, in response to one of your questions, I think that often when we think of our own individual interests, they align with the interests of the community. Our individual desires do not always need to defy the communal desires.

    However, if our interests don’t align with “bigger picture,” and we need to sacrifice our personal interests like Albert and Lilly, it is best to maintain an objective outlook. On page 123 Kemmis relates objectivism to the public interest when he writes “the values are shared because they are objective; they are, in fact, public values.” Objectivism should not simply encompass the community outlook but also our own views and opinions. The idea of a moral compass as a an example of classic liberalism would be modified if we chose to maintain both individualistic and community ideals. As humans, we are naturally subjective, but if we make the effort to keep the ideals of the common good in the back of our minds, our morals will not be so individualistic. Ultimately, we are driven by the ideals of classic liberalism, but if we take into account the communal values (with or without sacrificing our individual interests), we have the ability to become civic republcans.

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