How does one view their community? Is it closed? A delicate ecosystem, at risk of being degraded or destroyed by the people who would join it? Is it merely a structure? A paradigm within which some will be more likely to succeed than others, and which is indifferent to its impact and its outcomes? Or is it a work in progress? One which has a goal of promoting happiness amongst its constituents and which can always be made better with new input?

In a closed community, the risk still remains that an existing component could change and throw off the status quo. What happens when a person is born with special needs within that community? What happens when someone within the community develops a mental illness? Must the non-conforming people be excluded from the community? Or must the community adapt? And if it chooses to adapt rather than to exclude some of their loved ones from their lives, will they be equipped to adapt?

In a community that is an indifferent system, there will be those who prosper and those who flounder depending on the rules of that community. Rules as simple as whether one speaks the prevailing language, and whether one conforms to its arbitrary standards of beauty. If one had a choice upon entering the world, ignorant of the charms and geography into which one will be born, it’s unlikely that anyone would choose such a community. And even those for whom the system has been beneficial  might end up resenting an indifferent system when they become invested in a person for whom the system wasn’t designed: fall in love with a racialized person or raise a child with a non-conforming gender identity.  We find that we want a system that values these people like we value them, and which will be responsive to their needs and receptive to what they have to offer.

I choose to see community as a collaborative project with the goal of promoting happiness amongst its constituents, and which is benefited by the success of each of its constituents. The flexibility and adaptability of the community’s systems lend both to the welfare of its constituents and to its ongoing improvement. Its embrace of people with different perspectives, skills, insights, and experiences – ensuring that those people can be fully integrated into the community and can fully participate in the community’s development – is both its imperative and its greatest strength. We do this by ensuring that everyone is, as far as possible, safe and comfortable: that they have the healthcare they need, that they are not being subjected to violence or harassment at home or in public, that they have food and shelter, and that they are both free and able to access information and to communicate their thoughts and feelings. The community is undermined when its constituents are oppressed or marginalized, but moreover it is failing in its purpose when it is unresponsive to the needs of its constituents.

Posted in: Progress

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