Friday, January 20, 2012

Collective or Community?

The chattering classes and politicians enjoy offering sweeping pronouncements. I am not immune to this, so I will claim here and now, "mea culpa" for my declarations of principle. I only ask that they be evaluated.

One of the disturbing trends of the past century has been the collectivization of people-groups and voting constituencies, at the expense of individuality and true community. The 2012 Obama's strategists have "written off" the white blue-collar votes and are aiming their election appeals downward to non-White poor and working groups and upward to academic and professional elites advocating maximal private (read sexual) liberties. This cynicism is not absent from Republican campaigns, as populist tirades against Romney multiply, with capitalism under fire. Analysts and spin doctors evaluate ethnic "blocs" and "evangelical" groups, with little attention to the variegated realities of the American populace and, most ominously, almost no regard for individual dignity and freedom rooted in truth and virtue.

Ideologues and totalitarians love to see people collectively, often with eyes of exploitation or benevolent despotism. When Republicans limit increases for federal social programs, they are "starving the poor." Of course, no one dares questions the terrible inefficiencies and unethical practices of those administrating these programs. When Democrats suggest that military spending be curtailed, they are "weak" and "unpatriotic." Cynicism and immediate quests for office, power and wealth override what is good for the community and nation.

Community is not the same as "the collective." The latter has its roots in the insipid and insolent ideology of Marxism, while the former is founded upon the cooperation of free people associating for the common good. The collective focuses on conformity enforced by an elite; community is cooperative and driven by shared values. The collective breeds dependency, true community empowers personal flourishing in an ethos of service. The collective subverts moral, political and religious traditions with fabricated unification. Authentic community strengthens the deepest beliefs and bonds and helps us live with our deepest differences.

Our Founders were not Cartesian individualists, Ayn Rand libertarians or theocratic ideologues. Somehow through their arguments, compromises and passionate debates, they forged an experiment in freedom we are still aspiring to realize. They would be aghast at the Marxism that permeates the collective unconscious of so many thinkers. They would equally recoil at the hyper-libertarian ethics ruling the extremists of the Left and Right.

Community begins with the dignity of the person and the freedom to love and serve. Government exists as a subsidiary agency to familial, personal and religious mores. Government does NOT exist to bestow rights, but to protect them! At the same time, there is no liberty without transcendent truth, virtue and the rule of law.

"Structural change" in economics is a Leftist euphemism for government intervention and forced redistribution of wealth. "The magic of the market" is sometimes a cover for libertarian disregard of racism, redlining and oppression. We need free markets and morality. We need effective oversight and maximal creativity. We need community compassion joined with personal responsibility.

I challenge all the Presidential candidates to articulate honestly the reality that without personal virtue, liberty is doomed. I further call on candidates to celebrate the diversity of American flourishing as people of all ethnicities and faiths fulfil their dreams in a land that remains fertile for the responsible.

Let's choose community over the collective. Community can be messy and will always be imperfect; however, it offers the most for all to thrive and the least repressive ethos. The collective may distribute resources, but in the end it will restrict and oppress in the name of an impersonal ideology. Community welcomes diversity and debate; the collective calls for uniformity ("don't let anyone tell you otherwise"). Community fosters individual potential; the collective suppresses "counterrevolutionary" thinking.

When we choose community, we are freely serving others in love. This love is not primarily a feeling. It is rooted in a vision that sees every person as valuable, from conception to coronation, from the least-able to the very talented. Community says, "Yes!" to creativity, wonder and joy. Will you join me in building community? Or will we acquiesce to elite-driven collectivism that will quell our future?