Peter Block has a new book out on community called “Community-The
Structure of Belonging” I love his thinking. He also talks about his book here.
Peter brings up important
points. We are limited when we feel and act alone. Fear makes us feel isolated
and weak. Once a sense of isolation sets in we complain and our complaining only drives the feeling of despair
deeper.His remedy is to connect and
form a community of shared purpose.
Peter’s talk made me think about
two archetypal stories competing in the world. We have the great American
myth making story of the Lone Ranger. Here a solitary man works to overcome the
wrongs of the world. He acts alone and is masked so no one can know his
identity. He trusts few and acts alone. Once The Lone Ranger has
finished his task he leaves quickly and moves on. Townspeople try to connect
with him but often he has already left and they can’t even say “Thanks” They
have very little understanding of what he did and if the problem should re-occur
they have not learned how to solve it without waiting for another one of his
interventions. Since he never returns to a town twice they are out of luck.
Contrast this single hero approach to Akira
Kurosawa’s film, Seven Samurai. Here one warrior is asked
to save a village from a marauding gang who sweep out of the hills every autumn
to steal most of the village harvest. The wise Samurai knows he can’t save
the village alone. He shares his vision
with others and eventually recruits 6 warriors. Each Samurai has an essential
skill and collectively they are able to engage the entire village in the changes
necessary to protect themselves. Everyone is made aware of what must change in
order to move from victim to victory. Everyone gives up old beliefs and
behaviors. The village is saved because they unite around a shared story
and everyone participates.Some sacrifice their lives to protect the
continuity of the village. In the end the bandits are defeated and the village
has gained a story of victory through collective action.
America needs to move past the all powerful, secretive hero
who claims to act in our collective interests and instead embrace the power storytelling
gives us in uniting our community in protecting the common good through collective action.