hydrangea blossoming

hydrangea blossoming
Hydrangea on the Edge of Blooming

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

On Behalf of Community

George Wright has an excellent piece in the All Point Bulletin this month (November 2010) that speaks particularly to our situation here in Point Roberts and its echoes in the larger polity in light of today's election with respect to everyone's working on and contributing to the larger public good.  "Who put that chair there?  Not me: not my chair, not my problem, that's what I say."   (To quote Dan Deacon.)  But, alas, it often is our problem, and solutions are not likely to arise from beyond the border.

Anyone who has lived here very long has probably spent some time thinking about what it means to belong to a community and probably most of us have made one or more attempts to contribute to the community over time.  What always knocks me out is how hard it is to do it.  Such a good ideal, such a simple aim, such an appealing goal, and yet how very hard it is to do it.  I think a lot of the time, we attribute failures to the negativists out there, but it may be more a matter of our not knowing very well how to work cooperatively.  We are introduced, largely, into a competitive culture, and what we mostly seem to learn is how to compete.  And competition doesn't always sit well with community as a way to get something done.  (Which doesn't mean there are no negativists, but rather that they're more like small but permanent obstacles that it is easy to work around because they're never there when the work needs to be done anyway.)

The people who are coming out to clean up the litter on the roads are a good example of community-based action, but it's an endless job.  I think we tend to vaguely think that if we go out and show people what a good thing it is to have clean shoulders to walk and bike on that people will stop throwing their beer cans and candy wrappers and cigarette butts there.  But, as someone who has cleaned a fair number of road shoulders at one time or another, the sad news is that it makes no impact at all on others' behaviors.  I used to think that, if it didn't keep people from trashing the roadsides, perhaps it would at least inspire others to get out there and do some of the cleaning.  Apparently not.  And I realized finally that it was a permanent job with no other road that that of a job well done that needed doing.

And, I think, so is it with all community work.  It's a job, and if you (or I) are not going to do it forever, somebody else will have to eventually step in.  And that's okay.  There are a lot of us.  And George is definitely one of the positivists.