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We expect a theophany of which we know nothing but the place, and the place is called community

Those words by Martin Buber, from Between Man and Men, serve as the epigraph for an essay titled A Place Called Community, the fourth chapter of the recently revised new edition of Parker Palmer's 1980 book The Promise of Paradox

Recently I have been thinking lot about community, especially about this community, as once again we have people offering angry explanations about why they are leaving it.  Once again - we went through that in each of the two recent primary seasons.  

At the same time we see examples of things which bring this community together - the various quilt diaries, offerings of thanks from members well known and until then barely known.  We have parts of this community that come together for common tasks - IGTNT, Feeding America, and the other diary series that are a key part of the larger community for many.

The subtitle of Palmer's books is "A Celebration of Contradictions in the Christian Life" but the words he offers on community are more broadly applicable.   Today I would like to invite you to keep reading as I share some of them.

On page 74, Palmer begins a section labeled The Politics of Community like this:  

The finest form of personal therapy is to build community, and building community is the finest form of politics   So community is a place where therapy and politics meet, a place where the health of the individual and the health of the group are recognized as the reciprocal realities they are.

 At the time Palmer wrote those words, he and his family were living in an intentional community, Pendle Hill in Wallingford PA, which is a Quaker study and retreat center  It is named after the place in Lancashire where in 1652 George Fox claim to have a vision which greatly influenced him and the new Religious Society of Friends which he led.  Palmer was a trained Ph.D. sociologist who had also worked as a community organizer.  

I read those words and immediately recognize myself.  This community has been a place where I have healed parts of my soul by my engaging with other people.  We do so for political purposes, but those political purposes would not be as possible were this merely a website.  

The loneliness of people in a mass society is a measure of their political impotence, and given that impotence, that inability to act together, the step from mass society to totalitarianism is a short one. . .  As true community begins to wither in a democracy, so does the quality of democracy itself. (p. 75)

For some here, in whose geographical communities they find few of like minds, the existence of this largely virtual community is part of what keeps them from feeling totally alone and isolated.  It empowers them to work on behalf of values that may seem scorned where they are, and in the process discover others of like minds, some nearby, some with whom the connection will only be through electronic means.  They cease to feel impotent and are able to resist the move towards totalitarianism within their immediate surroundings and together within the larger society of which we are all apart.   It is one reason we tolerate a great deal of disagreement - sometimes heated - among our members, because we know that in a democracy we will NOT always agree, even on things of great importance.  

Community is a precondition of a democratic politics, and the building and maintaining of community is an essential prepolitical task. (p. 76)

 prepolitical - before we can act effectively politically we must find a way of working with and among others who share our beliefs, or who can be persuaded thereto.  Our First Amendment guarantees us not only the right to free expression through press and speech, but also the right to assemble together for common purpose, then to petition to change our society and our government.  We have those rights, and so do those against whom we content in the marketplace of ideas.  

Some of our political opponents wish to exclude those who think or express differently, who adhere to different or no religious beliefs, whose skin color or sexual orientation is different than theirs.  We should not, because ultimately the community we seek is broad-based, or we would not be in this virtual sub-community.  But we still have much to learn about community, as Palmer notes on p. 77:  

The politics and economics of community are fundamental, and until we understand their full implications, our image of community will continue to be romantic and irrelevant.  Community means more than the comfort of souls.  It means, and has always meant, the survival of the species.

Ponder those words for a moment.  the survival of the species -  certainly our concern with the degradation of the physical world through human selfishness, greed, and refusal to accept science is a part of it.  But it something beyond mere physical survival, of our habitat or of the species of which we are exemplars.  It is a survival of soul, of dreams, of hope, which is one reason so many - here and in the larger American community of which we are but a small part - responded so strongly to the presidential campaign in 2008.  It is also why the reaction to what appears the failure of that hope has struck some so hard, even as others attempt to persuade us not to consider only the negative but to recognize what positive changes have occurred.

Perhaps.  It is never fair to judge anyone by either their greatest achievement nor their worst failure.   Certainly I do not live up to the highest aspirations for my own actions, and, as I periodically mention here, the most meaningful words I know from the tales of the earliest Christian monks were those of the master who answered his novice's question about what they did in the desert which was the location of their spiritual community, We fall, we pick ourselves up, we fall, we pick ourselves up, we fall, we pick ourselves up.

Palmer warns us about the dangers of false community, writing  on p. 78

The most notable example of false community is the totalitarian society that emerges as the community declines.  In the midst of mass loneliness, people yearn to identify with something larger than themselves, something that can redeem their lives from insignificance.  This yearning runs so deep that even the appearance of community will feed it, so totalitarianism always presents itself as a communal feast for the masses, garnished with mythic meaning.  What was Nazi Germany except a demonic form of community life? What is an brand of nationalism or racism except the archetype of community run amok?

 On the following page he adds

False communities tend to be homogenous, exclusive, and divisive, while true communities strive to unite persons across lines of diversity.  We should be suspicious of any "community" that forms too quickly and too easily.  It is likely to depend on preexisting social categories that make not for community but for commonality - and commonality does not nurture the human growth and expansiveness that true community provides.

This community preexist my arrival here near the end of 2004 by more than a year.  At the time of my joining I became UID 4334, preceded by a few numbers by sheba and immediately followed by slinkerwink.  Now we approach 300,000 registered members.  Some come but do not really participate.  Others fade away over time, and some leave in anger and in hurt.  The community is not, even today, fully defined, and is subject to respond to the concerns and expressions of new members.  It is, despite some recent complaints, nothing approaching a totalitarian entity.  We can and do have dueling recommended diaries.  We allow strong expressions but ask for mutual respect, so that as a community we can build and go to the larger community with respect, with the ability to influence in a positive way.    Palmer warns us on page 82 that we must in any community think beyond ourselves:  

People who come into community, Christian or otherwise, with only their "dream wish" will soon leave - hurt, resentful, and probably lost to the cause of community building.  But those who can survive the dissolution of their dream and the abrasion of their egos will find that the truth of community is richer and more supportive than fantasy can ever be.  For in community, one learns that the solitary self is not an adequate measure of reality, that we can begin to know the fullness of truth only through multiple visions.

through multiple visions - is not that the real beauty of this place, that we have such a multiplicity not only of visions but also of experiences that we share with one another?  Is not that how for many of us we escape from the isolation of our own thoughts and perceptions and begins to grasp possibilities - for ourselves, our families, and our geographical communities - beyond those we had previously imagined?

Our families . .   let me use more of Palmer's words, from p. 86:  

That the family can be a model of great power seems clear.  For example, many of us find it impossible to imagine a form of community in which each contributes according to ability and receives according to need, a community with a common pot built up by those who can and drawn down by those who must.  Yet wage earners in strong families have no question that a child or a spouse who earns no money has full claim on his or her resources.  We might reach toward larger expressions of community by asking how to expand our sense of who belongs to "our family."

Here some post diaries, some mainly or only comment, others draw from what they read as lurkers.  Our words are one form of how we add to the common pot.  In that case, what someone draws out does not diminish what remains for the rest of us.  

But we go further.  There are our quilts.  There are those who offer from their assets to those who otherwise might hurt.  Recently noweasels thanked this community for how its members responded to her in a time of need -  follow that link if you have not already read her words.  I have mentioned how when I was not certain I could justify the expense of going to Pittsburgh in 2009 one person offered to pay all my expenses and another offered me the use of her home, even though I had never met either one.   Hopefully our generosity of spirit goes beyond this community to the other communities in which we participate.  That is also part of how we begin to change the society to a healthier shape, one which breaks down those things that isolate, that cause some loneliness, that can leave some vulnerable to the political snake-oil salesmen who seek only their own power and self-aggrandizement, whose vision of superiority can only be obtained by demeaning and diminishing others.

The health of our neighborhoods is fundamental to the health of the larger body politics:  without local forms of community, it is impossible for representative democracy to exist.  In political terms, neighborhoods are not a nicety.  They are a locus and source of citizenship, a wellspring of feelings of relatedness, responsibility, and efficacy.  The political impotence so many people feel today is directly related to the failure of local community:  how can one hope to influence the course of a nation if one has no microcosm in which to exercise political muscle?

 I had a mixed reaction when I read these words from p. 87.  I understand the intent of Palmer's words, and as one who has served on the board of my community association I can see their applicability in the frame in which they are presented.    And yet we are presented with a different concept of neighborhood, one that expands beyond the immediate geographical surroundings in which we find ourselves.

I do not think that different concept is something completely new, nor is it merely a product of technology, of our ability to reach out and communicate by electronic means, although that is something important in my life - I currently serve on the steering committees of two organizations of teachers nationwide trying to make a difference in the direction of educational policy.  I have met on a face to face basis only 2 of the other people on either of those committees, yet consider some among my dearest companions in our common effort, just as I felt close to many here before I ever knew what they looked like or the sound of their voices.  

I am too much of a student of history to think what we do is entirely new.  After all, parts of the American Revolution were organized via correspondences.  Like-minded communities sometimes begin because people have a common reaction to something they read, and actively seek out others to begin the process of organizing.

Palmer is correct that for the vast majority of us we begin to overcome our fears and our sense of impotence when we can organize and work on a smaller scale.  I think that is also true of this community.  For some, it has been the experience of reading about the efforts of others, or hearing at one of the conventions of the possibility of actions within their power, perhaps running for local political office or school boards, or becoming part of the Democratic Party organization in their communities or their states.  

I have often in my life sought community.  I have felt myself something of an outsider in life.  Like Palmer, I am prone to depression.  Like him as well, I tend to reflect a great deal, sometimes in my case at the expense of physical action.  Although I finally met him physically only recently, his thinking has been a part of my own for a number of years, helping challenge me from inertia, encouraging me to take risks in my own activities, especially my teaching.

My teaching.  My main activity of community.  It is not just the actions I do within my classroom and my school. For better or worse I have some facility with words, at least sufficient to help others understand the reality of life in a classroom, not merely for those paid to be there but for many of the young people who pass through our care.  

Some have said my writing here is a form of teaching.  Perhaps.  But many teachers will tell you that the task of teaching is one of constant learning.  It is a path of ongoing taking of risks, of exploring beyond the limits of safety, and thereby challenging oneself to grow more.  My teenagers can take apart what I might present, even if I am supposed to be the 'expert' presenting them with the "received knowledge."  What I present has meaning only insofar as those encountering it can connect it with themselves, with their own lives and experience.   That is true in my classroom, it is true here.   In teaching I can at best model the process of learning, and that must include the willingness to learn from those ostensibly my students.  Here I may post a diary that begins a discussion, but the most important lesson may come from a comment posted in response, just as in my classroom the most important lesson may come from a student who is provoked to speak because the process has been initiated.  

Community.  At the first two conventions, still called YearlyKos, Markos would say that all he did was build a website.  Not true.  He may have put up the website, but he also created a space that he did not seek to control by fiat, that allowed for the development of something larger, something that has increasingly become a community of choice for many, and in some cases a form of family.

We can all learn from that.  Do our actions, here and elsewhere, similarly provide an opening for a deeper sense of community to develop?  If not, why not?

I have been thinking much of community.  I have several times in my life seriously explored joining monastic communities, in the US and in Greece.  In both cases I was told I would be welcome, that I could make a good monk.  In both cases people wiser than me gently suggested that my life might have more meaning for myself and for others in a different form of community.  

I am married.  That is my most basic community, and the one with which I struggle the most, for in it my own failings are so glaring, so evident, that any sense of arrogance to which I might be tempted are easily demolished.  That is important.  What is at least equally important is the sense of sustenance, because within that community I know I am accepted, even with my own myriad faults.  I know I am loved.   This is beyond the romantic love with which our relationship began more than 36 years ago, and whose formalization we will celebrate on a 25th anniversary at the end of this month.  At times I want to be selfish, to draw in the boundaries and be by ourselves.  But each of us is drawn to take what we have to larger communities - of family, of professional associates, of our separate religious communities, of those we encounter not merely face to face but through reading and writing, through correspondence on paper and electronically.

I suggest that the same is true for our participation in this community.  At least it is for me.  I benefit greatly from my participation here, even if at times it is to merely read the words of others.  That becomes part of what I do in the other communities in which I participate.  Like my marriage in part, like my faith community in part, this place is one that stretches me, supports me, challenges me, comforts me, and makes it clear to me that I am a part of something far larger than myself, whether of my most grandiose dreams or my worst fears of failure.  It reminds me of my interconnectedness with, and thus my responsibility to and for, the rest of humanity.

Walk gladly across the earth answering that of God in each person I meet.  That is my challenge.  It is, as my wife notes, probably my most basic mantra.  I sometimes forget, in this community and elsewhere.  I sometimes look only at the actions or the words that upset me, and forget That of God in the person with whom I am in disagreement, whether it is by cursing under my breath when he cuts me off on the highway, or allowing disappointment to color my actions towards a student who yet again has failed to do her work, or in resorting to snark and sarcasm towards someone in an exchange here.  

Walk gladly -  even if worried to tears about the future.

Answering that of God -  even if those three letters G-O-D are irrelevant to that person's self conception and world view, it is still a mindset of valuing every person.

Community.

Just a few thoughts on a Saturday morning, shared from the work of a man who has had a profound influence on my own thinking and my own life.

Peace.  

Originally posted to teacherken on Sat Dec 18, 2010 at 04:13 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thank you (47+ / 0-)

    for taking the time to read this, to consider what I have shared from my reading and my own thinking.

    I will be honored should you choose to respond further.

    Peace.

    "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

    by teacherken on Sat Dec 18, 2010 at 04:12:09 AM PST

    •  Your Diary was a great read to start my day. (10+ / 0-)

      Thank you very much as it is a thought provoking one (as usual).

      I have always found your writings of the details of your life's journey, and experiences very interesting.  I always look forward to your diaries, as they are refreshing, intellectually very interesting, and far away from the extreme topic de jour argumentative ones that I see/read on this site, and others lately.  You have "walked" many miles in your life, and it shows.

      Take time to have a relaxing weekend.

      "LC"

      Hey Boehner and the Republicans: WHERE ARE THOSE JOBS YOU PROMISED????

      by LamontCranston on Sat Dec 18, 2010 at 05:41:30 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  your comment reminds me of something (8+ / 0-)

        that resonated with me.  It is by the man who was born as Timothy Ware, who became a convert to the Orthodox Church, and is now known as Archbishop Kallistos Ware.  I am honored to have met him, and jealous that my wife got to know him well while she was at Oxford, which is his base.

        I have taken several trips to Mount Athos, the last in 1989, about 2 years before I left the Orthodox Church.  I saw many people who traveled between monasteries by truck or bus on the logging roads.  I found that I preferred to walk on the old footpaths through the woods.  Then I read from Ware words that affirmed that decision, reminding me that in pilgrimage the journey is as important as the destination.  How we travel matters as much as to where we are headed.  The path cannot be in contradiction to the goal.  Or, to use a Machiavellian reference, the end does not necessarily justify the means.

        I share to lessen my own isolation, to learn from the responses others give me.  Sometimes my sharing encourages them to share, and I benefit therefrom, as I suspect do others.

        Thanks for your kind words.

        "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

        by teacherken on Sat Dec 18, 2010 at 05:50:27 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  I have been listening to music (6+ / 0-)

      what just ended was the Scottish Fantasy by Max Bruch, a piece that never fails to stir me.

      And now?  The drums and trumpets that indicate a Bach festive orchestra - the beginning of the Christmas Oratorio.

      Last night, as those who are on DK4 know, I was quite down.  Which is one reason I chose today to finally offer this diary, about which I have been thinking for more than a week.

      I am uplifted and cheered by the quality of discussion.

      And now?  Music is my solace, my inspiration, no matter what my condition or state of mind.

      Peace.

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Sat Dec 18, 2010 at 05:54:02 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  music soothes in winter dark times. Venceremos! (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        teacherken, oceanview, LWelsch

        Venceremos! (We shall overcome!)

        by Redfire on Sat Dec 18, 2010 at 11:37:43 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  this is a lovely diary, teacherken. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        teacherken

        interestingly, i read this diary at breakfast on my iphone.  i just a few moments ago found your diary on dk4 from last night.  i'm glad i knew that your mood had improved by the time i read last night's diary ;)

        i will 'follow' you in the real dk4 as i am in the beta version, so please hang around and keep writing.  if this current diary is any indication, we'd all be missing out on some real gems if you were to stop writing for us.

        as for teaching: i've often wished that i could be one of your real life students, and thought how fortunate they are whether or not they appreciate it now.  i hope for their sakes you continue to teach.  

        that being said: it's not reasonable to expect you to happily blog and teach until you die.  you might.  you might not.  it's your life and your call as to what makes you happy.  as joseph campbell said, "follow your bliss".  

        Insanity - a perfectly rational adjustment to an insane world. -RD Laing, psychiatrist and author (1927-1989)

        by politik on Sat Dec 18, 2010 at 12:52:04 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Always a pleasure to read your diaries. n/t (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      teacherken, LWelsch, Oh Mary Oh
    •  my wife just told me (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LWelsch, politik, Oh Mary Oh

      she likes this as much as any diary I have written.

      In a sense, so do I.

      She notes that like much of my better work, it starts with the words of someone else as a starting point, and then explores perhaps in ways the original author might not have anticipated.

      I am honored at the quality of discussion that has resulted.

      I think it has by now pretty much run its course.  I have other things to which I must attend.  I will check back on it from time to time, in case there is more traffic warranting my attention.

      Peace.

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Sat Dec 18, 2010 at 07:48:26 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  a sad struggle for one to build a community (10+ / 0-)

    12 years ago I left my school community and location after 28 years. The spent ten rebuilding my life and jumping whole hog into another community. Now, have moved back to be closer to my family.

    We ebb and flow from one to another but not like water but in fits and starts with tears and remorse for the material goods we must get rid of.
    However, some of the things that seem to move with one as one moves from one community to another are those very relationships.
    Many relationships last a life time with the friends apart, but still the love and the warmth remains.

    Thanks Ken.

    http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/206488-1 at 1:31:20

    by TexMex on Sat Dec 18, 2010 at 04:29:07 AM PST

  •  Community (14+ / 0-)

    There are three basic types of diaries here at Daily Kos: Action Items, News and Editorial, and Community. A lot of people who write the first two look down upon the last one, with its cat pictures and funny meta jokes, and angrily complain when community diaries get on the Rec List.

    And then they are inevitably surprised when no one flocks to the banner of their pet cause.


    Community diaries are the glue that makes organization possible here, and they are the lubricant that reduces friction enough for things to stay moving when the going gets rough.

    Besides, Community is what people do.


    "I play a street-wise pimp" — Al Gore

    by Ray Radlein on Sat Dec 18, 2010 at 04:40:48 AM PST

  •  Survival of the species & many other (6+ / 0-)

    It really is that important, but we need a global community to solve global problems. So far, that global community is too small and too weak.

    We are failing at self-preservation.

    Good morning, Ken.

    look for my DK Greenroots diary series Thursday evening. "It's the planet, stupid."

    by FishOutofWater on Sat Dec 18, 2010 at 04:40:58 AM PST

    •  good morning to you as well n/t (3+ / 0-)

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Sat Dec 18, 2010 at 04:44:04 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  It occurred to me this morning that (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FishOutofWater, Oh Mary Oh

      the will to power really trumps the instinct to survive.  
      If we consider "planned destruction" (better than the random destruction perpetrated by nature, because planned by man) as an antecedent, then the destruction of the atmosphere by pumping it full of carbon extracted from the earth's crust can be considered as an incorporation of nature's randomness into man's design.  In other words, rather than resist behavior that's negative on its face, the proponents of planned destruction merely incorporate nature's catastrophic response and claim it as their own.  So, if the atmosphere is going to be destroyed as suitable for organic existence, then hubristic man makes nature his handmaiden and welcomes the destruction as if it were planned by him.

      Individuals and groups which claim to be resigned and welcome the end of days as the return of the Creator of all things are being deceptive -- hiding their own hubris and prospective gloating at their ability to welcome the destruction of the earth.  There's a deep sense of hatred at their core that's not directed at particular individuals or groups, though some may serve as more likely targets of immediate animosity than others.  Rather, people obsessed by the will to power are antagonistic to all of their own kind and only cowardice keeps them from taking out their aggression on everyone at once.

      The will to power, btw, is essentially destructive.  Not only does power, to be felt, have to hurt, but, in the contest with a world that's already been created, the only option is to destroy.

      The conservative mind relies mainly on what is plain to see.

      by hannah on Sat Dec 18, 2010 at 05:31:44 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Being a part of a community (9+ / 0-)

    can be extremely difficult for those of us who have been mistreated in our nuclear families. There is a deep down desire in me to be part of a community which shares fundamental ideologies, but I sometimes am stymied by fear of rejection. I went to YearlyKos in Chicago, not knowing anyone there, not knowing a lot about blogging and technology, and feeling overwhelmed and misplaced. Then I came across a community within the Kos community that saved my life, Alcoholics Anonymous. There were meetings scheduled by fellow members, and I was reminded that when people have a common cause, coming together is the most powerful thing that can be done. There is a lot to be learned from the community a couple of drunks began several decades ago.

    "There must be more to life than having everything" -Maurice Sendak

    by lilypew on Sat Dec 18, 2010 at 04:41:31 AM PST

  •  There Are A Lot Of Really Nice Folks Here (9+ / 0-)

    and yes it is a community. Maybe this person here needed some help and I offered to help. A few days later this arrived in the mail.

    Sara Reed's Quilt

    "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." - George Orwell

    by webranding on Sat Dec 18, 2010 at 04:55:43 AM PST

  •  Ken, this is a beautiful diary. (5+ / 0-)

    I've been pondering the idea of community both here and in my "real world" life for the last few months.  It's been a painful journey as I've seen groups break apart due to shifting beliefs, petty in-fighting, graft, and so much more.

    It's certainly painful to see the community rifts here and in the larger Democratic community as so many here react strongly to, as you say, "what appears the failure of that hope" that was built through the 2008 campaign.  

    I don't know where this will all lead.  I fear the migration to DK4, while perhaps building smaller and more activist communities, will greatly assist in the breakdown of the larger community as we all naturally gravitate to that which makes us most comfortable.  I know I've found myself screaming for the transition to hurry up so I can permanently block out (or be blocked out by private group leaders) what I consider to be irrational noise from some areas of the community.  Long-term, that is NOT a good thing.  One of the great things about this community is that we all get exposed to all of the ideas and feelings of the community.  We're all exposed to material at the same time.  And, we all have an opportunity to build (or destroy) the community through our responses.  

    Oh well, we'll see what unfolds.  Many thanks for speaking on this topic.  You continue to teach in ways you cannot even imagine.

    End the wars! Single payer now!

    by HCKAD on Sat Dec 18, 2010 at 05:14:01 AM PST

  •  Politics is central because conservatives (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    joanneleon, Oh Mary Oh

    use the word not to connote the sense of the polis, the community of people, but as a substitute for power, the acquisition of control over other people in what I've recently decided to refer to as human husbandry--i.e. the exploitation of other human beings, as if they were just another species of herd animals.

    In a sense, it's a kinder, gentler version of the Sons of Cain.  Instead of killing their fellow men (and women), they've evolved the less-than-lethal alternative of confinement and exploitation made possible by making deprivation of the necessities of life the default and sustenance conditioned on obedience.  That they don't kill us outright is supposed to be an improvement.  It is for the deprivators, but not their victims.

    Still, the answer to the rhetorical question, "Am I my brother's keeper?" is the same, a negative -- unless one defines "to keep" in the sense that a flock of sheep is kept.

    The conservative mind relies mainly on what is plain to see.

    by hannah on Sat Dec 18, 2010 at 05:17:06 AM PST

  •  Beautiful writing (4+ / 0-)

    I very much appreciated this essay, Ken.  I still marvel at the community that has formed here and that has become a significant part of my life.  It has changed my thinking and action in some ways, and reinforced it in others. I've learned so much.  I do contribute words and other resources when I can, but I think that I probably take more than I give.  This medium of electronic words, as you mention, allows that, without diminishing the community.  That is due to the model of the internet, and the business model of advertising that has evolved, and the fact that so many people here contribute and expect nothing in return.

    These words about community are important and they send me to reflection about how best to respond to the most recent difficulties.

    The hurdle that we're facing right now is, however, not a matter of the functioning of a community, I think.  I believe that the reason that we are so divided is that the fundamental goals of what brought us together in the first place are being challenged on a regular basis.  It's almost as if there is a group of people who want us to abandon those fundamental goals, goals that align pretty closely with the planks of the Democratic party platform.

    That is why we are so divided.  The fundamental beliefs and goals of this community are under assault by those who would choose to follow one group of politicians who are astray.  We cannot carry out the tasks to achieve our goals without these politicians.  

    Another group insists that we remain true to our original goals and that these politicians, the tools we use to achieve our goals, moving us away from our goals and that which we believe is needed to maintain and improve quality of life for everyone.

    This divide has become very deep.  I'm not sure if the community, as it currently stands, can survive it.  I'm not sure if it should survive it.  

    What do you do when one part of the community seems to have an entirely different set of goals than the other part of the community?  It's not a matter of rules or respect at that point.  It has become a matter of two parts of a community who both feel that the other is working to undermine the goals of the other.

    How can that be solved?  When this situation occurs, can this even be called a community anymore?

    •  you raise interesting points (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      HCKAD, Oh Mary Oh

      first, this community was never unified - that is why I make reference to the two rounds of primary battles

      the original purpose of this site was to elect Democrats.  Then as a secondary purpose to elect better -  read more progressive - Democrats.

      In a sense it may be time to consider something important, which is how the left has been being systematically excluded from political discourse in this country.  It is one reasons unions have for too long been marginalized.  

      This is something that goes back more than half a century, in fact one can argue to even during the New Deal and before.

      What is interesting to me is how the extremes on the other side may in fact be regenerating the left.  For example, among those becoming active in the union in my building are some of those who otherwise would quietly have devoted themselves to their teaching and their families.  Now they see the need of being connected on a wider basis.

      I think any broad community or family will always have disagreements.   There may be smaller groups of like-minded individuals within a larger group that contains such disagreements, but that does not necessarily mean we cannot come together for larger common purposes, as this community has for the most part after each of the two most recent primary cycles.

      I don't have answers to all possible questions.  In fact, in some cases all i can do is pose more questions and await how others respond.

      The intent of this diary was to share some insight about community I found of value.

      peace?

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Sat Dec 18, 2010 at 05:28:55 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Peace (4+ / 0-)

        I hope.

        I don't disagree with anything you've said.  What I wonder about is the common purposes and how many of them are left, or how many are undermined by other purposes, like following particular politicians no matter what direction they take us.  That is the big elephant in the room.

        In other words, do we still have, fundamentally, common purposes?

        I agree that in the teaching community, the extremism and the attack from the right may be regenerating the left.  I hope it will, anyway, considering what's going on in my state, NJ.  But frankly, I haven't seen enough public support, or not as much as I expected.  That might be because a lot of the cuts were averted at the last minute by the federal govt.  We'll see what happens when the cuts really begin to hurt.  But that's another subject.

    •  This is so true joanneleon. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Larry Bailey, joanneleon, Oh Mary Oh

      I believe our current community divisions are driven, first and foremost, by a divergent set of guiding principles, goals, or belief systems.  Many congregate(d) here believing that our guiding stars were mostly similar.  Despite the pie wars, personality wars, charges of racism/sexism/every "ism", many believed we were all heading in the same direction.  Now, we're learning that this may not be true.  It is shocking, eye-opening, painful, and hurtful to realize that those we thought were allies in the struggle may not be.  Each of us has to now ask ourselves what it is that truly guides us.  Do we stick with our guiding principles even if that means breaking from the community/party?  Or, do we support the community/party for the sole purpose of winning or scoring points?

      Like you, I don't know that these groups can exist as one community.  The glue holding most communities together, trust, is just not there.  Time will tell.

      End the wars! Single payer now!

      by HCKAD on Sat Dec 18, 2010 at 05:54:11 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  This used to be my community (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blueyedace2, revelwoodie, Oh Mary Oh

    lately I don't come around all that much. I've been pleased to see that DADT has gotten a lot of really great coverage from some great writers here. LGBT issues used to be confined to a small group, and it's grown over the last few years into a larger, more powerful voice. That was done through community efforts.

    Where I think we fail as a community, and why I don't hang around much anymore, is moderation. I don't think, in fact I know, that I'm not in the minority as someone who sees things in shades of gray. The problem with the internet is that it allows people to rant in only black and white. This community has a lot of really thoughtful and nuanced people who don't see the world that way, but we're not as loud as the people who aren't and can't.

    It's been this way as long as I've been here, and it probably always will be.

    Like my own neighborhood, where everyone knows each other, we all smile, wave, make small talk and watch out for each other, but when the guy two doors down from me comes outside we all go in because he's belligerent and loud and obnoxious.

    Even if for an afternoon, we give up our own neighborhood over one bad apple. And that's how I feel when I see people leave this blog.

    P.S. I am not a crackpot.

    by BoiseBlue on Sat Dec 18, 2010 at 05:26:38 AM PST

    •  Some people seem to think... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BoiseBlue, Oh Mary Oh

      ...there are different rules of behavior on the internet.  We need to have a national conversation about this before the information age turns the whole world into assholes!

      (-9.62/-6.77) "If you don't lie down in front of the door, you're less likely to get used as a doormat" (Maddow 9-2-09). United we bargain, divided we beg.

      by revelwoodie on Sat Dec 18, 2010 at 05:34:00 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  A thousand recs. (4+ / 0-)

    It really is Ok if we don't agree about everything in this community.  We don't have to convince others to toe our line or leave in a huff.  We can continue, side by side, with people who don't see things the same way we do.  That's what community is all about in the real world.  Think of your family, your neighborhood, your church, whatever.  Do you agree about everything?  Does it matter?  We need to take a page from that book and remember that our solidarity is not, and never has been, founded on marching in lockstep on every issue.  It's a relationship, and relationships get rocky.  That doesn't mean you LEAVE.  You stay and work it out.  That's the way it is in the real world, and that's the way it needs to be here.

    (-9.62/-6.77) "If you don't lie down in front of the door, you're less likely to get used as a doormat" (Maddow 9-2-09). United we bargain, divided we beg.

    by revelwoodie on Sat Dec 18, 2010 at 05:27:49 AM PST

    •  Which is why I sometimes respond (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      TampaCPA, revelwoodie, politik, Oh Mary Oh

      with a bit too much vinegar, as i did yesterday to someone announcing departure by slamming the entire community, telling that person not to let the door hit 'em in the ass as they left.

      That person was departing for sites where apparently criticism of the President is not part of the discourse.  So be it.

      Here we praise where appropriate, and likewise criticize when appropriate.

      Some are inclined more in one direction than another.  We will not all agree, not even on some very important issues.

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Sat Dec 18, 2010 at 05:31:45 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Wonderful diary. Personally, why concerns for (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    raines, Oh Mary Oh

    this community lately are reflected in the quote

    False communities tend to be homogenous, exclusive, and divisive, while true communities strive to unite person across lines of diversity.

    I have real questions on the sustainablity of a supposedly Democratic website whose membership is probably 1-2% African-American, when they 25-30% of the Democratic Party base.

    •  no one is forced to join the community (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      KibbutzAmiad, HCKAD, Oh Mary Oh

      and depending where in the country you may be, the local democratic party could be 80% AA down to 1-2%.

      There are some AAs who are upset with this community's criticism, although when I and others have pointed out that in some cases we are repeating precisely what is being said by the CBC they seem to ignore it and basically accuse us being racists.

      Far from it.  From my perspective I am holding Obama to exactly the same standard I hold any Democratic president.  I was critical of Clinton when he triangulated - and remember who guided him on that, the noxious toe-sucking self-promoting Dick Morris.

      Also remember that in general African Americans have a lower degree of participation on the internet, where nationally such participation correlates strongly with education and income, and unfortunately substantial portions of the African-American community still lag on both indicators.

      Still, the level of participation here, even if not as low as 1-2% (you may not always know who is AA) could be better.

      We have prominent African-American members.  There is AA representation on the front page.  Deoliver finished 2nd in last year's Koscars, behind now frontpager Lawrence Lewis and ahead of me.  I could name half a dozen other prominent posters.  

      As for the sustainability of this site?  I have been hearing those concerns for over 6 years, and we are still here.

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Sat Dec 18, 2010 at 05:45:11 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  the sense of (4+ / 0-)

    community is what makes the unbearable tolerable and it's absence is what drives people regularly to despair.

    It's importance - which is definitely belittled by those who scorn "personal" diaries, etc. - should never be discounted; because building a caring community and being part of such a place is what all progressive politics is ultimately about.

    "never trust a rich man when he offers you a truce"

    by KibbutzAmiad on Sat Dec 18, 2010 at 05:45:54 AM PST

  •  This community has some (3+ / 0-)

    lovely qualities, but it's not a place I choose to be much anymore because the lovely has been overridden by the rageful.  

    As someone who has left this place as a primary community, I can tell you that there are some wonderful blogs out there where the focus is on what's working and how to make it work even better.  

    I've never liked the victimization mentality on the left or the right, and primarily started looking elsewhere because that seemed to be taking over here. I stop in from time to time, and am mostly discouraged and often disgusted.  

    There's really no way to whitewash the reality of what's happened here.  If outrage and betrayal aren't your default modes you'll be on the receiving end of the usual insults by the usual suspects.  I wasn't a fan of that in Middle School!  Fortunately the internet is vast and there are great people at work in other places.

    Blue Wave News is a nice start if you're searching for something different.

    I'm not looking for a love that will lift me up and carry me away. A love that will stroll alongside and make a few amusing comments will suffice.

    by I love OCD on Sat Dec 18, 2010 at 05:49:43 AM PST

  •  As I have said before, I came here for the (6+ / 0-)

    politics after the 2004 election, but I have stayed for all these years because of the community. I hope that this will not be lost with the migration to DK4.

    •  I came here about the same time and (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      blueyedace2, Im a frayed knot

      have been here consistently ever since. I no longer come here often and find that I feel better not taking part in the negativity and hate. Even our president who most loathe, deserves respect.
      I feel strongly that the site has been taken over by people who do not mean us well.

      Perhaps Kos is only a community when we go after the enemy and serves less well when we attack our own.
      There are so many sites now that respect and trust the President and I will go there.

  •  Purpose: within and without (4+ / 0-)

    This is a fantastic diary.

    We need to remind ourselves that we come together here for very important purposes:

    To share our views with friends who want to change this country for the better

    and

    To share, find, or create the tools to do so.

    This is what we all have in common, no matter what flame wars break out.  Repeating those purposes should be the first thing we do before writing a post.

    In addition, we need to always search for way to grow as a community. We are trying to build a movement, not a club.  So we need to make the community attractive and useful to those who would join us.

    Politics is the entertainment branch of industry. -Frank Zappa

    by TheGrandWazoo on Sat Dec 18, 2010 at 06:09:57 AM PST

  •  Community Organizing & Politics (4+ / 0-)

    I got involved in an effort to work throughout a large community (Austin, Tx) from about 1980, primarily in doing media work to solve the problem of communicating to a public without a lot of money.  This involved a lot of interactions.  

    This was an early adopter community, with about 100,000 people estimated to be online, with email addresses by 1993, the year I first designed a candidate website.  

    One of the first communities, Deja News, was begun in Austin.  

    The essential observation that this experience suggests ought to not be taken for granted is that there was not a way to engage in a meaningful discussion about progressive politics and organizing beyond a local level before Daily Kos began to serve that purpose.  

    Consider the implications:  No way progressives could really communicate in an interactive way, that might create some chance for hashing through issues and options for supporting candidates and directing support.  

    There is now some chance to develop a coherent national community that is about buidling a progressive base of voters and also a national sense of policy priorities.  

    This has now been around for two Presidential election cycles.  Two.

    It will be interesting to see how this community develops over the next two election cycles, and the cycles beyond that.  

    I know a woman who has been an activist in the area of electric utility issues since the 1940s.  She is now in her nineties and still going strong.

    It is interesting to consider a long term future for this community, to think of teacherken at 90, still going strong.

    Long may you wave!

    hope that the idiots who have no constructive and creative solutions but only look to tear down will not win the day.

    by Stuart Heady on Sat Dec 18, 2010 at 06:16:22 AM PST

    •  don't know how long my longevity will be (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      raines, Oh Mary Oh, Im a frayed knot

      my mother died before her 47th birthday, less than a week after I graduated from high school.

      My father lived into his 85th year.  His older brother lived into his 90s, as did one of his younger brothers.  I am trying to remember how old the youngest brother, who is still alive, is.  One sister lived into her early 80s, despite being crippled by polio as a child.  His baby sister passed on Thursday night at age 89, still feisty as ever.

      I never thought I would live this long.  When I was young I fully expected to die before I was 30, and that had nothing to do with enlisting in the Marines at age 19 in 1985. I just didn't think my life had that much purpose.  I imagined I would die alone in a rented room, and no one would even notice until my body began to stink.

      Now?  Each additional day is a gift.  One I do not always properly acknowledge or honor.  Each day is another chance to grow, to get something right, to leave the world a somewhat better place.

      So yes, I will keep going as long as I can, with integrity, make a difference.

      Peace.

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Sat Dec 18, 2010 at 06:24:17 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Community as a whole has longevity (3+ / 0-)

        No one sets out to endure the slings and arrows of activism for longer than the foreseeable future, let along a decade, let alone many decades.  Observations
        are only made in retrospect.

        But the community can have a life that sustains us, is sustained by us, and is sustainable beyond us.  

        So, think of Daily Kos, evolving through the decades ahead, as the questions of the 21st century evolve and take shape.

        It is useful to consider issues greater than the moment, as your diary does.  

        hope that the idiots who have no constructive and creative solutions but only look to tear down will not win the day.

        by Stuart Heady on Sat Dec 18, 2010 at 06:35:24 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Something the Republicans forgot (6+ / 0-)

    and one of several areas where they lost me:  If you agree with everything someone says you aren't thinking for yourself.  I probably never agree with everything anybody says.  If you let that bother you you wind up standing alone.  Part of community is taking the areas of disagreement as ways to refine your thoughts.  It is friction from sandpaper that turns out highly polished wood.  We need to embrace the friction as a way to become finer, we also need to apply that sandpaper gently to keep the character of the piece we are creating.

    You're sleeping on a featherbed of lies - Scott McKenzie

    by Im a frayed knot on Sat Dec 18, 2010 at 06:24:52 AM PST

  •  Excellent post! (5+ / 0-)

    I work with B2B PAC, and all views and opinions in this account are my own.

    by slinkerwink on Sat Dec 18, 2010 at 06:33:58 AM PST

  •  I have been (4+ / 0-)

    exploring the idea that the lack of local communities is what is making this recession (depression) so much different than the Great Depression.  Evictions occur but people don't know their neighbors.  People do not know how to reach out to others, to give or receive help.  The unemployed feel isolated; those of us who have had utilities turned off, or other hardships ashamed.  

    Daily Kos has been a good source of connecting in a safe way for those of us who lack a lot in the way of local community, and has been helpful in teaching me how to reach out locally as well.  Right now, I'm in the midst of some pretty paralyzing grief, and the DKos grief community has been enormously helpful.  If "all politics is local", as Tip O'Neill said, then political blogs have to build community or there won't be any long lasting progress or transformational changes.

    "never trust a rich man when he offers you a truce"

    by KibbutzAmiad on Sat Dec 18, 2010 at 06:34:57 AM PST

    •  grief can often paralyze (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Oh Mary Oh, Im a frayed knot, zenox

      especially if we keep it locked within ourselves.

      in the Jewish community, as you know, one point of Shiva is to force us to confront our grief, but another point is to place ourselves back in community as others do for us, be with us, provide us the space to grieve, to share our pain so that it does not crush us.

      That is a key purpose of community, that we share our sorrows as well as our joys.

      Peace.

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Sat Dec 18, 2010 at 06:40:40 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I wish (3+ / 0-)

        I could have done shiva for this loss.  However, absent that, reaching out to others who have had losses has been helpful, and  DKos has been a good resource for that.

        The recent fractures on the blog have reminded me of what religious organizations go through from time to time.  It's very painful to see people put ideological differences, which, in context, are really quite minor, above relationships.  

        For those who believe that the differences are not minor, compare your position to someone on the ideological right for perspective.

        "never trust a rich man when he offers you a truce"

        by KibbutzAmiad on Sat Dec 18, 2010 at 06:45:32 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Dear friend... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      teacherken, KibbutzAmiad

      I do not know what your grief is but whatever it is my heart is reaching out to you. All I can say is that as a human being you are not alone in your grief. Even we are not consciously aware of it, we share it all.

  •  One benefit to this community (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, HCKAD, Oh Mary Oh

    is it is a place where introverts can feel safe.  Some of us would rather not go out and socialize, but still could use a way to connect.  Here there are none of the social expectations one finds in a person to person community.  It is a good halfway point.

    You're sleeping on a featherbed of lies - Scott McKenzie

    by Im a frayed knot on Sat Dec 18, 2010 at 06:41:52 AM PST

  •  Community (3+ / 0-)

    It was the theme "Community" and concern for its state that prompted Dave Mathews, President of the Kettering Foundation, to invite me to a two-day staff retreat in Columbus a few months ago.

    And it was that which also prompted this piece that I wrote for Valerie Strauss' Washington Post "The Answer Sheet: "Are we still capable of educating for 'us-ness?'"

    http://www.marionbrady.com/...

    Marion

  •  Your diary reminded me of a book I have (0+ / 0-)

    often reread since 1961: Structures of Prejudice by Carlyle Marney, in which he posits "Provincialism" as a prejudgement of community from which the only escape is to a greater (less prejudiced) community.

    http://theologytoday.ptsem.edu/...

    While not the main point of your diary, I sense that notion is part of your observation and argument.

    In the book, Dr. Marney also describes "Materialism" as prejudgement of reality; "Institutionalism" as prejudgement of value; and "Individualism" as prejudgement of self.

    ...with liberty and justice for all.

    by pee dee fire ant on Sat Dec 18, 2010 at 08:35:36 AM PST

  •  Greetings teacherken (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken

    ...and thank you for this blood pressure reducing meditation. I am not being funny; I mean it. Interestingly, the topics of "community" and "God" are increasingly occupying my mind, lately. I have always wondered about the "E Pluribus Unum," the motto of our presidential seal, and how well it fits to the grand scheme of our nation's identity. "America" too is a community, based on that scheme of the unity of multiple visions which is the anthitesis of totaliatrian world view. God, to my understanding, too is like that: A perfect harmonious unity (oneness) of multiplicity of the infinitely different. "False community" (totalitarianism), in contrast, is about the unity of the same which of course, is false unity, since there are no two minds or visions exactly alike. So, in our individuality, we are infinitely different than everything and everyone (and as individuals we have multiple sides), while as a community we unite by the value of bowing down to and welcoming of this incredible wealth of differences. That's "peace." In that sense, "God" has to be "peace." "E Pluribus Unum" is "peace." "The United States of America" is "peace." Or, what it should be about... Speaking of "the united states" of an individual mind, nation or/and a community, I think the trouble is rising from the confusion between the "false unity" and the "real one." Far too many of us mistakenly think of unity as the unity of the same and thus are intolerant to differences. That's division and war (totalitarian mind set). Real unity is the unity of the uniquely different (like the snow flakes and the blanket of snow), which is, by its design, is about welcoming of the different, the other: peace.

    To make it short, even our other motto,"In God We Trust," follows the message: "In Peace We Trust."

    Have a safe and peaceful Saturday

  •  I was hoping Dkos4 would be more (0+ / 0-)

    community oriented . I would like to see the ability to form like minded communities IE pooties, eduction issue oriented , GBL (?) ,  more progressive than Democrat communities , ETC. I also believe that forming community oriented news organizations is the way to counter the corporate controlled media we have now.

    It is impossible to introduce into society a greater evil than this: the conversion of the law into an instrument of plunder." Frederic Bastiat

    by california keefer on Sat Dec 18, 2010 at 09:11:30 AM PST

  •  happy pre-anniversary, and thanks 4 the links (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken

    I knew of both Pendle Hills, but Promise of Paradox wasn't on my radar.

    Beyond the (important) discussion of the nature of online community and our own implementations of it, it brings up some important issues in real-world communities, and draws our attention to the intersection of those two spheres.

    I live in a cohousing neighborhood, a form of intentional community, where I know my neighbors and they know me. I've found the form enormously powerful in stoking my activism, providing inspiration from what they're up to plus examples to learn from and support for my actions.

  •  WHY I AM HERE: ~ the survival of the species ~ (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken

    So very profoundly true ...

    The finest form of personal therapy is to build community, and building community is the finest form of politics. So community is a place where therapy and politics meet, a place where the health of the individual and the health of the group are recognized as the reciprocal realities they are.

    So very profoundly true for me ...

    I suggest that the same is true for our participation in this community.  At least it is for me.  I benefit greatly from my participation here, even if at times it is to merely read the words of others.  That becomes part of what I do in the other communities in which I participate.  Like my marriage in part, like my faith community in part, this place is one that stretches me, supports me, challenges me, comforts me, and makes it clear to me that I am a part of something far larger than myself, whether of my most grandiose dreams or my worst fears of failure.  It reminds me of my interconnectedness, and thus my responsibility to and for, the rest of humanity.

                                ~ UBUNTU ~
                 ... the interconnectedness of all life ...

    ~we study the old to understand the new~from one thing know ten thousand~to see things truly one must see what is in the light and what lies hidden in shadow~

    by ArthurPoet on Sat Dec 18, 2010 at 05:26:18 PM PST

  •  This is effing awesome, Ken. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken

    Very nicely done. Thanks for accentuating the positive; this community has meant a lot to me, done a lot for me, and walks with me. There is no other like it on Earth, and even though half the people drive me crazy, I found found true kinship here.

    Great effort.

    This country's not working out like it said in the brochure. -- Gooserock

    by Colorado is the Shiznit on Sat Dec 18, 2010 at 05:31:39 PM PST

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