Community, Our Lifeline

The community of humankind presents both negative and positive aspects.  The daily newspaper illustrates some of the more appalling human behaviors.  Religious and race conflicts result in the deaths of countless fellow humans.  Drug and gang activities add to the death count.  People fear they or someone dear to them will become the next victim in a drive-by shooting.  The preponderance of fear, anger, hatred and apathy can be oppressive.  Yet no matter how awful the crimes of humanity can be, humans manifest redeeming qualities, which spark hope for a better world.  The nobler qualities are evident when people work together to improve life for themselves and others.   Communities cooperate and lend support to families that have been made homeless from disaster.   The Salvation Army has worked tirelessly for years to help others.  Their efforts have been supported and reinforced by the faceless members of humanity who donate food and clothing to the cause.   What drives some people to destroy and others to nurture?  Why do some people strive to improve the lives of fellow humans, while others seem to care exclusively for their own comforts?  The answer lies in the value the individual places on society.   

Do you know anyone, including yourself, who is able to survive for a year in isolation without human contact and the products of our society?  Could you survive for even a month?   Imagine it.  You would be responsible for finding your own shelter, making your own clothing, obtaining every scrap of food you consume, and protecting yourself.  Your survival would depend solely on your labor, skills and knowledge.   In our society, replete with modern amenities, the number of people who could survive would be minuscule.  For those that do survive, it would be subsistence living.  All energies would be devoted to staying alive from day to day by preventing exposure and getting enough food.  We depend on society to provide us with clothing, shelter, food and protection.  Think about it.

What role does society play in our value system?  What effect does our value system have on our behavior?   What is the basis of morality in the context of our society? 

These questions are difficult and multiplicitous. However, a basic correlation between the individual and society can be drawn.  Humans learn early to equate harm with "bad" and help with "good".  Although simplistic, this value system elucidates the fundamental relationship between the individual and society.   If our lives are forfeit or diminished without society, then the absence of society is "bad".  If our lives are secured or enhanced within society, then its presence is "good".  That which harms society harms the individual.  That which helps society helps the individual.   So whatever harms society is "bad" and whatever helps society is "good".  

Society is comprised of individuals.  What makes a society strong, healthy and resilient?  The strength of a whole is dependent upon the strength of the individual components.  Correct function and interaction of its cells determine the health of an organism.  The resilience of a species derives from its diversity.   In other words, there must be many different kinds of people who are strong, cohesive, and capable of doing their part and working together. 

Our ability to join with other humans in cooperative communities has resulted in human domination of our planet.  Language is one of the tools indispensable to our continued advancement.  It can facilitate and promote communication by transcending time and space (distance).  Unfortunately rather than using it to promote cohesion, some people use language to divide and separate themselves from others. 

Our society sponsors individualism.  Tragically many people interpret individualism as separation from the whole of society.   This perception is delusional and merely serves to create a factious society.  The "them or us" mentality and prejudice are extensions of this divisive ideology.   Only through the perception of separateness can the individual disconnect from the whole and erect such false barriers.   Prejudice is extremely detrimental to society because it undermines the diversity of humanity.  It hurts society; therefore, it is wrong. 

Attitudes that serve individuals to the detriment of society destroy the society.  When the majority adheres to such attitudes, society will collapse.  Without the society, eventually the individual will be destroyed.  We must find ways to respect every other human.  Their dreams, goals, and desires for their lives are equally as valid as our own dreams, goals and desires for life.  It is time to contemplate the need we have for each other, and to recognize that our life's richness depends upon our communities.  No one wants to regress to the days when we lived in hovels and labored unremittingly in the struggle to survive.  The alternative to not working together is life without society. 

How can we, as individuals and as a community, reconnect to the whole?  What methods can be used to improve communications?  Where do we look to strengthen and heal our relationships?  The answers lie in our diverse society, in the hearts and minds of all of us.  This is the role a martial artist can and should play. We should be a uniting and protecting force for others in our society. We should work to make it more just, fair, and open to beneficial change. Since our skills are greater for either benefit or detriment, our responsibility is also greater. It is my belief that this is the goal we should all work toward.