Difference, Community, and Sustainability

Christopher Page cpage at paclink.net
Tue Mar 23 15:40:51 EST 1999

Lee Flier wrote (excerpted):
> Unleesh wrote (excerpted):
> >It seems to me that there are some elements in mainstream American society
> >that really get in the way of sustainable community ...
> >
> >...if there were widespread celebration of diversity, I could see neighborhood
> >gardens, regular weekly block parties, and car poolings, etc ... i could see
> >safe bicycling and public transpo ... but i don't trust enough, and thus only
> >reach out to those who seem to share something in common that they're
> >different ...
> >
> >... anyone else had any similar thoughts or troubles?
> Well, I live in an "international" neighborhood of Atlanta.  There are 12
> different countries represented on my street alone.  Because this
> neighborhood is known for that kind of diversity, anyone who moves here
> knows it's that kind of place and tends to be a tolerant sort.  We all get
> along well for the most part, have the occasional block party, and if we
> aren't best friends we pretty much "live and let live."  I like that,
> personally.
> HOWEVER... as a model of a future America (or anyplace else) I'm not sure at
> all if this is going to work, or even SHOULD be considered a goal.  Not that
> neighborhoods like mine shouldn't exist, for those who want to live in them.
> But people like us (who "celebrate" diversity) need to recognize ourselves
> as a small minority and that's OK.  For the most part it's hardwired into us
> humans to be tribal - that is, most people want to live amongst those of
> their own kind, who behave in much the same ways they do, speak the same
> language, have the same types of religious beliefs.  And we tend to defend
> our "turf" against those who are different.
> While I applaud the attitude of tolerance among people who wish to pursue
> it, I don't think the attitude of tribalism is going to go away, or should.
> When too much intermingling among cultures happens, what results is a lack
> of any culture - as we see in America.  Why shouldn't people who wish to, be
> able to feel secure in their communities, with people who they can count on
> to behave more or less as they do?  This really rankles most liberal types
> who view this as intolerance or racism, but I am not advocating for example
> that all of America become white and Christian.  However, I don't object to
> the idea of a white Christian community, so long as they leave all the
> others alone who are different.  We don't have to associate with each other
> much, but let cultural boundaries persist between communities.  We don't
> have have to like each other, so long as we are not violent toward each
> other.

Thank you "Unleesh" for bringing this subject up and Lee Flier for
eloquently adding his experiences to it.  I am glad to join the
discussion on this subject....

I tend to agree with Mr. Flier and have an additional question to posit:

How does a diversity-friendly community respond to other tribal
communties who by nature, cannot let other community-tribes be

For example, I live in a fiercely conservative county in California
(somehow I overlooked this when I was moving to the area) where anything
non-Christian and non-Republican is viewed as not only undesirable but
sinful and absolutely not tolerated.  I belong to a minority Jewish
community here which largely pretends that we belong even though we are
viewed by the dominant majority culture here as outsiders and aliens. 
(We have a history of developing that attitude in order to cope with
such things I realize.)  I don't mind Christians being difference but I
do mind when they want me to be like them. I don't try to make them
Jewish but they work very hard to make me Christian (culturally not just
religiously - why can't you open your store on Saturdays?  Why can't you
just work M-SA like everyone else?  Why so many holidays; ones that are
different from ours?).  

In public functions (city hall) when a different or non-traditional view
is put forth, it is shouted down with a frightening amount of
socio-cultural venom.  Trying to propose a simple community garden was
vetoed before it could be even voted on, branding the proposer as a
heretic and an outsider for even suggesting a "communist ideal" in their
fine American suburban community.  Further, permaculture as an
agricultural practice is viewed in this county as neo-satanism....
pesticides are venerated and worshipped as necessary and so vital that
any decision against them is viewed by the dominant tribe as a
"communist-liberal plot."  A permacutlure farmer cannot obtain credit or
agricultural commission permits to grow in this county because the
dominant tribe's power figures presume that organic or permaculture
methods are illegitimate and spell financial disaster and communal
instability.  Is this a good tribal boundary to allow?

Tribalism is normal, but what happens when tribes put up hard barriers
to keep others out?  What happens when outsiders want to live in a
geographical place but have to adopt soft borders to live within the
dominant tribe that lives there already?  What happens to reinhabitation
within a tribal community; when a member of the dominant tribe wakes up
and wants to change things accordingly?  

Just a few more questions to consider......

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