When it comes to society, how is it that we’re grouping ourselves together and relating to one another? European history paints a picture of divisions formed along lines of broad similarity and difference, the simplest number of groups that might provide manageable cohesion. In reality that’s been far from simple, but where are the alternatives?
We’re just so diverse, so different from each another. Especially now we’re increasingly looking to the level of “the individual” with their own, personal identity and experience. The idea of having anything “in common” almost seems a stretch of the imagination as our ideas of who we are, what’s important, and the life we’re hoping to create diverge so greatly (Notes One).
Personal interests that are then spanning the globe, forming communities that seemingly have very little geographical reality. It’s fascinating how identity and belonging have been drawn into this virtual world, often sucking us away from those nearby with whom we nonetheless stand in tangible relationship (Notes Two).
Humans have surely always existed within relationships? Groupings with expectations, standards, ideas on what it means to be both human and a valuable member of that community (Notes Three). Different forms that social groups have taken – and, the thinking behind them – are so interesting to consider. As are the reasons one form might give way to another.
Generally, though, it seems we need some sort of compelling reason or narrative that inspires participation; an idea that grasps our imagination, vision, and sense of what’s collectively desirable.
What is it, then, that’s inspiring us? A personal vision or communal one? Are we thinking of how “our” life might be or everyone else’s? It’s interesting to think how modern life has become so intensely personal yet, simultaneously, so universal and abstract. We might act based on personal interest but consequences are felt the world over. We perhaps can’t really detach from other people.
Then there’s this tendency toward “tribes” – new groupings that span borders to join us together with those “like us”, those we feel most connected to. Like nations without boundaries. It’s clearly natural to seek belonging, recognition and the peace that comes from acceptance by others. But does it risk intolerance?
If we choose, again, to form divisions based on similarity, to create identity out of difference and conflict out of defeating other experiences or perspectives within our one reality, how’s that different from the geographical divisions of nation states? Aren’t we still reinforcing rather than accepting differences? Can we really only be “in community” with those like us?
As elsewhere (Notes Four), maybe it comes down to ideas and realities? We all have beliefs, hopes, experiences, and conclusions – this whole inner world of thought that matters greatly in both personal and absolute ways – yet, naturally, “others” have similarly-held ideas. We certainly need to eradicate mistaken or incomplete understanding, but never the people themselves.
Is there not anything that can unite us beyond personal thinking, bringing us into full community rather than scattered, divisive ones?
Notes and References:
Note 1: Convergence and divergence
Note 1: At what point are we just humans?
Note 1: Would we be right to insist?
Note 2: In the deep end…
Note 2: Trust in technology?
Note 3: Having boundaries
Note 3: Invisible ties
Note 3: Absolute or relative value
Note 4: If society’s straining apart, what do we do?
Note 4: Making adjustments
Note 4: The power of understanding
Very much related to this, And, how much can we care? looked at the place for feeling in how we view the world.