Thursday, December 7, 2017

#341 / Collective Tragedy: Individualistic Response

Joanne and Byron Bartlett search the remains of their burned house in Santa Rosa.
An article in the December 2017 edition of In These Times is titled, "The Personal Is Not Always Political." The article, by Leon Fink, is well worth reading. 

The point of Fink's article is that our reactions to collective tragedies, from mass shootings to floods, fires, and hurricanes, almost always tend to be "individualistic." Here is how he starts off the discussion:

It took me awhile to detect the common thread in nearly everything I was reading, watching and hearing. The Las Vegas massacre; hurricane devastation in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico; Ken Burns’ Vietnam series; Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk; NPR’s StoryCorps; the California wildfires—whatever the story, I was left with more or less the same message and the same feeling. The world out there is harsh, even tragic, but we can best understand and cope with it through the richness of intimate personal relationships.

Creating and sustaining intimate personal relationships, in good times and times of tragedy, is one of the surest ways to claim our humanity. However, as I keep saying in these blog postings, we are not only "individuals," but we are part of a greater whole. We are "in this together." To the degree that we forget the power that stems from our collective endeavors we disable the political involvements that, in fact, are responsible for the world we most immediately inhabit. We create (and re-create) our human world by our collective (and hence political) work. 

Fink ends his article this way:

Turning away from the state and larger institutions and seemingly giving up on the hard work required to rebuild a fractured society, we are left feeling cowed and alone. Outside of world wars, the great depressions or natural disasters, the search for individual salvation remains America’s drug of choice.

Here is one more appeal for us to engage in the "political" work that, like all human activities, is founded on individual and personal relationships, but that magnifies our individual power and makes it possible for us, working together, to accomplish any goal to which we commit ourselves. 

Emphasis on the "we."

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