Why the Fundamental Challenge of the 21st Century is Community

umair haque writes a daily article on his website, Eudaimonia & Co. His December 26 article “Why the Fundamental Challenge of the 21st Century is Community” provides an interesting perspective on my recent experiences with Mutual Aid and evolving vision for what could come next.

umair says we need to expand our sense of moral community to include everything, living and inanimate. And “the way of enmity, the way of violence, dominance, hierarchy, greed, hate — it must end.”

Those are some of the reasons I’ve been led to become involved with Mutual Aid, which is about building communities and rejecting dominance and hierarchy. Reasons why I believe my Quaker faith community should embrace the concepts of Mutual Aid.

These are also reasons I believe faith communities have an especially important role to play now, to help “expand our sense of moral community”. Quakers are the Religious Society of Friends. umair writes “what is the bond between members of a moral community? Friendship.”

As my friend Ronnie James says:

As bleak as this is, there is a significant amount of resistance and hope to turn the tide we currently suffer under. We stand on the shoulders of giants that have been doing this work for centuries, and there are many lessons we can learn from.

The first, and possibly the most important, is that it was not always this way, which proves it does not have to stay this way. 

What we have is each other. We can and need to take care of each other. We may have limited power on the political stage, a stage they built, but we have the power of numbers.

Those numbers represent unlimited amounts of talents and skills each community can utilize to replace the systems that fail us.  The recent past shows us that mutual aid is not only a tool of survival, but also a tool of revolution. The more we take care of each other, the less they can fracture a community with their ways of war. Organized groups like The American Indian Movement and the Black Panther Party for Self Defense showed that we can build not only aggressive security forces for our communities, but they also built many programs that directly responded to the general wellbeing of their communities. This tradition began long before them and continues to this day. Look into the Zapatistas in Southern so-called Mexico for a current and effective example.

These people’s security forces, or the “policing of the police” not only helps to minimize the abuse and trauma they can inflict on us, but it begins to shift the power balance from them to us.

Mutual Aid programs that help our most marginalized or other events that work to maintain our spirits result in stronger communities. A strong community is less vulnerable to police intrusion. 99% of our conflicts can be solved by those affected by them, but only with the support of those around them. Anytime we call on the police to mediate our problems, we are risking ourselves or a loved one from being hurt or worse.

We each have skills and resources we can utilize towards the abolition project. Some of us can use the halls of the system to make short term change there, others have skills that produce food, provide medical care, or care for our precious youth, some are skilled in the more confrontational tactics needed. Once we envision that world our ancestors want for us, finding our role is natural.

If we are to survive, and more importantly, thrive, we know what we will have to do.

The Police State and Why We Must Resist, Ronnie James, Des Moines Mutual Aid

Now think of the next set of problems we face as a civilization. “Climate change,” aka global warming, ecological collapse, and mass extinction. They are already beginning to hit us hard. How much longer will parts of the American West or Australia be livable? How long is it until whole water systems and energy grids begin to fail? How much longer before we hit tipping points — like the ice-caps albedo, how much they reflect the sunlight, diminishes and pushes warming to runaway state?

To solve those problems, we need to expand our sense of moral community much, much more radically and dramatically. Animals have to be included in our moral community, as aware, feeling, truly living things, whose lives have intrinsic and inherent worth — not just meat to slaughter. So too do trees and rivers. So too do the icecaps and oceans.

Our moral community has to expand so radically and dramatically that we begin to see the world around us in terms that resemble the ancient world much more than the modern one. For the ancients, the world was alive — with the spirits of nature. Poseidon, the God of the Sea was a member — an elder, in fact — of the moral community in the West. You didn’t want to anger him, by, say, polluting the ocean the way we do. In other places, everything from animals to the wind itself was a member of the moral community — and treated with respect and dignity and friendship.

What is the bond between members of a moral community? Friendship. What do I miss about Europe? Friendship — like between me and the people in my neighbourhood, the way that we’ll just stop in the street and talk for half an hour, and before we know it the sun’s setting, so why don’t you come over for dinner? Friendship is what binds members of a moral community. It’s the reason I can’t order you to be an attack mob, like pundits in other places can and do. We have bonds of friendship — you and me, amongst this whole community. What we don’t have is bonds of subservience, hierarchy, dominance, sealed and reproduced by violence.

“Why the Fundamental Challenge of the 21st Century is Community” by umair haque, Eudaimonia & CO., Dec 26, 2021

Enmity is the force rising in the world. The values of the tribe are rising — hate, violence, dominance, hierarchy. That is why there is this perpetual search for scapegoats and scarecrows — that is what tribes need to go on existing, punching bags, untouchables, enemies.

But the lesson should be clear. The way of enmity only leads to disaster. Look at Britain. Look at America. Look at the way the West won’t spend pennies, literally, to end the pandemic — while it cries alligator tears that yet another wave has hit it. The way of enmity, the way of violence, dominance, hierarchy, greed, hate — it must end.

Civiliation does not have a future with those values. Humanity does not have a future with those values. There is nothing left to exploit. There is no enemy left to blame. The only enemy left is us.

Our moral community has to expand radically and dramatically. In this century. Beginning now. In the next decade or two — three, tops — it must begin to include all of life. Every tree, forest, ocean, river, icecap. Or else they will all disappear, and we will perish, in great waves of pain and despair, right along with them. Millions upon millions of us will die, in more and more extreme and terrible ways. I don’t say that to scare you, or threaten you. I say it because it shouldn’t happen.

“Why the Fundamental Challenge of the 21st Century is Community” by umair haque, Eudaimonia & CO., Dec 26, 2021

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