• Posted: Jul 27, 2008 21:40:06
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The scent of new mown grass, flowers, leafy trees, freshly turned earth, chlorinated pools of water, charcoal burning, and hot dogs, hamburgers, and steaks sizzling, the sounds of children splashing in the pool, razzing the pitcher at a baseball game, bouncing balls along the sidewalk, squeaky bikes and trikes trundling up and down driveways, voices chatting while swaying on a porch swing, the touch of a loving parent, the kiss of a loved one, the hand of welcome, cold drinks and warm banter in the setting sun as lanterns begin to glow, just some elements contributing to pleasures to be had on a peaceful summer's eve.
Quiet neighborhoods have been a hallmark of the American Dream for a very long time. The image perhaps originated in movies and on TV. But there are many places where the situation exists for real. And where it does, community members throughout seem to take the pervasive tranquility they experience almost for granted. In nature, that never happens. All members at the edges of a peacefully grazing herd or school of fish are constantly alert for danger, ready to give the signal that will stampede the group to safety. But humans are peculiar. They seem perfectly willing, almost eager, to live within a bubble of ultimately false security, completely comforted it seems by the companionship of others willing to share in their fantasy of false security.
It is certainly not healthy to live in constant fear. But it is likely equally unhealthy to live within a fantasy of false security. It is also true that some of us tolerate more uncertainty than others. Some of that difference can likely be accounted for within issues of trust. Division of labor distributes responsibility for the various issues of group security across many members of the group. A single person no longer needs to panic trying to face alone every possibility for danger. Some of us learn to trust one another at handling the distributed chores of vigilance. In such a way we can tolerate far more uncertainty than we would on our own.
A serious problem with the division of labor comes when trust is broken, when self interest or breakdown takes over for vigilant group interest, when the system becomes corrupt and fails. Three instances in the news this week illustrate the point. One, a team manning a ballistic missile silo were found sleeping on the job. Two, yet another televangelist has been uncovered lining the pockets of family and friends with money contributed for other purposes. And three, it was discovered that yet more bodies have been mishandled by yet another miscreant mortician.
What exactly is the answer to the trust issue? Are we incapable of reliably caring for the interests of one another? Are large societies doomed to failure from internal corruption and corrosion? Are tribes and gangs the best alternative, where internal checks and balances on issues of trust are direct and sure? Or is living within a fantasy of false security the only rational course for most us to take while the ruthless remainder take us to the cleaners and march us to the ovens? One can't help but be reminded of the works of author Kurt Vonnegut.
When will we all learn to think clearly and care profoundly for one another? When will the pleasures of a peaceful summer's eve be worthy of genuine enjoyment?
Wednesday, July 5th, 2006
18.1 mm 86 mm