Comments, In Focus, Needle's Eye

Can ‘community’ change the world?

One early community was directed by its founder to ‘love one another’, because by this evidence ‘the world will know that you are my disciples’. Is such a community based on love (agape, based on mind and will, rather than feelings) possible?


Nigel Pocock


Today ‘love’ all too often means ‘sexual love’ (eros). Or otherwise facilitated by an amorphous, non-critical notion of personal freedom whereby no judgments can (or might) be passed onto another person because of their lifestyle.

No matter that this lifestyle is highly destructive to the individuals concerned, and might cost the NHS billions in handling the ripples caused, thereby stopping funding of the treatment of other serious illnesses.

Today we have psychodynamic counsellors who claim non-judgmental (and therefore, uncritical, listening), but who actually lead their clients in the direction of their (the counsellors) own presuppositions, which tend to be generalised and abstract.

This is because such counsellors become uncomfortable in the presence of all too concrete expressions of (say) religiously-motivated dysfunctions arising from prayer to a very specific deity.

Globalised thinking is easier to handle. In so doing, such counsellors avoid painful issues of whether such beliefs and their corresponding practices ought to be eradicated (at worst) or encouraged (at best), depending on the overall plot structure of a person’s life.

Indeed, such counsellors settle for no plot structure at all—and are left with only a meaningless chronologue of events.

For, however poor our understanding is of a person’s (or nation’s) biography, it is better to have something to ‘work on’, than nothing at all.

As a result, uncontrolled catharsis can actually make things worse, if habitual expressions of anger is all there is.

Thus, no parent (or nation) gives its children whatever it wants. Who doesn’t sit at the feet of an authority in order to learn, however mistaken they may be? For we all need structure and stability. But this does not mean that we should advocate an authoritarianism that impedes ‘progress’ (in what?) and is fundamentally uncriticisable.

My recommendation is for an authority that is both open and criticisable for any kind of ‘progress’ to be made possible. Even dead-ends may have a value, if it is clear that this is precisely what they are.

Can ‘community’ change the world? Maybe, if everyone practiced it, which seems unlikely.

Listening to others, rather than allowing ‘interpretational reflexes’ to dictate a response, can only be helpful, as even well-intentioned responses are not always appreciated.

This is where we need a self-critical analysis of own our interpretational reflexes. People and nations do not usually appreciate the beams in their eyes being pointed out, especially if some form of authoritarianism is regarded as a virtue. For it is at this very point that no community can be inclusive, for such uncriticisable tyrants cannot abide genuine alternative views of reality. At this point—of power over another—must attitude change occur.

This paradoxically decrees that an action that changes social and political attitudes is absolutely called for. This means looking at a society’s metanarrative – the very thing that is so difficult to acknowledge, and especially as it may entail a loss of pride, a threat to entrenched investments in power, and years of tradition, even dead tradition. The answer is agape; a will to seek the good of the other, whatever that might mean.

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