It is man’s response to struggle that defines us. Sometimes, it is difficult for the individual to remember that the person sitting next to you might be struggling with something that is far more consuming than anything you’ve experienced in your lifetime and you can’t possibly understand what effect that struggle has on his or her existence.
Now, imagine that you are part of a group that struggles collectively. Imagine that you are early man, whose existence depends entirely on his ability to acquire food and maintain shelter from the elements. Imagine that there is a small number of you and the mechanics of community are essential to your survival. What then might happen if there is a weak link in that community, and what defines that link as weak? Is it his inability to properly aim a spear because he has poor eyesight? Without the support of his community, he would not survive the harsh requirements of the ice age. The community has a choice. Does it provide for this man, who, despite his limitation, may provide some other vital service for the community? Can that community determine easily what that service is? How do they know?
At one point in his history, man develops the ability to cultivate food. A new struggle arises wherein land becomes a valuable commodity, acre by acre feeding fifty people. Communities grow, and begin to require more space, more resources. Animals are domesticated, disease proliferates. And then, the most destructive force of all becomes part of human existence: the struggle to maintain the community from outside forces.
It is here that we seem to have lost our way in this country. A community is a cooperative construct. Well defined and distributed roles are vital. If there are too many hunters, and not enough farmers, the communities’ food sources are affected. It is simple logic. The problem is that community is now indefinable. Many people don’t even know all of their neighbors, much less all of the residents of the subdivision in which they live.
The struggle to survive has changed radically since early man. Now, finding food is as easy as getting to the grocery store. Commercial agriculture ensures that most of the world’s populations eat whatever they want, when they want it. Now, the struggle is with ideology.
What I experience as a difficult day is relatively innocuous in the grand scheme of things. The struggle to maintain my way of life doesn’t require that I physically defend the land and livestock I’ve learned to cultivate. But it does require that I keep my self and my child safe from those predators who would exploit us. Since before written history, there have been those that will take from those that have. The only thing that protects a community from an outside threat is for that entire community to find common ground, no matter what color, creed, philosophy or need is found within its borders.
We cannot end bigotry, racism and discrimination until we accept that the guy next to us is just as human as we are, and in general, wants the same thing for his children. Right now, this country faces so many outside threats that we have to come together. A nation divided will fall. Do we really want to give up our freedom because we can’t learn to come together? Do we really want to leave a gaping hole through which dangerous, destructive people might come?
We are in a struggle now to preserve the country we love. We cannot do that if we are busy fighting block to block. We have to SEE each other. We have to want our country, our large community, to thrive. It won’t matter what precipitated the current conditions if we allow outside forces to destroy the very fabric of what made us a great nation.
Every day, I sit with a group of people that is ethnically, politically and philosophically diverse. We don’t agree on everything. We are black, white, Jew, Christian, latina. Some are struggling with financial difficulties, some cancer, some have children struggling in school. We care about each other. We are a community and when needed, we provide support, sustenance, laughter.
It’s not rocket science. I learned an interesting lesson about this as a member of a political group on Facebook. There are several people in the group whose ideologies I have historically disagreed with, but as I got to know them, and their experiences, I began to understand them and they, me. We are far more likely to listen to one another and accept new ideas as we know each other better. Many of us have become good friends and found common ground. There are a few in the group who have not had that experience. They are, to a one, the most intractable, the most rigid among the members. They don’t WANT to find common ground. They want the other members to see and feel an extreme that the rest of us refuse to feel. We friends look for that common ground, that solution to the problems that face all of us. Even if man never reaches a point where no man is wanting, before we can begin to solve the enormous social problems facing us at the moment, we must understand the common struggle. While I giggle as I type the following, I hope we don’t wait until an alien culture shows up in our atmosphere and threatens to wipe us all out. (Cue theme to Independence Day) Looking at the way the world is in turmoil today, it’s obvious that we won’t be prepared to come together to defend our planet.