Common Purse?

A writer I referred to in an earlier post remarked about a group of adults living together in New York City, pooling their resources. It was an aside to a discussion of the decline of community in the US.

It’s a mistake to regard such arrangements as weird or novel–they simply go by another name. Here are some contemporary examples:

  • Families. Husband and Wife both work these days, and in many families young adult family members live under the same roof and contribute.
  • College Fraternities. Students share a house, pool resources for meals and services.
  • Religious Orders. Monks and nuns often live together in a “monastic enclosure” or house where work and expenses are paid out of a common fund.
  • Roommates. In academic and urban settings, singles share a suite of rooms to save on rent.
  • Ashrams. There are a number of ashrams in the US where people pool resources to participate in a spiritual community.
  • Group Homes. Many charities operate group homes to support vulnerable people or as half-way houses for people who are learning to live independently.

You could probably think of more examples of common ways that Americans form affinity groups to support one another in meeting basic needs for food, shelter, and leisure time. It’s not the anomaly that it might seem at first.

America has drifted away from some traditions that supported the instinct to combine resources for the common good. In the 20th Century, men organized clubs like Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions, the VFW, and the American Legion. These clubs provided networks of mutual benevolence and social contacts while doing public service. In the 21st Century most of these clubs struggle to attract new members.

Country Clubs organized around Golf, Tennis, Pickleball, and other sports seem to be holding their own, but the focus has shifted to the sport, and away from the mutual benevolence of a strong social network.

Volunteer Fire Companies were once the working man’s equivalent of a social club. Members would develop close personal relationships while training to fight fires. They experience a special bond because the rely on each other to be safe while facing danger. But the burden of increased risks, daunting training requirements, and the athleticism needed to perform the firefighting role have combined with a decline in the social motivations making it difficult to attract new younger members. It’s less common for a person to live and work in the same community. Commuting and changes of employment take their toll.

Slow change, which happens over decades, easily escapes our attention. The breakdown of these formerly common social networks of interdependence and community is only clear retrospectively and maybe only to old-timers like me.

I don’t think the change is for the good. I believe that some of what divides us politically is the illusion that we can do without parts of our society, relegating them to a lower status. The nation, each state, and our municipalities are “common purses” that exist to serve the common good. Some would privatize all of it, thinking that they would prefer to pay only for the goods and services they desire without regard for social good. The benefit of the common purse is not appreciated.

Lost Community?

Jake Meador, writing in The Atlantic observes:

The Great De-churching by Davis and Graham finds that the defining problem driving out most people who leave [their church] is … just how American life works in the 21st century. Contemporary America simply isn’t set up to promote mutuality, care, or common life. Rather, it is designed to maximize individual accomplishment as defined by professional and financial success. Such a system leaves precious little time or energy for forms of community that don’t contribute to one’s own professional life or, as one ages, the professional prospects of one’s children. Workism reigns in America, and because of it, community in America, religious community included, is a math problem that doesn’t add up.

“Why Did So Many People Stop Going to Church?” ~ The Atlantic

Pernicious individualism and workism may have spawned the loniliness, depression, social divisiveness, and other social ills of our time. Humans have prospered by banding together, but somehow our culture doesn’t seem to foster values that nourish a healthy community life.

Don’t dismiss this article as being about religion or spirituality — it’s about what bonds us as a human family. Lots of good ideas here. Read the article, follow the links.

Don’t Look Up!

The news each day has sobering similarities to the theme of the satirical film. The Guardian, as part of an appeal for reader financial support said:

We face an epochal, unthinkable prospect: of perhaps the two greatest existential threats – environmental breakdown and food system failure – converging, as one triggers the other.

So why isn’t this all over the front pages? Why, when governments know we’re facing existential risk, do they fail to act?

Looking back on previous human calamities, all of which will be dwarfed by this, you find yourself repeatedly asking “why didn’t they … ?” The answer is power: the power of a few to countermand the interests of humanity. It always has been, but the stakes are now higher than ever.

The Guardian (fundraising email 7/28/23)

Russia seeks to prevent Ukraine’s food crops from being distributed, and crops elsewhere are in peril due to man-made environmental changes. Yet here at home GOP leadership talks of hobbling or eliminating our government’s Department of Environmental Protection.

Don’t Look Up!

The Air We Breathe

Canadian wildfires caused the air in Newtown, PA to exceed the 400 AQI level that’s considered hazardous to all. Lesser levels pose a risk to subsets like the elderly (me), those with a history of asthma (also me), children, pregnant women, and those with compromised health.

Here is the map showing real-time measurements for Newtown and vicinity. You can focus the map on any area you choose. Click the picture below to view the real-time map.

Photo of PurpleAir map

Marguerite, my wife, wrote the article below explaining why the AQI (air quality index) is of concern to everyone.

What Fascists?

“The Marxists and Fascists in the DOJ & FBI are going after me at a level and speed never seen before in our Country, and I did nothing wrong. Joe Biden kept (keeps) thousand of documents, in many locations, some illegally taken from skiffs while he was a Senator, a big portion of which were classified. He didn’t want to give them back, and still doesn’t.”

Frankly, this quote from a DJT tweet is unremarkable, except that it provides an illustration of one of the disinformation plays in his playbook. “Fascist” is often used to aptly describe Trump’s political style. When an unflattering term hits home, the play is to use it strategically, that is misuse it to describe his opposition. Soon the meaning becomes fuzzy, and eventually the word doesn’t communicate anything but rancor.

There is a long list of such linguistic casualties, “woke” among them. Sadly, most who hear the term fascist don’t understand its meaning in a scholarly way; it becomes just another disrespectful expletive. The ploy: If you can’t shake the offensive label, render it meaningless.

Trump understands memes, derisive nicknames, bully humor, sarcasm, and innuendo–all of which are tools to slip deceit under the radar of reasoned thought.

Deadly Political Beliefs

US Citizens are experiencing declining life expectancy. Yes, it’s partly covid. But other countries are doing better than us, and some are doing a lot better. Why? It’s our political beliefs. Writer Doug Muder crunches the numbers for us.

Back to Civics!

This article from The View in Time Magazine’s current issue makes a case for a return to teaching basic civics. Democracy depends upon people being free to have differing opinions and learning to arrive at a compromise.

Our children (to say nothing of most adults) are ignorant of how our systems of governance actually work. Predatory opportunists now exploit that ignorance. Isn’t it curious how so many of our biggest national problems could be resolved if people had the goodwill toward each other to listen and seek equitable solutions?

We must learn to wage peace at home and abroad.

One's identity is far more than one's profession.