Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Folly of Putting Something Essential to Social Cohesion Into the Hands of a few

In reflecting on the increasing distrust and anger on both sides of the Police Vs. Policed situation we are witnessing now I am again reminded of the dictum: Woe be to those who become too separated from that which sustains them.

It's a good deal more complicated here, of course, because, human nature being so profoundly susceptible to prejudice, one group ends up not being served very well at the very least, and/or truly dis served to an egregious degree that's more than the majority ever wants to admit.

It is also complicated for another reason, however. A combination situation that shows up in other service situations to various degrees, but seldom to this extent. That combination is the simple fact that policing is, unquestioningly, inherently difficult, and dangerous. But it is also faced with the absolutely essential requirement to be formed on the foundation of impartial service; to protect everyone with equanimity, establishing a balance of calm assessment with a firm fairness in the application of the rules a society has deemed prudent to enforce upon itself. A balance that's not suppose to prejudge anyone, but be ready to react as the situation demands so as to limit exposure of the general populace to further possible harm.

You don't have to dwell on a definition like that to come to the conclusion that it's a pretty tall order. Maybe inhumanely so in the ordinary sense of what fallible people are capable of day to day; even very strong, and well intentioned individuals. And yet, here we are, demanding that one sub group of our collective do this very thing, day in and day out, for decades at a stretch.

Having the kind of imagination that I have, the empathy to a fault that goes with it, I cannot help but put myself into their shoes. Just as I put myself into the shoes of those who don't fare so well on the receiving end. But as big as my imagination is I still can't fully comprehend what it would be like to have to deal with the most troubled of us every working day. The whys and wherefores of these troubles are another issue altogether, and certainly contain ample amounts of both personal, and external, bad choices. The point is that, if all you do is deal with the collateral damage you are bound to get changed in one fashion or another, and the probabilities in that context would not be favorable for good change outcomes.

I have thought about this sort of seemingly irreconcilable realities for decades and the best solution I have been able to come up with is one based on the assumption that we all need to spend time walking a ways in the other persons shoes. And in that do we see the necessity of never allowing any one group to shoulder important aspects of what sustains us. We should all take turns handling the difficult, onerous, or distasteful necessities of social cohesion. Which is not to say that everyone must necessarily take a turn at policing specifically. Certainly not everyone would be physically, or emotionally, capable, but that doesn't mean there wouldn't be other categories of the difficult they could do.

My thought has always been that each City State (for lack of a better term... I recommend you read the book “Rethinking the City” by Steven Liaros for a splendid argument on how that form of granularity of organization would be not only be desirable, but quite understandable from a historical perspective.)
would come up with an as comprehensive a list as possible of all of the things that would need to be done to support an at least partially self sufficient entity of this size. The next step, however, and just as important, would be to categorize these tasks and then declare that each citizen had to pick at least one or two (or whatever), from each so that no one could escape their share of the difficult. And then, after what ever total number required were selected (say something between 6 and 12), each individual would then spend a week or two working at each task in sequence so that nobody got stuck in any one of them.

To say that there will be difficulties in this is only to state the obvious. Many, if not most, of these tasks will have skill requirements few will posses. And finding solutions to that shortcoming will not be easy to say the least. As someone who understands the power of information properly organized, and retrievable within a dynamic application of context, I remain hopeful that it can be done. It will certainly take generally capable people to achieve it, but achieving that is possible as well because education will truly be an integrated, and seamless, part of every day community life.

From my point of view the bottom line here is that, however difficult any of this rethinking of how we are organized is to implement, we simply have no choice but to try. The alternative is just not an option if we are to survive in any form of what we have always hoped human beings are capable of. It's another choice we need to make, and one that won't wait a whole lot longer.