Sunday, August 26, 2007

Is that possible?

Critique in blue

Hallsmith argues that community is essential to human life and that all aspects of our human community are connected in some way. She claims that there are three main actors within the community (individuals/households, businesses/non-profit, and government) and that all of these actors have grown together over time. She also says that these actors interact with one another in order to meet their needs—needs which she divides into four categories: physical, economic, governmental, and social. Hallsmith argues that we must evaluate the processes and interconnections that shape our environment if we wish to make sustainable decisions and promote community wellness.

This reading is very relevant to our course because it encourages us to think broadly and optimistically. As we prepare to engage the community, we must look at our projects critically and holistically. We must carefully think through our decisions and set specific goals—keeping in mind the unforeseen consequences of our actions.

Overall, I enjoyed Hallsmith’s earnest approach and optimistic ideas, yet I have a few doubts about her perspective. I was particularly interested in the section about social capacity (p. 59) where Hallsmith talks about the key elements of a socially healthy society. She says that communities with high levels of personal contact (relationships between individuals) and volunteerism tend to be much more vibrant than communities that lack these elements. This observation seems obvious enough, but it still does not answer her initial question: “What is it that makes one community a warm and friendly place to live… or makes another community merely a place on a map…?” (59). Although research shows that volunteerism and personal contact are good indicators of a socially healthy society, I would ask what actually inspires these people to volunteer and engage in relationships. Why is it that some people are so friendly, caring, generous, and concerned while others remain so cold, distant, selfish, and removed? Even with all the right schooling and material blessings, do not many people still lead unproductive and unhappy lives? It seems to me that in order to build a socially healthy and sustainable community that you must change the attitudes and perspectives of the entire planet. You must expect humans to live for others instead of for themselves. You must expect that corruption will not infiltrate the system. You must expect that we can somehow do better than the countless generations that have failed before us. Is that possible?

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