Saturday, June 02, 2007

Building a new community

Bill Whittle at Eject! Eject! Eject! always has provocative essays posted. He takes his time and crafts beautiful works, presenting intriguing ideas and addressing half-hidden truths to ultimately leave them bare and lovely.

This particular piece (in two parts) is also quite timely. Whittle, like many of us, senses a certain desperation among many on the internet (it's in more places than just that, but we're dealing with this particular concrete set), that civilization seems to be falling apart, and there is no clear way to prevent that collapse.

Nevertheless, he sees that, throughout history there have been those who stood up for what is right and sane, for essential human virtue and decency and fairness and, well, you get the idea:
Today, when we think of virtues, we tend to think of things like prudence, chastity, modesty… pretty cold porridge. But to the Greek, the Virtues were dynamic and bold. More, Aristotle and others believed they were harmonized – that is related, interconnected, so that to not know one was to imperfectly know the rest. They were dionethic, he said, built by rationality – the virtues of understanding of substance, science, wisdom, the practical crafts and the practical mind.

And there were ethnic virtues, built by custom courage and temperance; the property-based virtues of generosity and goodwill; honor-based virtues like pride, assertivity and control of anger; the social virtues of wittiness, honesty and friendliness; and the political virtue of justice.

These righteous individuals, who have been in ancient text called "Remnants," are what keep humanity from backsliding into oblivion. And the Remnants are always with us, secreted deep in every society, one way or another.

But look at the list of virtues in bold above, and ask yourself how you would feel about your child if they were fluent in all these? What if the political issues of the day were discussed not by how they would advance one party or the other, but rather as they held up against the list of virtues mentioned above?

What kind of society would a citizenry so educated and versed produce? I did a little beta-testing of this concept prior to posting this essay. I asked my regular readers two questions:

  1. What are you good at?
  2. Can you teach it?

With these questions, he's proposed the building of a new community, online, of and for people who believe in the classic virtues.

I have to admit, when I look at my own resumé, I see little to recommend me to this community. I am a Jill-of-all-trades and have mastered none. I can wield hammer, pliers, screwdriver, saw, drill (and they don't have to be power tools, but I can work those, too), shoot a bow and arrow with moderate accuracy, these days, and have myriad other basic skills, but no marketable area of excellence and expertise. I write moderately well, but know there are many others much better at it than I, and begrudge them not.

I have yet to seriously contribute to my own community. The stint I served as a substitute teacher was long ago, far away, and short-lived.

I'm good with furry and scaly animals, but will never be a veterinarian. I can make soap from ashes and animal fat. Not that I want to. I'm pretty adept at planning gardens, but, due to a long list of disabilities, I'm not so goodly a farmer and weed-puller.

I have a hellaciously large library of useless books -- who else needs Fran Striker's Tom Quest series in first edition, or a coverless, marked-up copy of volume I of The American Treasury of 1004 Folk Songs: a Musical History in Two Volumes, 1700-1899? anybody? anybody? Bueller? I lean toward the impractical.

My paintings and drawings have been good, but the effort to produce them leaves me an unpleasant person, dwelling too long within the darker parts of my mad self. I have had to surrender the habit until I can find a better way to live with myself. That is why I write.

Still, I'm told that, for a crazy woman, I've managed to keep remarkably balanced over the past couple of years -- without the help of chemicals. I'd say that means I have a superabundance of good luck. Or, maybe I've been suffering from undiagnosed old-lady-toxoplasmosis euphoria, today.

I'm also told that, when pressed for personal advice, I'm occasionally -- nay, often -- right. I also make good popcorn, and, according to both children and a handful of experienced adults, I give really great hugs.

I wonder if hugs are enough to make me a citizen in good standing in a community such as the proposed Ejectia!? If not, is it the sort of place I'd want to live?

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