"I alone must become myself. I cannot become myself alone."~J. Pittman McGehee, Episcopal Priest & Jungian Analyst
Robert Nisbet wrote in The Quest for Community, "freedom was conceived [as]...man's release from custom, tradition and from local groups of every kind..." Nisbet reminds us, John Stuart Mill believed, "individuality is something derived from innate qualities alone and nourished solely in the processes of separation and release."
The eighteenth century Western view of man as rational, secure and independent was in opposition to the view that man was a product of local customs, powerful guilds, superstitions, traditions and local tyrants. That social situation no longer exists in the Western world and we need to look at the type of man that is needed for the world today. I am proposing that we focus now on our ability to connect with other conscious, mature humans--that it is necessary that we do so if we want to maintain our personal authority.
At the outset, I want to clearly reject the idea that we must subsume our individual, unique, rational (and non-rational) nature to the requirements of serving associations and communities we participate in.
I reject the idea espoused by President Obama when he said you didn't build that. Even when read in context, the remark suggests that the "creative works of individuals are but a reflection of group interests and group demands." [Nisbet, page 217] I am writing instead of Nisbet's community where the inspiration for a man's work "arise out of communities of purpose." Man is embedded in his social situation, in his community, in his freely chosen associations. There he has the resources and the strength to resist the collectivist, totalitarian State.
I really love Pittman's quote. I intentionally chose it since I think it points the paradoxical way forward. I am not proposing a return to the unconscious, old constricting ways of small, local disconnected agrarian communities, but alone we do not possess the power to resist the State.
I am suggesting that we, as rational beings having an internal sense of our own authority, become part of chosen communities-- intellectual communities, local militias, work communities, dance clubs, churches and/or our spiritual communities-- communities with purpose, work and authority. I think Nisbet was right when he saw that it is only the purpose, work and authority held by associations that is sufficient to resist the suffocating reach of the totalitarian State.