Building Community – revisiting values

Building Community – revisiting values is a compilation of my articles published by Sir Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, Scotland in 1997

COMMUNITY AND DEVELOPMENT

A conundrum

Current government retrenchment with an ensuing devolution of responsibilities to more local areas is causing interesting dynamics in the field of community and economic development.  Traditionally considered the domain of more senior levels of governments such development has gradually been taken on by those involved in governance closer to the local level.  This necessitates new policy development focused on many questions, with two being:  Can local governments really represent and provide all the needs of a geographic community or is  there a broader milieu that needs to be harnessed and supported ?  Is “community development” a service to be delivered or is it something that evolves from individual and local initiative, and activities in a supportive environment?  Then, of course, encompassing these there is the continuing struggle to define what constitutes community. 

Introduction

Professor John Fairley

Bill Pardy works in North East Scotland for the area’s local authorities in what may be the most difficult and challenging aspect of economic development, namely community-based development. In this role he is well-known to many of the area’s small towns and villages. However his work, and his philosophical approach to it, are much better known in Atlantic Canada than they are in Scotland. These short essays indicate the foundations of that approach, and how different these are from the ‘mainstream’ of economic development thinking in contemporary Scotland.

In Scotland, economic development tends to focus still on large projects – the new inward investments, the large infrastructure projects, the European-funded initiatives. The Government’s training schemes for the unemployed are also important, but these too are large and ‘top down’ in nature. While the local enterprise companies and local authorities have been trying to develop local initiatives, these tend also to be ‘top down’.  By contrast Bill Pardy holds to the view that sustainable, long term development needs to be ‘bottom up’ and firmly-rooted in the aspirations of local communities.

The management of economic development, like other public services, has shifted its focus on to measurable ‘outputs’. In some areas of training, ‘output budgeting’ is now the norm. Providers are paid according to what they ‘deliver’. The question of further shifting the focus to ‘outcomes’ -the difference achieved for the individual or society, rather than the simple output- is under discussion. While there is much to commend these managerial innovations, there is also a ‘downside’. In particular, the new focus loses sight of the importance of ‘process’, and it tends to marginalise the community’s assessment of development activity. Economic development becomes the property of ‘experts’.

Bill Pardy argues that for sustainable, community-based development, the process issues are critical. Good economic development must be based on good relationships between individuals and between social groups. And these relationships must be based on values such as trust, mutual regard and co-operation. In Scotland’s most disadvantaged and fractured communities this suggests that a rebuilding of ‘community’  is necessary as a precondition for successful economic development.

Bill Pardy’s approach is radical.  It involves trusting people and their communities. It means taking risks and being prepared to accept and learn from ‘failure’, both of which  the conventional wisdom of focusing on outputs strongly discourages. And it implies a strongly community-orientated approach to monitoring and evaluation.

In these short essays Bill goes back to some of the very basic issues which he feels need to be addressed, and in particular to the value base of our communities. He argues that these issues are key to economic development. He offers his ideas as a contribution to the debate on the future of economic development.

John Fairley is Director of the Centre for Public Policy and Management and Editor of the series of Occasional Papers

 

 

Forward

Maitland Mackie CBE LLD

The hurly burly and rush of our increasingly material and secular even greedy life styles does currently seem to swamp the intrinsic values of humanness (a Pardy word) and destroys the caring communities  that evolved from and reflected these values.

Bill Pardy’s essays are well worthy of a read and reflection.  They explore for ways of rediscovering these individual and community values, and reinstalling them in a modern setting as core to achieving universal lasting happiness.  Take a little time out and read.  You’ll enjoy it.

Maitland Mackie is the Chairman of  “Mackies Ltd” and of Grampian Enterprise.

WILLIAM W. PARDY

(Biosketch)

Bill presently freelances as an Economic Development Advisor specializing in community based initiatives. His present assignment involves working for the local authorities with people living in the villages and communities in the Northeast of Scotland.  A twenty plus-year background in community and development activities has provided the basis for other similar roles.

In a two-year executive interchange with the Canadian Public Service Commission (1990-1993) he was engaged as the Director of Community Development with the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and provided support and guidance to this regional development agency in all four Atlantic Provinces of Canada.  His knowledge and skills has also been employed The Atlantic Provinces Economic Council, an economic think tank, in a variety of community development and education related projects. Bill has a diverse and varied background in business, and has worked in communities, governments and non governmental bodies.

Bill’s search for knowledge and extensive travel to many areas in Europe, Asia and North America has resulted in the development of an extensive global network of resource people and a broad information base.   As such, he is a much utilised resource person, facilitator and moderator for conferences and workshops.   


COMMUNITY AND DEVELOPMENT

A conundrum

Current government retrenchment with an ensuing devolution of responsibilities to more local areas is causing interesting dynamics in the field of community and economic development.  Traditionally considered the domain of more senior levels of governments such development has gradually been taken on by those involved in governance closer to the local level.  This necessitates new policy development focused on many questions, with two being:  Can local governments really represent and provide all the needs of a geographic community or is  there a broader milieu that needs to be harnessed and supported ?  Is “community development” a service to be delivered or is it something that evolves from individual and local initiative, and activities in a supportive environment?  Then, of course, encompassing these there is the continuing struggle to define what constitutes community.

I have discovered in my current journeys that the issues that rural people everywhere are addressing are similar in themselves and not all that different from those of urban environments.  Nor are they new issues to human history.  Twice during this century, other generations experienced the precursor of the change we now appear unable to avoid.   The economic depression of the thirties and the social revolution of the sixties challenged established concepts and institutions.   Processes that were initiated at the margins of those eras were gradually adopted as mainstream endeavours.  Only when the economic and social impacts were felt by those more in the mainstream of society and conventional top down management found wanting were more experimental and personal forms of community development allowed to surface.  People arrived at these approaches from powerless necessity by coalescing around local issues and one another in “community”.

The nineties brings us to another similar juncture similar to those of the thirties and sixties but, perhaps even more profound because the impacts of technological advancement and societal evolution are being felt further up the social chain.  Local initiative and involvement are again being espoused as the route forward.  I would suggest, it provides those, who would in stable times insist on administrative authority, a release from their responsibility, as they promote devolution towards local control and to more individual responsibility.  By enunciating decentralisation, more senior governments can deflect accountability with skilful posturing.

The question is whether or not all this posturing will allow genuine community building to happen or, as in the previous eras will it be relegated back to the fringes when this latest version of human social crisis is “over”  Will community development be recognised as a continuum, or again perceived as last resort utilised by those in power when their own solutions are found wanting?

Development, I would argue is not something that can be delivered either in the form of programs, grants or infrastructure such as governments have attempted.  Money and organisational support in themselves are not the solution for rural and other marginalised communities.  The real challenges are human issues.  Therefore, policy and ensuing initiatives must focus on linking people, often those with disparate interests, so that real communications can take place and the legitimacy of those disparate interests recognised.  The real challenge for the nineties and beyond is the encouragement of people participation, thus providing them forums for legitimising their own talents, skills and beliefs.  Only from this type of process will the formulation of methodologies evolve that will ensure that society is improved and enhanced – the real purpose of development.

While I believe we are beginning to orient our thinking and may even be arriving at a new plateau of intellectual and spiritual understanding, I also believe we require a re-definition of parameters and a re-examination of our values.  Destroying everything is not the solution to any of these dilemmas.  Rethinking present structures as well as designing new ones are both necessary.

The widening economic and social divide suggests that there is a need to re-design our mechanisms for wealth-creation and wealth-distribution. There is also a necessity for new methodologies to integrate local decision making into regional democratic decision making.  Most importantly, we must develop supportive environments for people that allows true reflection and self-analysis to address the present avoidance and deflection of human issues which are fundamentally caused by fear  of change and our human resistance to it.

Overcoming the inherent intransigence of people to change is the real challenge.  Finding the key to unlocking the spirit of individuality while providing hope and support is basic.  Understanding how each of us fits and interrelates in society in order to complement each other is likewise fundamental.  These are spiritual issues, social issues, and economic issues.  The process will involve reviewing the past and re-establishing fundamental values while recognising the present world with all its technological advances and conceptualising the future as we wish it to be.

 

 ACHIEVING HARMONY

Cultivating Respect

In today’s world, too often, respect becomes confused with envy, with empathy and with profile.  Yet, respect (feelings and expressions of worth for oneself and others) is fundamental to the nurture and fulfilment of human existence and doesn’t evolve from societies built on borders, barriers and boundaries.  It can be neither legislated nor regulated. It can’t be taught but it can be learned and can begin with any willing individual.  It requires no particular status nor income levels.  It is also the easiest thing to transfer from one individual to another.  Respect will also bring the greatest rewards both individually and collectively.

Every day in the news, people are inundated with coverage of new tragedies – a myriad of stories about damaged wasted and ended lives.  Communities are no longer considered safe, homes no longer secure and our “way of life” is jeopardised because of the “evil” ones in our midst.  The general media led response indicates fear, loathing and impatience, inciting reactionary groups to demand more laws, stronger policing and more stringent regulation.  They demand, on behalf of all citizens, stronger punishments as deterrents for those who have not even yet engaged in anti-social crimes.  There is even the demand for zero tolerance, and it is becoming too easy to agreeably envision the curtailment of all freedoms as a last hope of protecting ourselves.

Witness areas such as California, where communities have built walls and created private security forces.  Recall in Canada when government panicked and implemented the War Measures Act suspending civil liberties for all.  Those people who were incarcerated appreciate better than anyone what such draconian measures imply.  Ironically, when totalitarian regimes impose the same rules on their citizens there is a cry of outrage by the “democratic” countries such as ours and often troops sent to defend the oppressed.  What isn’t realised by the citizens of these same democracies, is that each time the powers of their legislation are expanded, police forces increased and regulations made more restrictive, their society moves closer and closer to similar repressions.

It is my contention, that many current societal ills can be traced to the “sixties”.  Several aspects of societal change converged – rapidly expansionary economies became less dependent on the resources of the developed world; demographic shifts were created with the burgeoning of the baby boom generation; and advancing education and technology opened our society to global information, new philosophies and immigration.  The result was a weakening of respect for any of the moral values that had carried developed societies to their advanced states and had, at least, stabilised developing countries.

Since that era rapid expansion of technology, breakdown of national borders and an overwhelming production of illusionary images from new visual media have become commonplace.  Visual media, in particular, have become the vital sources of information flow and have exacerbated the weakening and appreciation of traditional values.  The demand for the “good life” with all of its advertised `accessories’ has mushroomed.  People in developed and latterly developing countries gradually got into the rush to attain more, to achieve more and to collect all those things that would make life worthwhile (using a consumer definition!).

Two incomes per family became mandatory, youth employment compulsory and higher wages the cry.  Until recently, where even two salaries may not suffice, student employment is insufficient to providing adequate lifestyle desires and no wages limits appear satisfactory.  This is compounded by a growing disparity in the incomes of those who are more able to influence the system and those who are not.  Stress is compounding, tension growing and value of life and living lost.

The very young are pressured to choose a `good’ career, but long term careers are proving illusory.  Recent graduates are  encouraged to prepare good retirement plans and make large contributions to private savings in order to achieve a level of reserves upon retirement that previous generations couldn’t contemplate (Financial advisors now recommend that retirement savings in excess of a million dollars are required, in order to, sustain a reasonable life style).  The middle aged are being asked to accept redundancy because they can’t be trained quickly enough to master the changing demands of new high tech systems.  In the face of this destructive social tangle, youth, with their high tech education and sophisticated intellectual progress have to attempt to fit in, nurture and sustain the society – but! without the benefit being afforded them of any social development much less spiritual awareness or frameworks.  Marginalisation is the result, opting out the alternative and rights considered sacrosanct (but to what purpose!).

Institutions, staffed with employees educated during the earlier generational shift, are intransigent.  Although not willing to accept responsibility they cling to the security and incomes that maintain their inflated lifestyles.  The institutional base has neither the capacity or awareness, much less the willingness to act as intermediaries in addressing the social issues impacting people.  The moral ground of churches was long ago abrogated to educators and subsequently to government with current attempts to foist onto business the responsibility to fill this widely recognised void.

Social systems have been set up that encourage disrespect and diminish the very recipients that they are supposed to assist.  Laws are created to punish those that abuse and more and more people are hired to police the abusers, thereby, depleting the very resources that we earmarked for those in need.  At the same time the people at the upper echelon of both public and private sectors consider that they are entitled to more because they are working to provide the incomes of those that are unwilling or unable.

The search for resolution falls into a vacuum that is being rapidly filled by the extremists who see opportunity to gain control – historically this happens in periods of significant transitions.  The price to society will be heavy if moderate forces remain withdrawn and insular.  It will not only be the injured, abused and murdered that will suffer but all those young people without adequate nurturing to value life and living.

For all these tolls of doom, however, a successful resolution is achievable – it begins and ends with “respect”.  The struggle and challenge of all those who recognise the scope of the dilemma remains –  who will begin the process to create a system built on respect?  My contention, is that, it must begin with each and every individual.  Each person must endeavour to show respect for all those who come into their presence.  However, this will be at times be difficult for everyone is influenced by personal and traditional biases that have been part of their upbringing.  But, respect for oneself, for other individuals and for all living things is quite achievable and requires little fiscal resources.  The results lead to experiences of reciprocal respect by many who become acquaintances and others who build friendships.

There are other actions that could be catalysts for a new society built on consideration.

Politicians and bureaucrats could set such examples if they didn’t partake of double and triple dipping (receiving contract income) while enjoying lucrative pensions.  Government, churches and educational institutions could provide guidance and moral support to redundant fisheries workers in addressing the most traumatic experiences of their lives instead of offering only special sustenance income.   Recognition of their talents and skills would create esteem.  These same institutions could assist single young mothers attain greater aspirations and better lifestyles or, at least, broader understanding of the disparate nature of the path they are choosing.  Instead, they provide minimal incomes.  Such support would resolve immediate and future social ills.  The provision of transitional assistance for early retirees (often younger than fifty years of age) would forestall another burgeoning societal issue.  Politically addressing the issue of young women and men, who even with good education, have to settle for menial careers would encourage new hope and generate confidence.

Such individual and societal action would provide learning, support and encouragement to people of all ages in enduring and overcoming many of life’s tribulations, traumas and challenges.  Personal growth and advancement beyond any expectations could be ensured.  The reduction of the barriers and boundaries to personal fulfilment could be afforded and many would experience a side of life from which most keep remote.  The resultant personal and spiritual sensations will have been previously mind experiences only, attained through reading the thoughts of others.

Mutual respect will provide a new appreciation of a wealth of untold proportions and security; it is the wealth of wisdom, of friendships and moral supporters.  The price will only entail a willingness to show respect for oneself and others.  This respect involves at times providing support and encouragement.  It also necessitates, allowing others their anguish and pain with its subsequent learning, but, always with the full understanding that help is available if required.

These are simple principles long supported in religious doctrine, in native folklore and throughout the course of human history.  These kind of endeavours, no doubt, encourage suggestions that such idealism has no place in this pragmatic and advanced world.  But, as history demonstrates, the concept usually begins with individuals and multiplies through communities to become inherent in societies.  Mutual respect and its inherent support becomes buried when institutions, that people create to perfect the process, lose their collective regard for the people they serve.  It is lost in community and society, when people lose appreciation for the institutions they created.  A movement is then required to redress the inequities and regain respect.

Such a movement will only happen with a collective will and a genuine desire by those that believe and care.  The results will become infectious and spread, as examples are set and respect and reciprocation shared.  The effort requires neither money nor time, only open honest communication – a commodity that with our technology is touted as our greatest asset.  The next step is individual and it requires an adventuresome nature to dare to show someone respect and then await the reaction.  The response just might prove to be the greatest gift for all.

 

ATTAINING PEACE

Understanding Trust

Trust (belief in oneself and others) is diminishing amid the flurry of news items portraying sadistic crimes, police brutality, and abuse of all sorts.  Study after study produces statistics depicting evident ills inflicted on every segment of society.  Political systems are under duress, justice systems are in chaos and most religions face challenges to tradition.  There appears to be no one to trust and less and less reason to do so.  People wonder how they will ever trust again.

Peace of mind, a corollary of trust, also appears ever more elusive in an era that so recently offered so much promise and opportunity.  The never ending pursuit of the good life and its perks has led down a road of increasing despair and uncertainty.  Comfortable lives are suddenly overturned, curtailed as the burgeoning baby boom generation reaches its age of reflection.  Perhaps, in trying to replace the idealism of youth with ever increasing creature comforts, this generation felt that personal luxury might provide happiness and peace.

The growing sense of despair is deepening this reflection.  It is becoming apparent that all is not perfect; in fact, an artificial lifestyle has been built on a foundation that is becoming increasingly less sustainable.  People work at jobs that are unfulfiling but pay salaries adequate to purchase materials and activities that give the illusion of balance.  As economic limits of existing systems are reached and conventional employment reduced, the demands of the workplace now increase former time schedules.  People struggle with having to commit more effort to careers that provide little satisfaction.

While tolerance for differences shrinks, anger grows, and fear expands that somehow life is out of control.  The cry is for someone to fix it, and to do so quickly.  The backlash is often swift when the fix is neither immediate nor without pain.

Issues are researched with statistics designed for another era; questionnaires are skewed to ensure the answers that are sought.  All this to demonstrate how devastated people are, how abused everyone is and how desperate life has become.  The result is a society where practically everyone feels a victim of some adversity.  The reality is somewhat different.  What is experienced by the majority are life’s ordeals and encounters, some of which are truly tragic but most of which are not life threatening or permanently harmful.  Oftentimes these tribulations act to shift individuals out of some complacency that has entered their lives.  Real tragedy and victimisation are diminished when there is such superficial analysis.

What is usually neglected in this research is in-depth analysis of the root causes of the malaise.  What is often misunderstood is that inner anger is one’s own frustration at self-intransigence and unwillingness to do what might be in one’s own best interests.  There are genuine cases where societal pressures and impediments limit a person’s ability to rectify hardships.  But there are also numerous examples to demonstrate that individuals can overcome horrendous obstacles and handicaps and achieve good lives and fulfilment.  Certainly these achievements are not without risk or cost.

Inner rage results from feelings of rejection and ensuing fears that have become so pervasive that people are turning more and more inward.  These feelings are exacerbated, increasing paranoia.  Internal rage appears to be the root of much of the abuse that we are witnessing as people look for those who are to blame and those who should be punished.  This rage often results in self-abuse and diminishment and a continuum of self-defeating activities and a search for others to punish.

Eradicating all human ills and abuse is idealistic at best and would necessitate cultural harmony and human engineering that is presently beyond the scope of humanity.  But better understanding of root causes of fear and greater tolerance of differences would assist in limiting the extent of the harm that is inflicted by individuals on each other.  Ultimately, there has to be a greater appreciation of the gift of life and living.

Moving beyond the concept of “human brokenness” that appears to prevail, and that has been encouraged by most western religions, is fundamental.   Understanding instead that the human form is but an incomplete `masterpiece’ to be moulded by experiences that come our way, through design or desire, might alleviate the fears and their resulting pervasive destructiveness.  Realising that life, despite its inequities, inevitably shapes our individualism and character, is fundamental to human enlightenment.

Life’s pain and suffering may not be lessened through such awareness, but it might become more tolerable.  Healing is possible when people realise that scars are not wounds but records of our resilience and fortitude.  The wounds themselves are merely superficial sculpt marks that add to our allure.

There must be renewed focus on life as a spiritual journey.  Trust is necessary in a power that is far greater than the human mind can comprehend, abstract as many might perceive it to be.  This is relatively simple to substantiate in a world where conventional and developed logic and theories are proved redundant as new information and knowledge emerge.  The timeless and ancient wisdom of philosophers and spiritual prophets stills holds even in this `advanced’ and `modern’ era.  Revisiting these values would do more for peace and stability and renewed trust than all the social and technical developments that are current measures of progress.

There has to be renewed trust in individuals and in humanity, and a restored belief that humans do not have ultimate power or control.  Natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods demonstrate this.  Even engineered earthquake proofing fails the test.

Stories must be shared of endurance and suffering that have led to greater fulfilment by those who have had faith in themselves and their world.  The all-pervasive media will have to learn more about what is positive in society which, it could be demonstrated, is the majority of experiences.  Showcasing the most negatives aspects of humanity has to desist.  Those that would espouse to be leaders will have to become the examples by being willing to lead and take the first risks by trusting their electorates and followers.  Individuals will have to learn to trust themselves and their own instincts, and put less trust in others to solve their problems.

So much of the current perception of life could be altered with a fresh look and a different attitude.  The privileged lives, when compared to others, of those in the developed world might be preserved with more openness, caring and affirmation (foreign visitors are often intrigued by our despair in the midst of such apparent “opulence”).

The key lies in renewed trust in individual capabilities and greater respect for the spiritual nature of human existence.  This is an internal process and doesn’t happen through external environments or material possessions.  The result will afford serenity, contentment and peace.

 

APPRECIATING RHYTHM

Valuing Relationship

When any rhythms are interrupted or altered, they tend to veer out of control until measures are taken to restore balance.  The all too evident apprehension, stress and despair which can be seen everywhere today would indicate that this point of imbalance has been reached.  Whether one considers the natural environment or human activities, these current problems are indications that the natural rhythm and flow of everyday life has again run askew.  Attempts at balance have been reactionary causing aggravation, greater gyrations and growing despair.  This is apparent whether one considers cultural migration, governments, religious institutions, private economic sectors, or individual neighbourhoods and people.

Many issues indicate a society out of sync:  western corporations use Japanese models while the Japanese adopt aspects of conventional Western systems; people in the traditional Christian countries are looking at Eastern philosophies while countries like China are adopting Christianity; and developing countries are creating consumer cultures while the more developed ones struggle as people spend less and question consumerism.

Again, governments of all persuasions rush to solve crime, social disconnection and economic malaise.  New programs, new policies and ultimately, as these attempts fail, new governments are the usual outcomes.  What follows is usually a predictable shift to the right as strong minded individuals and organisations offer simplistic solutions for change, most often the elimination of government.  This shift is time honoured through history each time institutional rhythms are out of step with those of the people.  The fallout is usually exacerbated when people’s individual rhythms are out of sync.

The mantra for most governments has become privatisation and a renewed role for the private sector.  But this sector isn’t private -it comprises everyone.  Managers of `private sector’ institutions are deemed to have special talents to solve our every malady – despite sharing backgrounds and training with the general population.  Perhaps, they are considered by policy-makers to have achieved a degree of sophistication that is beyond the reach of others.

Consumer conditioning had led us to believe that if people had more money and could buy more things then all other issues would disappear.  Now that this myth has been largely dispelled, these private sector managers are offered as champions of societal well being.  People continue to hope that someone will come to rescue them from life and living and take on the responsibility of it.  Ultimately, as religions and governments have fallen before them, when solutions prove themselves beyond the reach of `the private sector’, its leaders risk vilification as well.

Meanwhile, religious institutions seem to have abrogated their role as moral authorities and taken on many aspects of traditional community responsibility in social support, often with the aid of government funds.  They have subsequently developed business and administrative frameworks and institutional hierarchies.  Conventional lines of “authority” are blurred with both governments and main stream churches in a constant struggle for recognition and subsequent control. Yet, the spiritual quest for fulfilment and balance continues unabated with people gravitating to countless new and trendy teachings.   Most often these experiences result in further disillusionment and greater imbalance (some even end in tragedy) for those involved and the public who frequently are exposed to the consequences.

The abrogation of personal responsibility to society has helped to create the present increasing unease. Apparently no one is interested in responsibility any longer – only in their rights.  Others are held responsible for most aspects of ones well-being (the government for income support, the private sector for jobs, professionals for moral and psychological help, and so on).  Unfortunately, a new generation is bearing the cost of such presumption.

Ultimately, efforts to displace responsibility create institutional and administrative substitutes.  Whether government, non-profit, or private, these structures end up responsible for their employees or owners and accountable largely only to their management.  There are numerous examples of management in private companies receiving substantial bonuses despite large corporate losses.  Public bureaucracies receive little, if any, retribution for faulty programs or expenditures.  The general population, membership, or shareholders have become disconnected from both accountability and responsibility.

Leaders, in addressing any of these imbalances, have focused primarily on economic issues, with those such as scarcity and hoarding (not saving) dominating.  Individuals share less,  corporations cut expenses to increase profits and reserves, and some churches are even threatening  layoffs of clergy to “save” money.  Getting as much as you can “while there is still time” is actually evolving into a cultural trait.  Thus, obvious wealth expands as privileged individuals and organisations amass resources for future use or to stave off imagined catastrophe.  Eventually such a catastrophe will evolve if the oscillations of unbalanced rhythms aren’t redressed.

Eventually, however, people might once again recognise that there is no secret formula, no hidden source of well being.  They could discern that individuals trying to survive in this world need to come together and create environments that allow meaningful existence by caring and sharing.  They may understand that their role is to evolve a basis of understanding of life and living that is transferable to the generations that follow – something that has largely eluded this generation so far.  The essential role of human values and the importance of human relationships has to be understood and separated from raging political and special interest debates about individuality and the structure of relationships.  When “family values” are discussed most often it is the structure, power or control that becomes the issue, not the values.  In deciding societal values, the focus must be on the perspective of people sharing a caring alliance that provides them meaning and support.  Unfortunately, the debate most often degenerates into questions about power and gender.

A world view of relationships with shared benefits and shared accountability has been forfeited by a society caught in the worship of individualism, as if, isolated existence were desirable or even possible.  Life with its joys, frustrations and sorrows is little if not shared.  Today relationships (personal and business) are deemed useful as long as they provide some benefit to one or the other partner.  When usefulness to either is through, then the affiliation is terminated.  The context of sharing has been lost.

This is particularly evident in traditional male – female relationships, where we have been witnessing a dramatic shift in roles.  The resulting marginalisation of both sexes is traumatic.  Some have even come to believe that such relationships are fundamentally harmful.  Gender polarisation intensifies with the advent of new interest groups and organisations who all suggest that they speak for the majority of yet another disadvantaged segment of society.  A sense of society that is built on democratic principles of majority precept appears lost to one constructed on the edicts of `minorities’.

People must recognise that the present imbalanced rhythms are human issues, not economic or social, because economic and social issues are but results of human interactions.  Re-balancing means encouraging and developing relationships that support and share.  Meaningful relationships depend on shared beliefs that have their basis in value, sanctity and respect for all things living.  People must reach back to their cumulative history and explore both the values and the processes that sustained others through the changes wrought by social, economic and natural upheavals.  Fundamentally, people must put aside their biases and intolerance, at least long enough to hear other’s points of view.

Sharing honest and open communications can lead to better understanding of one another and its corollary compassion, can lead to appreciation.  Only then can it be seen what genuinely motivates others.  Only then can real relationships, based on caring, begin.  Bad behaviour is largely caused by fear.  Relationship can allay fears, foster openness and greater sharing and bring positive economic and social benefits.  The rhythm of life and living will once again be stabilised – until the next generation decides it must “perfect” the process.

 

ACCEPTING STILLNESS

Enduring  Solstices

Solstice is the point in time when the sun on reaching the extremity of its cycle, becomes still before beginning the next cycle of earth’s seasons.  Solstices are about change, uncertainty and transition from one season to the next.  In earlier periods the advent of each solar solstice was the cause of much  apprehension as people were dismayed by the possible end of light and perhaps existence.  The transitions that are being experienced in the world today can be compared to such natural solstices.  Significantly, society struggles with phenomenal transformations – technological advancement, record employment redundancies and an ageing population, whose numbers exceed any period before in history.

Never before has there been such a need for sober reflection, for deep introspection and connection with the natural rhythms of life.  Yet, little value is placed on calm, thoughtful reflection – stillness.  Stillness is considered wasteful, boredom a major affliction and transitions considered unnecessary. One must be busy and prolific to be successful as an individual or in a profession.  Those who reflect, are relegated to obscure eccentricity because the people who have real influence are those who generate more ideas and innovative concepts – no matter their basis or benefit.  The one who can catch the next trend is the one who is honoured and heard.

The transition from production to information is supposed to be the harbinger of the greatest advances in the history of progress.  Instead, it has the potential to create one of the darker periods of human development as people retrench and become fearful of this present solstice of human transition.  Local wisdom is dismissed for the expertise of those who promise magic formulae or those who support romanticised concepts of previous eras.  There is a proliferation of consultancies, each trying to capture some semblance of this growing market for expert advice.  There are increasing numbers of ‘Gurus’ pontificating knowledge and expertise that, supposedly, is beyond the scope of more common folks. There are growing numbers of ‘think tanks’ whose basic aim, too often, is to tap some of the wealth that they perceive is available.  And, of course, there are those advocates of the Internet, the information superhighway, and presumably the ultimate technology, which, they suggest will change all aspects of human interaction and eliminate most needs for personal contact.

One of the remnants of the industrial age is a society based on production and productivity.  People are pushed to create new wealth, generate new processes, or establish new research projects.  The measures of production are so entrenched as to be considered the only way to measure progress.  In order for prosperity to flow to the disadvantaged there must be expansion and growth.  In other words, those with wealth must have more in order for those without to have any.  Such is the dilemma of our present society despite a larger scope of wealth and production than has ever existed.

Those experiencing dramatic changes attempt to recreate the world as they would have liked it to be.  For example, in Eastern Europe many people have been gravitating back to supporting the communists who promise them all the benefits that they couldn’t produce in seventy five years immediately upon regaining power.  In fishing communities, under great threat, partially because of the misuse of technology,  people envision better lifestyles and sustainability  if only they were the managers of their own resources.  This, despite current knowledge of local destructive fishing practices that are pursued in order for individual survival. Deep soul searching and reflection would alleviate some of the ensuing dilemmas because people know that such simplistic solutions are not the answers.  But, they convince themselves of such resolutions to avoid the real changes required.

But, what is missed in all this new age thinking are the ancient but fundamental needs of all humans – physical, emotional and spiritual.  The basics of sustenance and shelter won’t even be available if there is no mechanism for people to participate in the distribution of the created wealth.  The real value of fish is in the protein it can provide not the artificial wealth that is supposedly being  parlayed to ‘investors’.

There are numerous  issues that would benefit from still, silent, reflection.  How advanced and brilliant can a society be that produces more food than can be consumed yet, can’t or won’t devise distribution mechanisms to ensure that enough can reach those who still starve.  How wise is the society that constantly dumps major food resources whether it be agriculture products, fish or other commodities?  How caring or sustainable is a society which allows less than ten percent of its population to control in excess of eighty percent of its perceived wealth?

The real challenge for society is no different today than it has been throughout history.  It is necessary  to create a moral basis for caring and sharing that allows all to participate in the limitless resources that are our common inheritance.  There apparently is universal agreement of what constitutes wealth, while the capacity to agree on an accepted moral foundation is considered beyond our abilities.   This is considered much too complex in today’s world.

Historically however, societies, even our own,  that have been progressive and made the most advances have had an agreed upon moral foundation.    The prerequisite, of course, is to move beyond a fundamental concept of scarcity  and a belief in limits to human capacity and universal wealth.   Such limits have been the traditional devices contrived to control human behaviour.

The social challenge is to address the growing dependency culture on government programs whose design may be likened to the begging bowls of other cultures in other generations.  The real difference is in the magnitude of those that have been given bowls (the only variant being size) which now include the wealthy and business as well as those that are disadvantaged.  The real imperative is to convert these begging bowls into mixing bowls in order to create recipes for increased physical and spiritual nourishment for all.

These issues and others substantiate the need for deep, quiet thought and considerable reflection – a discerning of the solstices of human existence.  As individuals and as a society we experience such periods because of our interconnectivity.  During these solstices, more than at any other time, each and all must take the time to reflect, to contemplate and to appreciate the resources that are available, the advances that have been accomplished and the inequities that these advancements have generated.

Moving beyond current mindsets and rigid beliefs  will require the development of  different perspectives.  It will require an acceptance that although, there is little that we can change in ourselves and in the world, we can change perspective on what has value, worth and importance.  In turn, our view on our relationships and our interactions will also change and thus their resultant social and economic concepts.  Such concepts are but perceptions at best, delusions at worst.  What must be realised is that life’s transitions are but natural solstices,  which eventually pass, and which each individual experiences a number of times in life’s journey.

Such transitions are less traumatic in truly developed societies who are willing to share and support. Changing perspectives like changing attitudes is a difficult process fraught with the anguish and pain of acceptance – of ourselves and our mortality.  It requires  understanding  that attempting to avoid life only ensures that we avoid living with all its mystery, intrigue and uncertainty.  Obviously, the process in our so-called more rational and developed society, entails people achieving a closer union between their heads and their hearts – trading some of this generation’s arrogance of reason for the humility of compassion.

 

AFFIRMING SELF

Just Being

The most fundamental of human needs after physical sustenance is that of affirmation.  People have need to sense a conscious reality, to perceive permanence and to belong.  It is primarily why people have gathered together in groups and created structures throughout history.  The perception of security that emanates from belonging is critical to spiritual health and the basis for community.

The fear of aloneness is greater than the fear of death and might suggest why some people end their lives.  It is why people created rituals and ceremonies which have been evident throughout history.  Aboriginals used drumming ceremonies, other cultures developed chants and most developed instruments to create music.  This musical resonance attested to something finite, although beyond our reach and understanding.  These sounds once created were not lost but always returned to bring assurance of the limits of space and to assuage the insecurity of just being.

In today’s world this certainty has been challenged.  As modern society rapidly approaches another of life’s meltdown points, the need for belief and belonging has never been greater.  A belief anchored in a foundation that is tangible, durable and secure yet, flexible enough to allow motion – a rhythm that is but life itself.

We have created technologies that can span distances hitherto undreamed.  People are now able to communicate beyond even the expanses of the earth and far into the universe, in fact, communications media have been created utilising this space.  Signals are now sent out with anticipated return several years hence.  It is contemplated that scientists can reach beyond our universe.  As such, we have created the perception of  unlimited reach and no boundaries.

This perception of endlessness is the cause of our present global consternation.  With no limits or boundaries life appears out of control – a feeling for most perhaps the greatest terror of all.  People today are more intellectually aware, have more personal wealth and social security than any previous generation.  What they don’t have is the sense of fulfilment, the sense of accomplishment or the sense of personal satisfaction.   All these are ingredients of affirmation.  If  I am not what I possess, what I attained or what I am titled – then who am I?

Far to many in our current generation have come to believe, that logic and scientific theory could explain most things or, at least, the things that were important.  Everything else was dubious and mostly the purview of fools or at best eccentrics and certainly not to be entertained in the domain of such an advanced educated society.  But, as these theories are exploded, scientific knowledge found wanting and logic proven less than trustworthy, a whole generation has been left in chaos.

People have become very unsure of what and who to believe or trust?  Certainly, not most conventional religions, who have frequently betrayed the trust people willingly provided them.  Definitely not politicians, who are nearing the nadir of their trust after promising whatever folks desired – their legacy only increased taxation, public debt and diminished democracy.  Even the new mantra of support for the private sector rings hollow.  The leaders of business, the domain which has provided material wealth beyond the dreams of prior generations, are rapidly loosing their lustre.  Their erosion of jobs, the mechanism that enabled such shared wealth, provides one of the greatest threats in developed societies.

The answer for many is, increasingly, to retreat; there are mass movements back to rural roots, growing enrolment in programs relating to ancient teachings, and considerable exploration of mystical ancient ceremonies.  The efforts of those more desperate and disenfranchised are responsible for the growing drug culture, the increase in suicide, especially among young people and the increasing attraction to cult worship.  So frantic are some for affirmation and to belong that they reach out to those at the fringes – for at least these people have galvanised around some belief, no matter how negative.

The way out of the dilemma is as old as the human race, as ancient as civilisation and perhaps resulted  from the earliest attempts at dispelling the fear of being alone.  People banded together and in so doing learned respect, developed trust and began relationships to achieve common aims.  These groupings created foundations with which to access collective abilities, and were obviously seen as mechanisms to enable better lifestyles and more security for all involved in these earliest of civil movements.   Maybe, it was at this juncture that the human dimension of idealism was discovered.

Each generation contributes new ideals in attempts to perfect these original beginnings, adding innovations and their concepts of improvements.  All such efforts appear to eventually culminate in some similar chaos to that now being experienced, some ending in the bitterness of war as witnessed in the last generations and evidenced in many parts of the world today.  These generational ideals appear to become replaced with dogma, rules and regulation.  People forget the reality of why they needed each other, why they organised and why there was need to develop basic rules.  In fact, so concerned do people become with doing what’s right (according to the rules) they neglect what is the right thing to do.

Yet, the initial reasons were most simple.  People needed to come together to provide the reflection needed to gain affirmation, and to generate the assurance of being part of something integrated rather than individuals alone in an unfathomable universe.  It would appear that these initial objectives only become evident when people have demystified all the myths that were created in order to maintain participation.  Then it becomes necessary to create a new beginning.

The material for such a base is inherent within us all.  Fundamentally it is the reality of our physical being, the durability of our spiritual nature and the security of being part of a natural environment which is as constant as time itself.   Nature’s changing milieu is to be anticipated and acknowledged rather than feared.  Such innate capabilities are apparent in those that aspire to accomplishment although disadvantaged, those who overcome personal tragedy and those that take us beyond our current understanding and beliefs.

What is clearly evident in such people is they all espouse a common strength, a confidence in themselves and a faith in being part of something which is greater than themselves.  It is apparent that they all come to accept themselves as they are and are not limited by any physical, mental or spiritual deficiency.  They all seem to recognise that life itself is perfection and the only need is for self acceptance in order to achieve the full richness of living – that of affirmation.

All too readily, people are willing to exchange self belief  for belief in others, in structures or institutions.  What they fail to comprehend is, that in so doing, they are creating limits to their own natural talents and capabilities instead of establishing personal foundations for greater achievements, accomplishments and subsequently affirmation of life itself.  These foundations can only emanate from awareness and understanding of oneself, the environment one inhabits and of those who share it.

When such awareness is evident, human advancement and societal improvement will again be demonstrated.  People will appreciate the true meaning of community and the strength that emanates from collective will and independent spirit.  The foundation of human society once more will have been ever so slightly enhanced by the ideals and follies of yet another generation.

 

ACKNOWLEDGING ROOTS

Life’s Web

The “search for roots”, has become a growing passion for many, especially in the western world.   Some pursue family trees in often fragmented records, others search long lost relatives, and  still others explore ancestral homelands.  Most do not realise that these are superficial exercises, for our longings, even much of our anguish, and despair emanate from a much deeper place than such journeys will take us.  The roots that are being sought are not merely personal, physical or emotional attachment, but the very roots of life itself.

In today’s world, many have grown despondent, despairing that life’s essence is negative, finding their evidence in the obvious and visual greed of our consumer society and in the considerable focus on “self” so prevalent in our world.  Many even believe that human nature is fundamentally bad and that there has only been minimal progress in human evolvement since the dawn of time.  Additional distress is felt by those whose faith was invested in our evident advances in technology, increased sophistication in society and expanded knowledge levels.

In this world of woe, one that has been created, the belief is pervasive that society is broken, economies fractured and humanity profoundly sick.  So much effort is being used for diagnosis, developing cures and treating these perceived illnesses that there is little time nor energy for just plain life and living.

For too many, little credence is given to life as a continuum, a web of intricate fabricate that has been woven throughout generations, millennia and  by all those that have passed though before.  In fact, the past has become obsolescent, considered only a trend without meaning and its inherent values relegated to irrelevant myth, something to be discarded as outworn waste.  So diminished are these values, evidenced throughout all of history, that present day youth experience not even a sense of hope.  So demoralised are our older generations, that the best that can we can achieve is to destroy and lay waste to all that symbolises what’s past.

Minimum reflection is given to the long term implications of these current efforts.  Driven in desperation we rent holes in life’s web, with little thought to the fineness of its weave nor the intricate patterns that have been woven.   There is no understanding of how long it will take future generations to mend the gaps that have been created or how the weaving techniques will be learnt with so much of life’s instructions cast aside and forgotten.

One does not have to reflect far back into current history to find examples of people who have undergone similar dilemmas.  Consider the plight of  the indigenous people in many developed countries.  Their roots were severely damaged by conquerors, who brutally trashed  their traditions and culture, so convinced were they that these people were without refinement or even civility.  Then reflect on the recent and long term struggles of  those who have undergone colonisation as they attempt to reconnect the fractured components of their societal fabric, rent porous by their colonial masters.

The reality is, that no matter our callousness or neglect, the intricate web that is life is non-destructible – no matter our arrogance of thought or contemplation of fear.  The most that can be accomplished by such ignorance, as is currently evidenced throughout the world, is to leave gaps in its form, gaps that future generations have to repair through greater analysis and soul searching.  Encouragingly, such reconstruction efforts have begun.  Throughout indigenous cultures and liberated colonies all across the world can be observed the most positive and innovative attempts at societal rejuvenation, with lessons for all.

Visit the most impoverished areas of the world where despite the evident decay,  you will discover a vibrancy and energy that is but life itself.  Take time to share with those inhabiting such environments  and feel the warmth and friendliness that requires neither economy or structure.  Allow yourself to stop and witness the acts of caring that are happening all around in your own environment, and you begin to experience the true context of our human essence.  For, humanness needs neither development or growth, only encouragement and support to gush forth with vigour.

Rediscovery of our roots is an imperative.  Nothing else that will be truly effectual – not social growth, economic expansion or the pseudo psychological campaigns that appear so common.  There is the necessity to examine our culture with all its intricacies and reflect upon the values that are inherent in its very core. The elements of these values that of caring, sharing and love, are the very fibres of the fabric that is life itself.  Only when this course is pursued will balance be evident in our lives, our communities and our societies.  Only then, will the true essence of humanness once more become commonplace.

How much simpler it might be, if generationally,  people could develop early the foresight to learn and understand the intricate weaving process required to continue the web of life – rather than rejecting the obvious patterns in their search for new designs.  It is only when life begins to ebb from individual control through ageing, when mortality becomes visible that people realise they haven’t perfected the process at all, only rent damage to life’s fabric.  Then they fear their lack of  knowledge necessary to effect repairs.  (Is this not what is behind the frenzy of people throughout much of the world today?)

Finally, people need assurance that there is still time, for time is the element that other generations created to compartmentalise life.  They need to fully understand life as a continuum, a truth that becomes evident when we attain awareness and  knowledge through new experiences.

Most importantly, we need to realise that experience comes from engagement, with others, the environment and, quite simply, with life.  Such engagement is the foundation of sharing and subsequently, of community.  Building community is much more complex than holding meetings, dividing tasks or building infrastructure.  For community, truly requires the connecting of individual spirits to share.

Real sharing requires us to reach beyond the mind to the nebulous world of the spirit.  A place for most more fearsome than life itself, because, unlike the comfortable physical life, the spirit realm cannot be touched or seen, only felt, and it is our feelings that we resist the most.

True feelings are immeshed in our roots, and these fundamental human roots are what must be first acknowledged.  Finding one’s own roots requires an appreciation of  circumstance, an understanding of  limitations and the knowledge of the existence of a greater power at work than the mind can comprehend.  This is, in fact,  the wisdom of the spirit, inherent in each of us, old as time itself and the very threads that comprise the woven fabric of life itself.   Reaching beyond the mind has, as its prerequisite, humility, for only with humility can real sharing occur.

 

COMMUNITY REGENERATION

Encouraging Dreams

Change  is not a new phenomenon as every generation must go through its own periods of transition both economically and socially.  The only difference is in the reaction and how far the symptoms go unrecognised or are ignored before the real issues are addressed.  If we compare economic overviews from both the Atlantic Region of Canada and the Northeast of  Scotland changes affecting us could be traced back to the late 1960s.  The response was the only thing that was different as in the Atlantic Region government intervened while in Scotland’s Northeast the Oil Industry happened.  The more interesting aspect is that in both cases the interventions are now in decline – government has less resources in Canada and the oil industry is rationalising.

Yet in both cases I would argue that it was only the symptoms that were dealt with not the real issue.  In both cases outside interventions delayed local people having to come to terms with the changes that were and are impacting our whole society.  These changes are driven by technological advancement and are interfering seriously with the traditional method of wealth transfer through employment or jobs.  The symptom is that jobs are in decline so the solution must be to create jobs no matter the outfall – economically or socially.  Has this not been the raison d’être of government support since the seventies and the criteria for its evaluation?

Real development must be rooted in the culture and history of people to be effective.  And therein lies the dilemma – we know so little about the people who live in our communities and villages and less about the complexities of their pasts.  Yet we continue to develop programs, create incentives and encourage another generation to develop ideas that can be supported by funding without concern for the implications if it doesn’t fit either the person or the environment.

The reason for telling the following story is by way of  amplifying by example that development results from  inspiration.  Yet inspiration without support is only expectation.  The very thing that officials struggle with all the time – the dilemma of raising expectations and the inherent anguish of trying to fulfil these expectations of others.  They need to understand that this is the impossible task they set themselves.  They need to become aware that one can facilitate dreams and assist the visions that are evidenced in communities and villages everywhere (certainly in all that I have visited).

Such inspiration was evident in Portsoy, an historic and beautiful coastal community along Scotland’s Moray Firth.  It happened when a lifelong dream, inspired by local action met up with an awakened vision.  It culminated with the launching of a wooden boat replica of  “A Scaffie” named  Obair na Ghoal  (Gaelic for labour of love).   But the dreams have spawned dreams and wider visions as is often the case when inspiration transcends inertia.

Alex Slater has a lifelong relationship with boats and the sea and the advent of the celebration of Portsoy’s three hundred year old harbour in  1994 inspired him to venture forth his dream.   Haltingly at first, as we are apt to be when we dare to look within ourselves.  He offered, as example of the historic skills and latent talents that had been passed onto him, a mast for a “Scaffie” the traditional working boat of the Moray Firth fishermen.

Simultaneously Sinclair Young was motivated, by this event, to develop a vision for a development to enhance the opportunities for youth and create a new economy founded on tradition and culture.  This vision encapsulated  a scheme of activity holidays based on education and training utilising  the skills needed to build boats.  He was aware of the growing market for different kinds of vacations, the increasing search for historic roots and the beauty and wonder that the area of Portsoy could offer.  Ultimately, a latent dream of education outside the parameters of institutions and a genuine concern for youth may have surfaced in this retired teacher.

When the dream merged with the vision Alex moved outside himself  with his full fledged offer of building a boat, something which he had participated in with others previously, but never on his own accord.  Their  task was onerous over the next two years as they both struggled with a place to work, materials and tools to construct and a time frame hindered by more urgent personal responsibilities.  The challenge was to have it built for the next (now annual) wooden boat festival that was a cornerstone of Sinclair’s vision.  They received continuous support from within their community  and sought the fiscal support of agencies and bodies created to help.  Alas it wasn’t to be, the fiscal support was non evident as agencies give little credence to dreams and visions, more substantive evidence is required before  “public” money could be offered.

But, in the true spirit of dreamers and visionaries once the seed has been sown and the soul exposed it was onward and upwards despite the odds and the sacrifices.  The “Scaffie” began to slowly take shape as material was found and attained by often incredulous means and tools that would have made their forefathers cringe were brought into use.  A work of art began to unfold and the vision began to attract the attention of media through the amazing success of the second festival now called the  Scottish Traditional Boat Festival.

The media, especially boating journals, told the story of Portsoy and its new endeavour.  Private sector companies came forward to support the cause and capture some of the limelight which still hadn’t clearly focused on the “Scaffie,” nor on the dream.  Maybe because the dream had widened and the vision expanded which is often the case when inspiration abounds.  The dreamer though maintains the dream and the visionary never looses sight of the vision and that was evident as the “Scaffie” continued to emerge in the darkened steading that had been commandeered as the construction site.

The agencies did spring forward with some funding  in the latter stages of construction that allowed tools which needed their own refurbishment to be bought, the steading to be made habitable and materials to be much easier accessed.  As the deadline for the third annual festival was at hand finishing touches were made to the boat as local people, now firmly believers, gave an added push to ensure its launch.

On a quiet Thursday evening, without fanfare the “Scaffie” was moved from its hiding place, much the same as the dream was pulled from the depths of Alex’s heart some three years previously.  As it was carried towards its place in Portsoy Harbour a procession gathered escorting something special, as if to ensure, they were part of this happening.   It was quietly named during a ceremony in the harbour on the first day of the boat festival which was even more successful than those previous.

The ripples from this event will take time to measure as who knows what inspiration that Alex’s dream caused.  His exuberance and sense of accomplishment was encouragement to any that would but aspire.  Sinclair’s reverence during the naming ceremony spoke volumes of his contribution and his recognition that a part of his vision had unfolded, but recognition was evident, of  the energy he had to expend in order to accomplish this phase.  There is no doubt that without his vision, encouragement and continual effort Alex’s dream might yet, be a mere thought hidden in his own personal depths.

Within the hearts of people everywhere lie the dreams, often dormant, that cause real development to happen.  While there to discover  few find them, fewer still activate them and fewer still fulfil them.  Fulfilled dreams provide the stimulus and inspiration for others to explore their own depths and seek these latent aspirations which eventually form the social and economic fabric of every society.

The facilitation process requires more than funding, programs and evaluations it requires concern, understanding, and encouragement.  The financial component then becomes a much easier challenge than anyone thought.  A small amount of funding provided at appropriate moments can give untold encouragement to local efforts to finance themselves – the new cry of governments everywhere.  But, first we must break the “rigid mindset” of scarcity that has been created, that somehow there is not enough – time, money, resources, work, etc.

Realisation is dawning that development for its own sake has little purpose, is destructive and really doesn’t satisfy people’s needs or fill the voids that they are experiencing.  This realisation has resulted in disillusionment, despair and anguish.  The fear of not knowing who they are, where they fit or the direction of society has become a compelling passion for most.

Thus, new community development approaches must begin with human resource inven­tories, their strengths and weaknesses. The natural abilities, talents and cultural attributes of the local populace have ulti­mate signifi­cance.  People’s ability to be self-reliant, self-motivated and mobile are key consider­ations.  Physical strengths and weaknesses have to be categorised in relationship to more global developments and new regional integration.  The challenge is to evolve institutions, programs and structures that are relevant.

Policy-makers must realise that the true resource of the future is the human resource, that new programs must encourage cultural research and development, that cross-cultural linkages are invaluable tools in fostering appreciation for our own worth and in marketing the commodities we possess.

Development – community, social, or economic – must begin with basics and focus on the human resource.  An examination of ourselves, our history and our environment is crucial.  Understanding the full extent of this self-knowledge, its relationship to where we live, and why we live here is fundamental.  True development is a long term prospect : it is one that has been to long postponed  in favour of short term escape routes – routes that end up being complicated traps.

Personally, I believe that the essence of community is about feelings.  Feelings emanate from knowing and knowing comes from awareness.  The more that we become aware of our environment, our circumstance and those who share the world with us, the more our knowledge grows.  Expanded knowledge creates stronger feelings, deeper relationships, an enhanced recognition of our inter-connectivity resulting in a stronger sense of community.

Terms such as awareness and knowledge are the language of education and that is why, I believe, education and development are intrinsic.  The interrelationship of education to community development in both the thirties and sixties suggests that.  Thus the focus for development, education and community must ultimately be on people and their inherent talents, capabilities, needs and ambitions.

It is my contention that community begins when two people share.  The sharing is what creates the economy, and subsequently, lifestyle.  Development is neither the beginning or the end; it is the process and the measure of our ability to share.  It relates to people, their aspirations, their dreams and, fundamentally, their own efforts to bring these to reality.  Thus each sharing is a new beginning, new development and a new reality.

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