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The Great Affluence Fallacy - The New York Times
"In 18th-century America, colonial society and Native American society sat side by side. The former was buddingly commercial; the latter was communal and tribal. As time went by, the settlers from Europe noticed something: No Indians were defecting to join colonial society, but many whites were defecting to live in the Native American one.

This struck them as strange. Colonial society was richer and more advanced. And yet people were voting with their feet the other way.

The colonials occasionally tried to welcome Native American children into their midst, but they couldn’t persuade them to stay. Benjamin Franklin observed the phenomenon in 1753, writing, “When an Indian child has been brought up among us, taught our language and habituated to our customs, yet if he goes to see his relations and make one Indian ramble with them, there is no persuading him ever to return.”

During the wars with the Indians, many European settlers were taken prisoner and held within Indian tribes. After a while, they had plenty of chances to escape and return, and yet they did not. In fact, when they were “rescued,” they fled and hid from their rescuers.

Sometimes the Indians tried to forcibly return the colonials in a prisoner swap, and still the colonials refused to go. In one case, the Shawanese Indians were compelled to tie up some European women in order to ship them back. After they were returned, the women escaped the colonial towns and ran back to the Indians.

Even as late as 1782, the pattern was still going strong. Hector de Crèvecoeur wrote, “Thousands of Europeans are Indians, and we have no examples of even one of those aborigines having from choice become European.”

I first read about this history several months ago in Sebastian Junger’s excellent book “Tribe.” It has haunted me since. It raises the possibility that our culture is built on some fundamental error about what makes people happy and fulfilled.

The native cultures were more communal. As Junger writes, “They would have practiced extremely close and involved child care. And they would have done almost everything in the company of others. They would have almost never been alone.”

If colonial culture was relatively atomized, imagine American culture of today. As we’ve gotten richer, we’ve used wealth to buy space: bigger homes, bigger yards, separate bedrooms, private cars, autonomous lifestyles. Each individual choice makes sense, but the overall atomizing trajectory sometimes seems to backfire. According to the World Health Organization, people in wealthy countries suffer depression by as much as eight times the rate as people in poor countries.

There might be a Great Affluence Fallacy going on — we want privacy in individual instances, but often this makes life generally worse.

Every generation faces the challenge of how to reconcile freedom and community — “On the Road” versus “It’s a Wonderful Life.” But I’m not sure any generation has faced it as acutely as millennials.

In the great American tradition, millennials would like to have their cake and eat it, too. A few years ago, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis came out with a song called “Can’t Hold Us,” which contained the couplet: “We came here to live life like nobody was watching/I got my city right behind me, if I fall, they got me.” In the first line they want complete autonomy; in the second, complete community.

But, of course, you can’t really have both in pure form. If millennials are heading anywhere, it seems to be in the direction of community. Politically, millennials have been drawn to the class solidarity of the Bernie Sanders campaign. Hillary Clinton — secretive and a wall-builder — is the quintessence of boomer autonomy. She has trouble with younger voters.

Professionally, millennials are famous for bringing their whole self to work: turning the office into a source of friendships, meaning and social occasions.

I’m meeting more millennials who embrace the mentality expressed in the book “The Abundant Community,” by John McKnight and Peter Block. The authors are notably hostile to consumerism.

They are anti-institutional and anti-systems. “Our institutions can offer only service — not care — for care is the freely given commitment from the heart of one to another,” they write.

Millennials are oriented around neighborhood hospitality, rather than national identity or the borderless digital world. “A neighborhood is the place where you live and sleep.” How many of your physical neighbors know your name?

Maybe we’re on the cusp of some great cracking. Instead of just paying lip service to community while living for autonomy, I get the sense a lot of people are actually about to make the break and immerse themselves in demanding local community movements. It wouldn’t surprise me if the big change in the coming decades were this: an end to the apotheosis of freedom; more people making the modern equivalent of the Native American leap."
society  capitalism  davidbrooks  2016  history  sebastianjunger  communalism  nativeamericans  abundance  depression  us  affluence  millenials  johnmcknight  peterblock  consumerism  care  hospitality  nationalism  local  community  privacy  isolation  competition  autonomy  berniesanders  solidarity  wealth  atomization  well-being  qualityoflife  hectordecrèvecoeur 
august 2016 by robertogreco
Sights Unseen: On Willful Blindness to Education’s Higher Purpose | EdConteXts
"As an educator, parent, and citizen, I fear that we as a society or even collection of societies put ourselves at risk if we fail to question and put a halt to this instrumentalist type of reasoning with regards to education. The rhetoric of brutal global competition is eroding our capacity to focus on asking what truly matters in providing our children and grandchildren with what they will need for their futures besides jobs and income. In all of our lip service to “21st Century Skills” we still pay more homage to the holy grail of what our offspring may earn rather than to how well equipped they will be to avert environmental, financial and/or social disaster by adopting and practicing those skills. We say that we want them to be critical thinkers and adept problem solvers while assuming, consciously or not, that their greatest challenge will likely be finding a job that pays well enough to free them from thousands of dollars of crushing student debt. “To get a good job” would appear to be our society’s best answer to the question “why school?” if we ever dared to pose it."



"I agree. Our schools need a higher purpose than merely feeding the global economic machine. Without questioning the prevailing ethos of competition, of celebrating winners while blaming the losers, our schools will not improve. Our schools will not become nourishing places for children until our societies decide that children are more than future members of the workforce. Our societies will not prosper unless we educate our children to understand and appreciate that nations constitute much more than their gross domestic product.

Author Peter Block captures best what I would wish for in reinventing education systems which nurture and sustain us as a society rather than squeeze us for a designated output. Speaking about the ways in which our thinking in terms of the exclusively practical and doable ( the how?) tends to hamper our willingness to engage on questions of larger purpose and general well-being, he writes:
Whatever our destination, it is letting go of the practical imperative that is most likely to guide us to a larger sense of where we want to go and what values we want to embody in getting there. What matters is the experience of being human and all that this entails. What will matter most to us, upon deeper reflection, is the quality of the experience we create in the world, not the quantity.

(bold: Block’s) Peter Block, The Answer to How is Yes. Berret-Koehler Publishers, San Francisco, 2002, p. 37.)

As members of results-driven societies, we appreciate the certitude that quantification appears to provide. As humans, however, we search doggedly for precisely those qualities of life which defy objective measurement: meaning, belonging, purpose, autonomy, happiness, to name a few possibilities. That our education systems strive to become more human rather than less rings true both as my deepest wish and our mounting challenge."
sherrispelic  education  competition  purpose  2015  capitalism  neoliberalism  humanity  humanism  inequality  danhaesler  testing  standardizedtesting  rankings  dianeravitch  loisweiner  wendybrown  hansrollman  peterblock  deschooling  unschooling  schools 
june 2015 by robertogreco

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