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March 27, 2008



I really like your lists here and I agree with you about how crisis can really bring people together. Even the little things make a big difference. On the rare occasions around here where a storm causes an electrical blackout we and our neighbors go outside and talk to each other much more than usual. All the distractions from tv/radio/internet/computer, etc. go away and we are much more satisfied by the simple act of talking to the people around us.

Also, crisis makes people who would otherwise ignore each other instead depend on each other. It isn't just the it might be convenient to barter with your neighbors, it becomes necessary for survival. And that means that it becomes critical to be friendly and personable to those people you could safely ignore before.

I currently know very very few of the people on my block. I think most people are the same way these days. I don't think it is because people are more selfish or less friendly than in former times, though... I think this is because there has been a huge decline in the economic benefit to befriending our neighbors. In blunt terms, there's just no point.

But, in times of crisis it is important to me that I get out there and befriend Joe and Sally Smith down the street. All of a sudden there are a dozen different ways that I need them and they need me; ways that we can pool our resources to make lives easier for all of us.

All in all I'm very skeptical of large scale collectivism because I think it's goal is to diminish real diversity and to create a hive-mind mentality. However, I love the idea of small scale collectivism where communities band together based on mutual need (and choice).


I've had the same experience of talking to neighbors during a black-out or while shoveling out from a blizzard, but hardly saying "Hi" otherwise.

As I said in the post, I think generosity and altruism come out when we're confronted with real need or suffering right up close and in person, and that's one reason small-scale collectivism can work. At a larger scale this breaks down.

"Northern Exposure" is a good representation of small-scale collectivism, in that the characters couldn't be more different, and yet they need to support one another because of their remote location & harsh climate. When the scale is small enough, almost anyone can get along when it's necessary. At a larger scale you'd get factions and subcultures who are more apt to compete than cooperate, and the "solution" to that is, as you say, to reduce diversity and homogenize opinion & behavior.

I believe there's a term called "communitarianism" which is a step back from anarchy, but still highly libertarian. Sounds good to me.

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