From Blind Belonging to Conscious Belonging:
Creating Social Responsibility
During my graduate program several years ago, I wrote a final position paper called From Blind Belonging to Conscious Belonging. It was a serious inquiry into the ways we take our instinctive human need to “belong.
Initially I just wanted to define what I thought about how human development happens. To clarify, I used small foam squares to lay out the different camps of thought about whether nature or nurture is more important, whether systems or structures matter most. I began to see how different social groups form small camps of thought and beliefs and suddenly, defending the boundaries of the camp becomes more important than the issues at hand. I thought about all the camps in our country that are squaring off against each other—big money against little money, big pharma against natural healing modalities, Republicans against Democrats, Educational administrators against teachers.
In just a few days, our state government may shut down due to camp formation. I think it is a symptom of a much larger disease in America. I’ll just call it the erosion of all that matters—jobs, care, education.
While working on my paper, I was struck by the fact that I should be required to “defend” a position. What a fascinating picture my colored squares presented. Not a picture of who is right and who is wrong, who has the best research and the firmest ground on which to stand, but a picture of belonging, or not belonging; of inclusion or exclusion. I finally decided that my “position” for this paper was that I should not be forced to defend a “position.”
Our lives are a changing kaleidoscope of membership in first one group, and then another, and another. Most often, we belong to multiple groups simultaneously, each for its own purposes. Belongingness is a greater force in human behavior than we may realize. The need to belong—to define ourselves based on the camps we choose—can fuel a world war or cause cultures to form and cultures to crash, When we consider this powerful force, we must consider it both by its instinctive nature and its resulting outcomes if we are to become consciously aware of our own willingness to belong—and the price we pay for that belonging. It influences all social bodies from the smallest playground clique to a war between two nations.
Human beings, after all, are social creatures. It is not the need to belong that is the issue—but the way in which we drive that need.
It is our social and ethical responsibility, both individually and collectively, to become conscious of our belonging. Choosing camps and then closing the boundaries has severe consequences on our ability to solve real social problems. The energy of collaboration and cooperation shuts down in the face of camp formation and defense.
Consider Hitler, Hussein, and Osama Bin Ladin. Consider the boys of Columbine who took shotguns to school, or Jim Jones who led nine hundred followers to their death. Or consider the men who flew the planes into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. At the heart of all of these events is the issue of who belongs—and who doesn’t.
Now consider for a moment Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Jesus, Mother Theresa, and other great souls. These people have dared to consciously alter and expand the boundaries of their chosen groups.
What I learned from my many colored squares was that I need a wider view—to see across the many camps and their closed borders.
It is time for us to become more conscious and to not blindly follow. We need to quit separating into different camps of good guys and bad guys. We need to quit defending useless boundaries while our nation goes bankrupt. We need to think outside of our chosen camp and seek collaboration and solutions.
A divisive energy divides. It’s as simple (and as complex) as that. Governments go bankrupt, schools fail, tuition is raised, jobs are lost, wars are started but never ended, the beat goes on …and on. Unless we become conscious of our belonging.
(If you want to read the entire position paper, it is in the post prior to this one. )
Share on Facebook