The French political philosopher, Alex de Tocqueville, theorized that the concept of the American township and its extension, the neighborhood, was the reason for the envied American “exceptionalism” of the 1800 and early 1900s. In Europe people resided around common characteristics and demarcations such as language or ethnicity. America in the 1800’s was not so much the case. People of different ‘ways, shapes and kinds’ lived together in close geographic proximity, creating American townships and neighborhoods. While not all agreed with each other politically or socially, they were still neighbors. And when they were needed they were there; the first line of defense against whatever common enemy they all faced.
It’s the loss of these bonded neighborhoods that’s creating a social divide in America today and the resultant decline in our health. In the past, before World War II, our neighbors were our support. They were the doctors, the midwives and the handymen. They were where we could go to get food when we needed it. It’s what got America through the Great Depression … and it’s what we need to get us through the civic and political dysfunction that has infected our country today.
- A health-oriented populace empowered by individual self-efficacy and resulting in a change in community norms elevating collective well-being
- A rooted locally-owned business ecosystem providing the base of civic engagement and leadership in your community
- An inclusive rhizome-designed, collaborative, decentralized civic structure grounded by the Front Porch network
- A community-wide pragmatic mindset: “We see a problem or opportunity, we mobilize friends and neighbors to address it … not wait for the government”
We need to find organizers in our communities’ Front Porches who can lead. We then need these leaders to train and mobilize fellow members and friends from our Front Porches … seeding the process to continue on. The act of activism is preparation for more activism and building civic muscles, or “civic self-efficacy.” Collectively we can then build an organization (and database) that can be mobilized for causes, movements, and even structural changes. And with each movement and each participation our collective New Power strengthens and proliferates. No longer will we be dependent on the illusion of the “man on the white horse” riding in to save us. We will save ourselves!
I don’t remember when there’s been a civic Call-To-Action like this. Will we use this urgency to build a more connected society focused on doing and helping – or will we let it slip further into the abyss of intractable political allegiance and hate? The prosperity – and maybe even the very survival of our communities depend on how we answer this.
“If not us, then who … If not now – then when?”