Sunday, April 24, 2011

Communism's Flaw

I think I just realized the real problem with communism and socialism in this day and age. Under such systems, one is asked to put the group ahead of the individual. This is excellent in theory. It fosters teamwork, cooperation, many good qualities.

But when we are asked to put the group ahead of the individual, that group is no longer the people you live and work with, but an abstract thing called "the state," "the fatherland," "America," etc. I've seen a lot of Americans, seen mountains, farms, rivers, cities, and towns, but I've never seen "America," never encountered "the state." The concept is too abstract, too easily manipulated towards corrupt ends. It isn't real.

No one had to explain communism to the Indians; they either lived for their tribe or band, or they perished, all of them. Now, there is a time for self even among such peoples, but never, or rarely, at the expense of the larger community, which can almost be looked at as the true organism. Man is a social species, no man is an island, etc. Without the tribe, the community, the culture, the greater whole, we are nothing, we die.

And that's the problem. We don't have community anymore, not really. I don't depend on my neighbors, I don't even know their names. I work far from where I live, with people who don't live near me or have anything to do with me outside of work. Even when there's somewhat more connection than that, in cases where my coworkers have become my friends, it's never been anything deep like a tribe.

Communism, communalism, these things would work if they arose organically, out of the actual need, the actual fact of interdependance. The interdependance now known by modern societies is a twisted one, in that it is impersonal. We depend on the systems of waste removal, food delivery, consumerism, etc; people are involved in these things, but it doesn't matter who, it doesn't matter if I never know them as people. Cogs in a machine, really. None of us probably know our garbage collectors, but we depend on them all the same.

But communism and socialism can't thrive in such a milleau. How can one care about someone they don't know or love? I would work hard, even kill, for my family, but would I do that for the guy next door, with whom I have no interaction? Same problem crops up in environmentalism, by the way. Who will defend lands they have no connection to? Easy for the hillbillie back in the hollers to care about mountaintop removal mining, but for everyone else, it's abstract, and thus their concern is shallow. Plus, we get electricity from it.

I guess this is why both environmentalism/conservation, and communism are both largely failures. We are too isolated for others to matter anymore, everything is about self, or maybe the few souls we know very well. No one else matters, much. And so, we get to watch society unravel slowly.


  1. Brandon,
    That is a SUPERB observation!

    Back when I was very much involved in the Socialist and then Green Party, we used to host events in which we brought people together to commune. We held Slow Food Suppers -- vegetarian meals at low cost in which people were encouraged to talk around the supper table.

    We held Talk Nights at a local coffeehouse in which we encouraged people to stop in to t-a-l-k about whatever to others who stopped by.

    We also held picnics in Bush Park in the warmer months. We'd set up volleyball nets or supply mitts, balls and bats for folks to play softball.

    The idea behind these events was to get to know people in the community -- people you might just walk by on the street.

  2. I've always made a distinction between community and neighborhood. I try to love my neighbors although there is little "community" there. I think this is also why we have "gated communities" but no one has "gated neighborhoods." I'm not sure that Americans as a whole (raised to be individuals in a way that the Chinese, for instance, have not traditionally been**) are communally oriented, and when we are, the communities are invented, safe groups of "us" against "them." I suppose evangelical churches are a last ditch way of creating that.

    **I think the one-child policy may turn out to be the greatest unexpected threat to the party's rule. What kind of "community" can be found among a generation or two of millions of Little Emperors? Loyalty is still to the family and getting rich is glorious. This is not communism.

  3. I agree, Americans are not the communal type. But we need to face facts: the fronteir closed 120 Years ago, no one is out in a vast prairie going it alone anymore. We live in neighborhoods, settled, established. We need to wake up and smell the community.

    And while parties, dinners, and the like do bring people together, what I was getting at is the fact that even then, there's no interdependance involved. I still go to work 8 hours a day, for myself, and if I had such, my wife and kids. Not for anyone else. We're doing things alone; friends are great, but friends aren't enough to really have communism work. We don't even have tight extended families anymore.

    I think no matter what system we come up with, civilization ruins it. Call me a primitivist.