So, “it takes a village,” eh?

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I’m not quite sure why this phrase floated to the top of my mind as I contemplated yesterday’s terrorism in Paris, but what I intuited from it was that the people who talk about this “global village” and “inclusive society with a place for everyone” have no idea what a real village is like.

So let me unpack a bit. I won’t do as well as author Sarah Hoyt does — I think her experiences in a village are much more village-like than my experiences in agrarian America, but I do think I have something to add to the conversation.

For villages are places where everyone is known, and everyone has a role and a function. Narrow places, of narrow thoughts and ideas, where you have to keep to your place, and heaven forfend that you suggest something different.

I recall growing up in an upstate New York town, on a farm just two hills over from the town center. Voted there for several years too. Attended a country church for 20 years there. Was part of the village, and yet not, until someone decided we were in their way, too much of an outrider, and got our commuppance by them, got put in our place. They thought they had us. What they didn’t realize is we had the power to leave.

Remember those two hills over? Well a booming city of 12,000 was in the other direction, and my folks had attended church there for years before deciding to attend where we actually lived. So we went back to the city, just a different church than the one 20 years before.

When we first visited the country church 20 years before, my folks remembered, and had repeated over the years, that I had boldly proclaimed to the Sunday school teacher that we were “just visiting.” When we left, the whole family realized that we had been “just visiting” for 20 years, no matter how deeply involved we had been, no matter how much weight we had put to the workload while others leaned back and let us.

Why the story? To show that a village isn’t what all these wonderful “Liberal” ideals think it to be. There is plenty of dissention, intolerance, and petty tyranny as you find elsewhere.

But those wonderful people who want to make us all one and all understanding don’t understand. You can throw people together, but you don’t get understanding that way.  You do get a village, with all the strife that goes with it. You have to look beyond the village if you want to end the strife.

Just letting everyone in, of every different stripe, doesn’t make the place inclusive, doesn’t resolve the tensions. That takes a commitment from everyone, on all sides, to listen and learn, to be open to the moments of unexpected insight. In other words, it takes people open to dialogue.

But what we do not have in this world today is people ready for dialogue. We have people insisting that dialogue it taking their position. We have people not even insisting on dialogue, just that we take their position or else.

In these cases our danger is to do what the other side does — to devalue the humanity of the people that are in opposition to them, or who they declare in opposition to them. There is also a danger in letting those people devalue our humanity, and the humanity of others, unopposed.

We see this devaluing in the village, just as much as that communal sense that the village is touted for.

What we need is to be a part of valuing groups, and then to use discernment to extend that value to others without letting them devalue us in the process.

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