By Kathryn Ozyurt
Christine Woods, who has been a long time favorite Sunday Morning Forum moderator, helped forum participants (via the Socratic method) choose their own subject for discussion on March 18. A vote on topics such as, “why are people afraid of students speaking out,” and “how do we support young people with their efforts,” led to the choice of “how do we balance the right of the individual against the needs of the community.
This topic brought forth some interesting thoughts. When people’s needs are not met, it leads to unrest. Those who can, leave. The original idea of democracy was to enable all voices to be heard. Unfortunately, more and more, the emphasis on individual rights leads some to resort to violence when they can’t obtain what they feel they need.
Historically, a threat from outside, such as a World War, a natural disaster or fear of Communism, will cause people to band together. However, the hurricane devastation of Puerto Rico, for example, did not bring America together. So many disparate sources of information about a disaster or a horrible situation muddy the issues. Sometimes we have too much information about too many events. At the same time, distinguishing between propaganda and facts remains a tremendous challenge. A New York Times article summarized this by saying that if we can’t agree on what is true, we can’t arrive at compromise. Without compromise, we cannot work together.
There was also discussion about the media using individuals as focus points for various issues that affect the community, the nation or the world. Unfortunately there is so much outrage and fear that our society is beginning to fall into collective exhaustion and is losing the ability to react to new events. There was a Unitarian Universalist article several years ago that addressed this, saying that we should not let fear be our motivator. One of our science fiction fans reminded us that in the novel “Dune,” The Bene Gesserit taught that “fear is the mind killer.”
Despite the divisiveness and fear in our society that lead us to focus on the individual to the detriment of the community, forum participants came to the conclusion that we could be a force of positive change. We need to focus less on the myriad issues surrounding us and go small and personal through networking with others. We can meet our own and our community’s needs by building the beloved community, both within our fellowship and in our surrounding neighborhoods. The beloved community is the place where the individual is willing to compromise needs by conceding something to the greater community. The beloved community accepts and supports the individual. The beloved community builds bridges.
For those who would like to explore additional interesting topics, Christine also leads Socrates Café on the first Thursday of the month at 5:30 p.m. at the Charles H. Taylor Arts Center in Hampton, Virginia.