The Believer | 28.02.2002 11:46
And so that's all I intend with this - to spark some thoughts.
One last point - in pre-emption of replies: please don't suggest that since I am offering criticism I have to come up with positive alternatives. The whole point is that you think independently enough to reach your own conclusions.
With those corollaries in place I will begin. *Clears throat*
As an adult in an early 21st century Western society I feel isolated from the many millions of people in the society around me. Most people feel this either consciously or unconsciously and they have different ways of dealing with it. Myself I go to a meeting once a week or so of people who have similiar beliefs to my own. Sometimes I go much more often. We usually meet for a couple of hours and then have a social time. We feel some sense of community in doing this and it prevents the alienation permeating society from wearing us down. It is good to have a place where I don't have to constantly defend my beliefs.
On first going to these weekly meetings one begins to learn the things that should and should not be said/done. Some of those taboos are things that should not be said between any decent people, and some of the 'shoulds' make good sense, but some of them - such as the selection of favourite enemies for example - are less obvious and on initial consideration seem to have more to do with embedded orthodoxy than actual principles. On joining such a group though one needs to feel a sense of 'belonging' - after all that is one of the reasons for going. Conformity to the norms of acceptable speech and behaviour is therefore necessary at first. As time goes on it feels more natural. In fact such norms can't equate to conformity anyway because the entire ethos of the group is counter to prevailing culture. Clearly then it is a group of non-conformers and so I am a non-conformer. It is nice to be able to view myself in such a way. It makes me feel like I am truly an individual and that I have chosen my own path in life.
Occasionally I feel I ought to act more on my beliefs than I do - I certainly ought to do more outside of meetings. Sometimes the group I meet with helps me to do this, but I do sometimes get a creeping sense of guilt when I realise that the group is a bit insular and self-indulgent. Other people in the group feel the same way because we often talk of the need to 'reach out' to people. We feel the world would be a much better place if more people believed (at least approximately) what we believe. Indeed, sometimes it seems like that getting the message to other people is one of the main reasons for our meeting and acting together.
At other times I am more pessimistic and suspect that (a) ours is too difficult a message to get across, and (b) we aren't very good at 'outreach' anyway. At such times I allow myself to simply enjoy the community in which I have placed myself. I know there is nothing wrong with us enjoying ourselves even if there is so much wrong with world - occasionally though I feel that such enjoyment is becoming too important to me. I am after all 'committed' to my beliefs. I know that others in my small community feel the same because sometimes people hint that we need to be 'serious' about certain things; that is, our personal pleasure should be placed a bit lower on the agenda. This might be slightly painful but it is good to get serious sometimes because it focuses our minds on the action and outreach we ought to be doing. I hear that some groups have moved on from this dilemma by making sure that all their meetings and action and outreach are fun while still dealing with the serious issues. This is good because now there is nothing to stop them doing what they ought to.
You may have guessed the question by now. Here it is:
Do I go to a christian church or an anarchist activist group?
Yours in hope
[Note to Indymedia people - if discussion results from this and you don't want it all on the newswire could someone think of an online forum it could be transferred to? If discussion does start feel free to copy it over without my permission if that is what you think should happen.]