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Sustainable Development in Senegalese Ecovillages!


Who Are You?

Senegal Yoff, Senegal  |  Dec 30, 2008
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In class, Ousmane had us write in respone to the prompt, "What defines your personal identity, and what does community mean to you?" This is what I scrawled:

I am a member of the human community in general and a member of a not-yet-existent/fledgling tribe in particular. Humans, of which community, as I said, I am a part, have great capacities for acquiring and using knowledge, for using consciousness and consciences, for empathy, ingenuity, sensibility, improvisation. Sometimes groups within the larger human association (species) squander these innate capacities and so any Cartesian legacy for being `thinking things` becomes nearly meaningless, without substance/grounding, for if a `thinking thing` presumes its own logic and rationality but in actuality acts without any sensibility or awareness of surroundings, for planetary, social, and tribal community contexts, then such actions essentially counter and reverse any intuitive logical capacities such `thinking things` innately (apparently) possess...(to be continued, especially since I`ve been thinking a lot about different framings of "sense," "rationality," and "logics" as groundwork for my upcoming thesis work)...

We then discussed in groups what national identity and community identity meant in our lives, what definitions we could come up with. In my group, we drew out the communal natures of traditional villages formed by the early pilgrims and colonists in the United States, long before it ever became known as such. Because so much of the value of community has disintegrated in the United States in favor of extreme individualist values, we kind of had a difficult time drawing out such examples of community identity in relation to the country that we live in and call home. We thought of small churches, going back to the first evangelical communities in Israel and Greece, how a certain concern for others and community experience were valued highly, as they were in American churches before we went through the more recent proliferation of mega-churches. It even used to be common in the United States, especially in times of greater scarcity, such as during the World Wars, to ask around in one`s neighborhood for some sugar or salt, or other staples and basic supplies, but today dependency has dwindled to the point that it`s hardly okay to ask a neighbor for anything. People often don`t even know their neighbors by name.

Ousmane said after these writing activities, very elegantly and yet very simply, something to the effect of, "No one person is completely isolated." He also gave us a quote from Kofi Annan in class:"What makes a community? What binds it together? For some it is faith. For others it is the defence of an idea, such as democracy [or the fight against poverty]. Some communities are homogenous, others multicultural. Some are as small as schools and villages; others as large as continents...What binds us into an international community? In the broadest sense there is a shared vision of a better world for all people...Together we are stronger."

When I looked it up, I discovered that the version we`d been given was slightly abbreviated and edited (as evidenced by brackets and ellipses above). Here is the full version of the excerpted quote I found within a full text by the former U.N.-Secretary General, titled "The World Community Often Fails to Act Together, But It Can and It Should":"What makes a community? What binds it together? For some it is faith. For others it is the defence of an idea, such as democracy. Some communities are homogeneous, others multicultural. Some are as small as schools and villages; others as large as continents. Today, of course, more and more communities are "virtual", discovering and promoting their shared values through the latest communications and information technologies. What binds us into an international community? In the broadest sense there is a shared vision of a better world for all people, as set out, for example, in the founding Charter of the United Nations. There is our sense of common vulnerability in the face of global warming and the threat posed by the spread of weapons of mass destruction. There is the framework of international law, treaties and human rights conventions. There is equally our sense of shared opportunity, which is why we build common markets and joint institutions such as the United Nations."

Later, I was reading Daniel Quinn`s Providence: The Story of a Fifty-Year Vision Quest, and I found these passages with very similar themes, all of which make me feel very content to remember the simplicity of our connectedness, such the remedy that it is to feeling overly isolated and alone (Yes, he seems to stress some words unnecessarily, but I never said that I always agree with his mode of writing):

"Actually, it's plainly written in their lives. It's plainly written in the general community to which they belonged: the community of life on this planet. Anyone can read it. You just have to look.

Every creature born in the biological community of the earth belongs to the community. Nothing lives in isolation from the rest; nothing can live in isolation from the rest. Nothing lives only in itself, needing nothing from the community. Nothing lives only for itself, owing nothing to the community. Nothing is untouchable or untouched. Every life in the community is owed to the community--and is paid back to the community in death. The community is a web of life, and every strand of the web is a path to all the other strands. Nothing is exempt. Nothing is special. Nothing lives on a strand by itself, unconnected to the rest (Providence: The Story of a Fifty-Year Vision Quest by Daniel Quinn, Chapter Eleven, pages 147-148)."


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