Remember what we can do together

Tokyo Infinity by Pawel Nolbert on Unsplash, used subject to the Unsplash License.

Some people want to be remembered. They want statues or plaques or lines in history books. I don’t want to be remembered for my achievements — that would be a lie, or at least not a complete truth. I have achieved nothing alone. Though none of my achievements would have happened without me, most could have been accomplished by others, similarly situated, and similarly prepared.

I do not wish to be a lone hero, or a great figure of history. I am a member of communities. I work as part of teams. I am a participant, even when I lead. My achievements need not be grand. My care, support, and maintenance are just as essential as those achievements of mine which have depended on the care, support, and maintenance of others.

I want everyone around me to have what they need to thrive. Less acclaim to the lies of lone success, and more memorials to the labors we achieve together, acknowledging that all of society is needed for these works.

May we all be loved, acknowledged, supported, and one day remembered by those close to us. But let the histories record the grand achievements of communities and civilizations rather than their mere coordinators or those who preside. Few great projects worth doing can be accomplished alone. A world which can complete such glittering labors is one of interconnection and grand complexity. We work together even without all understanding our collective goals.

And that strength of community is also a great vulnerability. For the silent march of society also unbars the way for some to take far more than they should while manipulating the bonds of kinship which bring us together. They claim that their leadership — more often mere “investment” — puts them at the top of a fanciful chart of people, not understanding that leadership is an act of service which should not be perverted into an excuse for control and extraction.

When society is running well, when all have what they need, when our infrastructure and institutions are maintained: it is not always essential for each of us to understand all the intricacies which provide the function for this massively complex organism we call humanity. These systems should exist so that each of us can do what we do best and what gives us purpose, without needing to worry about all the other ways the world works.

But each of the systems of society can develop defects. Food, housing, healthcare, infrastructure, leisure, welfare, administration… Each can be manipulated to allow some with their thumb on the scales to extract larger and larger rents for their involvement in the essential functions of a healthy society. Gradually, then all at once these wells of mutual support slowly run dry. We see what society achieves taken mostly for the benefit of fewer and fewer. While so many around us lack those essentials which should be theirs by right simply of being a person.

And this is when we must turn our gaze to the minutiae workings of each of these unjust systems. It is so often with careful detailed manipulation that the wealth due society is extracted by a few. Focused attention is likewise needed to rebalance each mechanism back to its prosocial obligations rather than the enrichment of too few of us.

There are so many systems of society (and so many manipulated in this way) that this task of repair and rebalancing seems daunting. Those who claim an unfair share for themselves often seek to adjust the mechanisms of power so that their stolen fortunes cannot be returned to those who built them. These nefarious projects too must be unwound.

If it was possible for so few to steal so much from so many, just think what an achievement it will be to return that lost product of society back to the multitude.

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