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  • Writer's pictureDavid Carlson

Monday, March 4, 2024: By recognizing that we are all interconnected, we can take action to help create a better world for ourselves and for all the generations after us.

Monday, March 4, 2024

By recognizing that we are all interconnected, we can take action to help create a better world for ourselves and for all the generations after us.



I appreciate that I live in a country with free speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of the press. Valuing individual autonomy—to a certain degree—makes sense. However, our rabid focus on individualism, often veiled as “freedom,” is making our society and the world sick.

 

I live in St. Louis, Missouri, where the divide between the privileged and the disadvantaged is stark. Segregation has split our city in half. In majority-Black North St. Louis, vacant properties abound, and poverty is high.




Black families have lost out on generational wealth by buying homes in these neighborhoods when they were more stable, only to see their home values decline with the rest of the neighborhood.

 

Meanwhile, there are wealthy communities that take action against affordable housing or even multifamily construction for fear of greater racial diversity. Of course, many well-meaning, kind people live in communities where they do not interact with anyone from a different background. That is just the default lifestyle in the United States—buy the best life you can afford.

 

Because we live in such a segregated society, where you live determines the quality of your child’s education and your quality of life. I do not blame families for seeking out safer and more pleasant neighborhoods, usually in our sprawling suburbs.

 

However, while working on urban planning and economic development in St. Louis, I’ve realized that though it is important to understand how we got here (racism, capitalism), it is possibly more important, and much more difficult, to reflect critically on our own values and how we can begin to support neglected communities.

 



Collectivism may seem like the spiritual opposite of individualism, but collectivism can actually be enlightened individualism. By recognizing that we are all interconnected, we can take action to help create a better world for ourselves and for all the generations after us. If the people of St. Louis realized that the conditions in North St. Louis affect all of us, we could finally take some concrete steps to right the wrongs of the past.

 

This concept can be expanded to the greater world. People of any town, city, state, or even country must realize that all conditions affect all people, everywhere. I am reminded of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous line from his Letter from Birmingham Jail:


I see many people around me questioning our society’s heavy emphasis on individualism. We are often aware that this every-person-for-themself attitude does not serve us, but going against the individualistic grain is hard. Working towards collectivism requires negotiations with our families, friends, and ourselves. While our pursuit of a more collective mindset will never be perfect, balancing this cultural focus on individualism is a worthy goal.

 

Reflkection by Madeleine Swanstrom, a member of the Starcross Publication Committee, coordinator of Starcross Alumni activity, and a frequent Starcross volunteer. She currently lives in St. Louis, Missouri, where she works for local government. Madeleine sees urban development as a natural facilitator of human development, as it encourages social connection and right relationship with the earth.

 

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