Finding a

What is more important, individual freedom or social harmony? What was your first reaction to that? If it was quick and “obvious” to you, then you may need to find some balance in your thinking. The answer is both. To be one-sided on this is at the root of many of our issues at all levels of our community, both locally and nationally. OK, another quick question. Have you ever been in a conversation or argument where you felt that the other person has no clue about the point you are making, is deluded, uninformed or simply crazy? I think most of us have had a few of these moments. It does make one a little crazy, doesn’t it? What I see behind all this is two fundamental mindsets that do not mix well. The first view is that life is a struggle of individual and separated beings, all working to survive in a competition for getting ahead. This is what I would call the “masculine” side of living, where the best analogies of life are sports games, survival of the fittest, win/lose situations and dog-eat-dog kind of life. Now, that is the extreme of this view, but I hope you get the point. To some in this world, life is a fight. From the other side, this sounds mean and cruel. The other view is that life is a big interconnected dance where nothing happens in a vacuum. Some call this the “feminine” view. We are in this together, we depend on each other, we need each other to survive, the common good is the greatest good, we sink or swim together and we are our brother’s keeper. To the people in this world, life is community. To the other side, this sounds like so much “la la” and not part of the “real world.” So, who is right? Of course, they both are. We need strong individuals who can push the envelope of current norms, strike out on their own to create new businesses, to challenge accepted ideas of the community, to lead to new and better ways to live. And, we need a support community that educates, nourishes, integrates and connects all the things that allow things to work well. These are not just some abstract ideas about life. We all look at life from one side or the other, with many in between, but some are more extreme than others. Nothing pulls all this together more than the whole issue of taxes and government spending. Now I got your attention! Those who strongly hold the individualist mentality find that taking money from the individual to support common good is a travesty. Except for a few basic things (like roads, police and defense), the money belongs in the hands of the individual who earned it. I can get in their shoes and see the idea that choices of spending should be left to the individual. To people who hold the common view, it is completely obvious that we need to constantly create schools, infrastructure, parks, safety nets for the poor, cultural activities, art and much more to enhance the quality of life — something that is an anathema to the individualist. That translates to more taxes on individuals. I have used some extremes to make my point here, but I hope you can see that life consists of both sides. We are individuals and we are a community. Finding that balance in each of us is key to making life work better. This plays out in many ways in our small (or almost small) town. It is easy to make the conservatives the individualists and the progressives the common good. But I have found some of this in all people. Becoming aware of our own way of looking at things, and realizing the validity of other views, is critical. We all need to walk in the shoes of the other for a bit. Both sides are important, but creating barriers that exclude the other’s way of looking at the world only creates ongoing animosity and distance. We are all individuals and we are all part of something bigger than ourselves. It is not an either/or situation. Learning how to look at the world with a both/and view is critical to making things work. Columbus retiree Tom Lane served as a consultant to a number of companies in his career. In recent years his has been a familiar name to readers of The Republic’s letters to the editor. He can be reached at editorial@therepublic.com.

What is more important, individual freedom or social harmony? What was your first reaction to that? If it was quick and “obvious” to you, then you may need to find some balance in your thinking.

The answer is both. To be one-sided on this is at the root of many of our issues at all levels of our community, both locally and nationally.

OK, another quick question. Have you ever been in a conversation or argument where you felt that the other person has no clue about the point you are making, is deluded, uninformed or simply crazy? I think most of us have had a few of these moments. It does make one a little crazy, doesn’t it? What I see behind all this is two fundamental mindsets that do not mix well.

The first view is that life is a struggle of individual and separated beings, all working to survive in a competition for getting ahead. This is what I would call the “masculine” side of living, where the best analogies of life are sports games, survival of fittest, win/lose situations and dog-eat-dog kind of life. Now, that is the extreme of this view, but I hope you get the point. To some in this world, life is a fight. From the other side, this sounds mean and cruel.

The other view is that life is a big interconnected dance where nothing happens in a vacuum. Some call this the “feminine” view. We are in this together, we depend on each other, we need each other to survive, the common good is the greatest good, we sink or swim together and we are our brother’s keeper. To the people in this world, life is community. To the other side, this sounds like so much “la la” and not part of the “real world.”

So, who is right? Of course, they both are.

We need strong individuals who can push the envelope of current norms, strike out on their own to create new businesses, to challenge accepted ideas of the community, to lead to new and better ways to live. And, we need a support community that educates, nourishes, integrates and connects all the things that allow things to work well.

These are not just some abstract ideas about life. We all look at life from one side or the other, with many in between, but some are more extreme than others. Nothing pulls all this together more than the whole issue of taxes and government spending. Now I got your attention!

Those who strongly hold the individualist mentality find that taking money from the individual to support common good is a travesty. Except for a few basic things (like roads, police and defense), the money belongs in the hands of the individual who earned it. I can get in their shoes and see the idea that choices of spending should be left to the individual.

To people who hold the common view, it is completely obvious that we need to constantly create schools, infrastructure, parks, safety nets for the poor, cultural activities, art and much more to enhance the quality of life — something that is an anathema to the individualist. That translates to more taxes on individuals.

I have used some extremes to make my point here, but I hope you can see that life consists of both sides. We are individuals and we are a community. Finding that balance in each of us is key to making life work better. This plays out in many ways in our small (or almost small) town. It is easy to make the conservatives the individualists and the progressives the common good. But I have found some of this in all people. Becoming aware of our own way of looking at things, and realizing the validity of other views, is critical.

We all need to walk in the shoes of the other for a bit. Both sides are important, but creating barriers that exclude the other’s way of looking at the world only creates ongoing animosity and distance. We are all individuals and we are all part of something bigger than ourselves. It is not an either/or situation. Learning how to look at the world with a both/and view is critical to making things work.

Kirk Johannesen is assistant managing editor of The Republic. He can be reached at 379-5639 or johannesen@therepublic.com.