Thursday, July 8, 2010

No Answers?

"Anytime you speak of answers, you are making a false promise. The more important dimensions of being human have no clear answer. This means that the answers systems claim they can provide are counterfeit."

Peter Block and John McKnight,The Abundant Community

I'm sure I have ripped this quote out of its very important context, yet it still seems to me to represent a strange logic. I think we would all agree that we don't have answers to many important questions and that many dimensions of the human condition and spirit are not reducible to simplistic answers. I think we would also agree that the claims of many systems, services, products, and hucksters are false or no more than half truths.

But there are answers. And I do get helpful answers from my osteopath, car mechanic, kid's school teachers, soccer coaches, camp counselors, etc. Sometimes their answers evolve over time as they get more information; sometimes they are right the first time.

There certainly are systems that seem to do more harm than good in the name of having answers and doing good. It's the authors' propensity for wild generalization that is so troubling -- and then the apology several pages later that they didn't mean that all services or professionals are bad or that markets are completely horrible.

I wish they had started the book by saying, as other authors have, that we face a challenge of abundance and bureaucratic organization that have created better living conditions for the many,but have also weakened communities, personal responsibility, and self sufficiency. Without giving up all that we have gained, how do we restore, enhance these key dimensions, community competence, for example? Aren't they offering answers?

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