88 Comments
Jun 10Liked by Zach Rausch

I agree with Seth Kaplan; the lifestyle was a major attraction to Orthodox Judaism for me, and a reason that we moved into an Orthodox community. My kids did regularly walk to one another's homes as they were growing up, because they could. Before we moved, they couldn't; their friends lived too far away. Because of the restrictions on driving on the Shabbos, Orthodox families have to live within walking distances of their synagogues - which means that they live in walking distances of each other.

But when I grew up non-religious in the '60s, we had much the same thing. We used to play in the streets, and run when the occasional car came by, driving very slowly. It's led me to suspect a cause that you don't mention: the change in the way we build our neighborhoods. When I was little, my family had one car. My Mom drove my Dad to the train which he took to go to work. But over the time period you mention, we tore down most of the train routes and people in the suburbs tended to drive everywhere, which made it easier to build neighborhoods where the only way to get to your friends' homes was to have your parents drive you.

Can those factors be separated? Is it possible that kids in older (pre-WW II) neighborhoods have different experiences than in the car-dependent suburbs?

Expand full comment

YouTube just suggested this video to me <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pmf_JIGQecE> which largely deals with the issue. It's part of a channel I follow that focuses on living arrangements.

Expand full comment

Here's 3 Acts:

1.

MsFDR

2.

Valium

3.

Opioids

Since "Valium funded" the launch of the opioid crises (the killing continues past a million US) that resulted in a $50 billion settlement... that money should cure excess anxiety, etc.

Expand full comment

1

Humor

2

each member of some Religious groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous openly admit that they are flawed.

3

a focus on the removal of obstacles to a feeling of belonging, for example, children who lack a "Best Friend" NEED TO BE TRAINED ON HOW TO **BE A BEST FRIEND**

4

About 80% of Californians live in counties with free mediation that is successful 75%-85% of the time.

Expand full comment

Here's 2 biggies you may have missed:

1

Gullibility

2

One "bad apple" CAN spoil the whole bunch (aka test children to see if they're psychopaths and jail the serial rapists asap, etc)

=========================================

Gullibility: The "community deprived" child should Pick a scene that gives him or her "the community they need" and there should be a free class where the whole class gives each member "the community they need" ... one at a time... with the option of recording a video of it. I call this idea a "Play Based Childhood."😁😁😁

Expand full comment

100's of UC Berkeley Undergrads meet outside and follow the choreography of a chosen leader. aka ... My proposed "Play Based Childhood" is ALREADY HAPPEING AT SCALE... AND INCLUDES LOTS OF SYNCHRONIZED MOVEMENT PROHIBITED BY SOME RELIGIONS.😁😁😁

Expand full comment

After I read, " Because of the restrictions on driving on the Shabbos, Orthodox families have to live within walking distances of their synagogues - which means that they live in walking distances of each other," the phrase "symbolic eruv" popped into my head. I think there's something there. Now I'm thinking about starting to write about it to see what comes out of me.

Expand full comment

I wonder if living in the 1960s was living in a religious culture because the people running the country were older and had been brought up with religion, tradition and customs that had not been washed away in the Boomer Truth Regime.

Expand full comment

Let's face it - deep down inside, every kid has more fun playing with sticks in the dirt than they do video games. We all crave dopamine, but the only type that lasts is through human connection, not a like button.

Expand full comment

I observed a few of my six-year grandson's first softball games. When they went to the field for defense, the young players dropped their gloves, picked up sticks from the ground and dug dirt holes in the infield. What fun they had together!

Expand full comment

I couldn't play in the dirt. It was too dirty. I couldn't go past my street. I couldn't go to the end of my street cause the kids there were fucked up. Boomers were bad parents who built bad neighborhoods.

Expand full comment

The perfect utopia in Aldous Huxley's novel, Island, sets up an idea of a group of families bringing up a child rather than just the two parents, which highlights a child's necessity for being brought up and influenced by a number of people. It allows an escape for children who would have bad parents to be able to escape to another set of parents that would help them, and also to interact with a number of kids their age. Involvement with people outside of a kid's home is a building block for a kid's involvement in a group of people that represent a large society or community, which is clearly showed in this essay. Love this piece.

Expand full comment
Jun 11·edited Jun 11

I agree, but it's interesting how this idea rotates around the political compass. Back when H. R. Clinton was first lady and wrote a book called "It takes a village to raise a child" (or rather, had Feinman write most of it for her), Bob Dole of the GOP was very much against the idea - wiki quotes him as saying "... with all due respect, I am here to tell you, it does not take a village to raise a child. It takes a family to raise a child." Limbaugh, Santorum and other big names also chipped in.

Some of this could be down to the details of how Clinton's ideas differed from Haidt's ones, or the ones here. If I understand the conservative position correctly, they view the ideal setting for bringing up a child as a model of concentric circles, with the parents in the innermost circle, then the extended family, then the community/village. As a general principle, you don't tell other parents how to raise their own children - if one family has rules about always saying grace before mealtime for example and another doesn't, you just accept that. But with that in place, the community very much can and should be involved in living out shared values and teaching them to the next generation by example.

Expand full comment

I wonder how we work toward achieving this recommitment toward strong interconnected and trusting communities without it being driven by either side of the political aisle. Is there a way that this is initiated outside of the political sphere?

Expand full comment

I'm not certain that technological change is the largest single driver of generational differences - I wouldn't discount the rise of both parents working full time. In the 50s/60s/70s kids came home to neighborhoods where at least one parent was home (yes usually women and I don't think we want to return to those days in many ways). The term latchkey kid became commonplace in the 1970s and 1980s to describe members of Generation X who, according to a 2004 marketing study, "went through its all-important, formative years as one of the least-parented, least-nurtured generations in U.S. history."

Expand full comment
Jun 12Liked by Zach Rausch

Great discussion! I see lots of people talking about how great it was when local communities were strong, and people would unite in all sort of community endeavors, live together in larger families, be in touch with their whole neighborhood and help each other in random things, and then at the end of the day go to church together, and so on.

But I don't think we can have a honest discussion of the loss of these things without also acknowledging their downsides. For the most part, I think culture has become a lot more individualistic and disconnected, *because we could afford to*. A close knit community has a lot to give, but it can also be seriously oppressive if you happen not to be in tune with its values and customs. Same with living with your parents, uncles and/or in-laws, who would typically be in charge of the household by elder privilege. And God help you if you grow up to find yourself gay or trans within a close knit community whose culture or religion makes no room for such things, or grow up as a woman of culture and curiosity in a culture where women have no public voice. And I find it a bit sad for people to join together in their belief in a given religion, while two streets over some other group is bonding in a different religion, with the two groups failing to see how much they have in common.

The West didn't lose its strictures randomly, it undid them slowly, one by one, and with much opposition, because they were found unjustifiable by enough people that the shared belief in their truth came tumbling down.

If we're going to tackle the problems of meaninglessness and anomie, it's not going to be by looking at the past and trying to mechanically replicate it. That ship has sailed; that culture was held together by the constraints of its time, and as the constraints have changed, so have the resulting norms. If the new norms are creating problems of their own, it means we need to continue experimenting and tweaking; nothing new appears fully formed and ready to work in the world.

Maybe the point is that community and traditional strictures are not equivalent or mutually necessary. Seth Kaplan found the community he was looking for in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood, and it seemed to work for him. Others have tried to join or found all kinds of intentional communities; right in my town a group of people are trying to put together a community building where residents get a tiny apartment to themselves and participate in a lot of shared spaces. To the extent that community is a real human need, the great experiment is to find new ways to create community and help it self-regulate, that respond to the needs and constraints of our present way of life.

Expand full comment
author

Thanks for this comment! This is exactly the kind of tension that I was trying to draw out in the article and have really enjoyed reading the comments.

Expand full comment

On a more practical note, for some kind of community to form the first thing is that people need to be *there*. Hence comments on this thread decrying the rise in woman's employment because it emptied the neighborhoods of their daily presence.

Makes me wonder if the rise of work from home might have the opposite effect. I work from my home office myself, which means I'm right there in my neighborhood, and come down for coffee or a walk several times a day. Multiply by enough people, and it might have quite a positive effect in residential areas. At the obvious expense of community at workplaces, but it might work better in terms of neighborhood cohesiveness when people congregate right where they live.

Expand full comment

Great article. Thanks for writing it Zach and Jonathan. Robert Kaplan's observation of the "atomizing" effect of technologies of convenience (in even the pre-internet age) seems underplayed as a causal factor. Technologies - both machines and socio-political innovations - simultaneously freed people from some forms of labour or expanded their range of choice while also removing their actual practical economic (read: in the most holistic sense of the word) need for each other. Machines could suddenly do things, which made life "easier", but also removed the need for people to help each other do those things. On the non-tech side, we started outsourcing roles and functions that have historically been the domain of the family (including extended family), such as care for young children, care for the elderly, etc.

I've seen many attempts to artificially create community where the aforementioned phenomena had decimated it, but the pattern that repeats is that, when it gets a little bit hard or socially difficult, it falls over. People opt out, perhaps primarily because they *can* opt out. They don't really *need* each other. The "tight-knit community" that Zach speaks of seems to be born not of sheer desire or will, but of actual need or (deeply) shared creed. Outside of a community whose majority is bound together by a deeply-held and shared ethos/creed/faith (which may go some way to providing enduring strength in the absence of actual *need*), it is difficult to see how our consumer-entrained selves can avoid the ever-present temptation to convenience that would be required to re-create stable, enduring "tight-knit" communities.

Expand full comment

Exactly. Without a need or a shared creed or commitment it is extremely difficult in today‘s time to build community. People opt out and I would say the main reason for that is sheer comfort.

Expand full comment

I grew up in the 60s and 70s with free play, kids and neighbors out most of the time, many types of local association, and yes, lots of TV. I see my grandkids growing up with not a single vestige of this. To jump to the big question: how do we recreate the positive aspects of that and previous eras while keeping the freedoms and progress we have made as industrialized societies? We cannot go backwards and lose the advantages gained by marginalized and discriminated-agaiinst groups. The world will not shrink and technology will not go away. There must be a way to create a value system that puts a high priority on the social, personal, and spiritual aspects of life and build from there. It sounds simple, but a few minutes of debate shows that obstacles appear everywhere. Mostly these are around forming new groups to which we would theoretically belong. I do not know of anyone who is thinking about what this would look like. Anyone with any such knowledge please share it here or with me.

Expand full comment
author

This really is the big question: how do we recreate the positive aspects of that and previous eras while keeping the freedoms and progress we have made as industrialized societies?

I would love to hear people's thoughts below

Expand full comment
Jun 10Liked by Zach Rausch

Great article! Thank you! We are searching for community and moving to the Netherlands on Friday with our 19 year old. The street we will be living on is well known for block parties and Friday alley wine gatherings not to mention being in a city and a country well known for community projects. I look forward to ditching the car and biking, walking, and taking transit among others. We feel incredibly lucky to have this chance. I’ll report back.

Expand full comment

Thanks for this thoughtful article and question. Here is the way that I would break it down:

1) The built environment must include spaces for gathering (parks, safe playgrounds, public recreation) and ways to get there safely (sidewalks, bike lanes, public transportation). Buildings should include common spaces.

2) Community Leadership: we need charismatic leaders, both in the formal and informal system. The parent who declares that everyone who wants to meet at the playground at 5:30 PM every Wednesday is welcome to do so, flyers the building or the neighborhood, or puts out the message in a Meet Up group, does a lot! The leader, including self-declared leader, who dreams up a community project such as a gardening, beautification, clean-up, community-built playground, "angel" projects to help others, collection of children's books, whatever it is and actively recruits for these can get people together around a common goal.

3) The formal organizations such as teams, Scouts, youth groups, religious groups, community or recreation centers, arts groups - even if "structured", can allow enough unstructured or social time to engage youth and can include community service components. If this does not exist in your community, you can start it! Continual outreach is key.

4) Parents need to understand the importance of socialization, starting in infancy, by starting a play group or arranging to get together with other families. I am flabbergasted by the number of parents who do not understand this. Infants, toddlers, preschoolers and even early school age children are not developmentally ready to do this themselves so parents must do it. Parents need to role model friendliness and community involvement. Of course, parents need to limit screen time as much as possible and have alternative activities at hand. It is more work for parents in the short term and infinitely rewarding in the long term. Parents need to require kids to have increased responsibility, which then leads to increased trust and freedom.

5) Schools and teachers should reward students, such as with a point system, for community involvement. Kids could earn points for going out in pairs or threes to find things in nature, for attending community meetings, for volunteering, for group projects.

6) The reinforcement by parents, teachers, coaches, youth leaders, etc. (in terms of specific praise, reflection, interaction, telling kids how hard they worked or how they handled a situation) must be frequent at first and then go into a variable time reinforcement mode. This HUMAN reinforcement is how relationships are built.

7) Kids learn from relationships!!!

8) Nothing happens by itself. Some communities are better equipped with longstanding institutions or groups that have provided opportunities, and others need new infusions of charismatic leadership to get this started or going again. But even a so-called "unsafe" community can benefit from ways to engage kids in positive activities. Yes, we are all working, sometimes more than one job, we are juggling kids and elderly family members and everything else, but we need to muster up the energy to get involved!!!! And, if our circumstances are such that we are struggling with chronic illness, trauma or issues, we need to avail ourselves of the resources available to do the best we can, understanding that community involvement is therapeutic in and of itself.

Expand full comment
author

Wow, lots of great and interesting ideas here. Thank you Burgh!

Expand full comment

I love all of these ideas. I think a big obstacle is that in most families both parents are participating in paid work and just simply do not have the energy or time to socialize or organize meet ups. It is sad but the reality of it (in my experience, as millenial parent with young kids). Also I think parents are burned out from their own phone-based life. So much precious time wasted on our devices instead of out in the real world.

Expand full comment

I think the definition of community not only has to, but is, changing. Playing outside is just not am option for too many- killer heat, mega allergies, acid rain, etc. Not only that, there are no places for people(youths) to be free from the glare of society (read: judgmental, critiquing, fastidious adults); malls are gone, parks are few, arcades are dead, bowling's lame. So the youth have adapted and created their own spaces (which have mostly been taken over by grown-ups...as they claim for the Empire all they lay thejr eyes upon), Reddit, mocospace, tumblr, video games, etc.

I think, considering whats been given to them (the shituation in the world), i think theyre doing an alright job. Issue is, most of us dont know how to be out of the loop of stuff, but truth be told, most of us past the age of 40-45 are really only part of the problem by refusing to let go and fall into the unknown. Our fear and psicoses is what hinders the future generations, not all these phantoms so many people keep mentioning. Because in the end, the same way those that werent interested when we were young didnt participate, those not interested in these days, will also not participate.

Expand full comment

Things to try for intentional communities, based on some emergence and MLS theories:

1. Choosing people for the community who are internally balanced (among their psychological parts) with liberal and conservative traits,

2. Having higher levels (networks) of communities that trade resources, and

3. Keeping a sufficient (we don't know yet what that is) amount of resources internally in the community relative to how much is exported to or imported from the greater economy, or even the network.

4. Having compatible prioritization of values among members.

5. Having pods/families, not just a bunch of individuals in the community.

6. Encouraging some friendly competition among pods in the community, and communities in the network.

7. Having liberals and conservatives live in same communities.

8. Having liberals and conservatives live in different communities, but in the same network.

Expand full comment

1. I am highly amused that we are not going to discuss that freedom of association was eradicated in the 60s with the Civil Rights movement. And then you note that the loss of the local community began in.... the 60s! Wow, what a coincidence. I am sure that mass scale forced association, which resulted in the nation's majority white population fleeing population centers, had nothing to do with this. Nor did the changes to immigration laws made in the 60s. Nope it was definitely that gosh darn heckin' TV!

2. It is possibly even more amusing to watch liberals very slowly, ever so carefully, re-invent the wheel with regards to religion. How shocking that institutions established over the course of, and surviving through millennia of human history, actually turn out to be highly adaptive and to serve a variety of important evolutionary niches! Absolutely baffling!

3. "One common objection to the claim that real-world communities are better than virtual networks is that social media platforms offer marginalized youth many social benefits — they can find the like-minded peers they don’t have in their real-world communities."

The fact is that encouraging and supporting "marginalized" populations is a direct trade-off against community and social cohesion. Yes, if you're gay or trans, you're going to feel more socially isolated and have a harder time fitting in well with a close-knit community! Again, shocker. I wonder if it's possible that norms which are highly compatible with strong communities--such as the nuclear family--evolved into social standards for a specific reason, and maybe norms that aren't compatible with strong communities--such as defining oneself by one's proclivity towards anal sex--were not favored by evolution for similar reasons? Hmm I just don't know, it is a real mystery. Maybe one day the liberals will figure it out and let me know the answer!

Expand full comment

Weird. I feel pretty free to associate with those I want to associate with. I would like to associate a lot less with white supremacist dipshits, but that’s the business decision Substack made.

Expand full comment

Actually, I grew up in the 60s and whether you realize it or not, you are much less free to associate with others of your choice. For just one example, almost all the men's organizions (Moose, Elk, etc) got sued to be open to women and often died as a result. Outside of church and synagogue, there are very few male spaces for friendship and community left in the US. As a woman, I find this tragic. You are quick to dismiss Person Online's comments as 'white supremacist dipshit', but there is truth in what they say. It may well be that human beings cannot have all the choices and all the things they want at the same time. If tight-knit community is important, than individual expression cannot be fully realized, or at least no human society I know of has managed to have both at the same time. Adult, wise life involves choices between sometimes mutually exclusive things, and blowing off someone's expression of that legitimate point with racialist rhetoric doesn't paint you in a very sympathetic light.

Expand full comment

"1. I am highly amused that we are not going to discuss that freedom of association was eradicated in the 60s with the Civil Rights movement. And then you note that the loss of the local community began in.... the 60s! Wow, what a coincidence. I am sure that mass scale forced association, which resulted in the nation's majority white population fleeing population centers, had nothing to do with this. Nor did the changes to immigration laws made in the 60s. Nope it was definitely that gosh darn heckin' TV!"

Lots of things started in the 1960s, but loss of community started much earlier, as Weber and Durkeim were laready talking about it in the early 1900s. What forced association are you talking about? Blacks and whites hardly associate anywhere, except in schools, whether forced or not. Most ethnic groups and religions stick to themselves. Are you talking about Russia or China?

"2. It is possibly even more amusing to watch liberals very slowly, ever so carefully, re-invent the wheel with regards to religion. How shocking that institutions established over the course of, and surviving through millennia of human history, actually turn out to be highly adaptive and to serve a variety of important evolutionary niches! Absolutely baffling!"

Totally agree, but they also have downsides like the inquisition, the crusades and other wars of religion. Also suppression of free thought and creativity for some religions, depending how conservative they are.

3. "The fact is that encouraging and supporting "marginalized" populations is a direct trade-off against community and social cohesion. Yes, if you're gay or trans, you're going to feel more socially isolated and have a harder time fitting in well with a close-knit community!"

Only in certain cases. In many north american tribes, two-spirits thrived and were accepted into the community.

4. "I wonder if it's possible that norms which are highly compatible with strong communities--such as the nuclear family--evolved into social standards for a specific reason, and maybe norms that aren't compatible with strong communities--such as defining oneself by one's proclivity towards anal sex--were not favored by evolution for similar reasons?"

Most of earth's cultures did not have nuclear families before Christianity got to them, and were not any less resilient as a result. You could argue though that within a capitalist and Christian framework, the nuclear family is more resilient than other options, except that it seems that even that is breaking down into individuals, and individuals are breaking down into their psychological parts. Without capitalism (and with Christianity or maybe just catholicism) the nuclear family may have been more stable.

Expand full comment

“If tight-knit community is important, than individual expression cannot be fully realized, or at least no human society I know of has managed to have both at the same time. Adult, wise life involves choices between sometimes mutually exclusive things.”

If a tight knit community requires racial homogeneity and enforced traditional gender roles and social sanction of individual expression, count me out. The cost is too high.

Expand full comment

"If a tight knit community requires racial homogeneity and enforced traditional gender roles and social sanction of individual expression, count me out."

I gladly count you out. Bye-bye.

Expand full comment

With most women working, most neighborhoods resemble ghost towns during the day.

Expand full comment

Great book on this topic, The Great Good Place by Ray Oldenburg. Loss of the 3rd place as a place of community cohesion.

Expand full comment

Required reading.

Expand full comment

1) Organize a block party this summer.

2) Rejoin the old fraternal orders that were the backbone of much of civil society. The Odd Fellows, Shriners, Moose, etc, are still around, and there is plenty in the community that could use the help from an organized charity club. If the old clubs don't fit, found new ones.

Expand full comment

One of the main causes of the ending of neighborhood ties was when stranger danger occurred as kidnappings, atrocities, etc. were widely broadcast thru media, parents pulling their kids back from playing outdoors with other kids, and after school organized, adult-led sports took over and remains the curtailer of children's freedom to run, play and learn together about each other, nature and life.

This started in the 80's, as I also set a limit as to how far our two daughters could ride their bikes, which was about two blocks in any direction. My daughter now 45, who had always resented that restriction of her childhood, now says the restriction is even

greater in the population, some of which she has used for her own three daughters.

Expand full comment

The elephant in the room: FEMINISM. This is a much bigger driver of lack of community than the television could have caused. I'm tail end of the Baby Boom, the first generation expected to eschew motherhood for as long as possible. Talk about anxiety. The women in my cohort were miserable, hence the advent of therapy culture en masse, because we had no purpose and the end result of dating or, shall we say -- hooking up -- was unclear at best.

But the real adverse effects come from the change on the street. When I was growing up, there was a mother in just about every house. This means that the women knew each other (I can still remember most of the families who lived in the houses in my vast subdivision) and just knowing who lives were creates at least an illusion of community, where today I do not know who lives on my block in Brooklyn and barely know who lives in my building. The closest I got to getting to know my neighbors and the kids on my block was the year I was unemployed. Which brings me back to feminism's demand that women work outside the home, turning subdivisions and city blocks into ghost towns.

Add to this that where we once all got married and started families in our early 20s, now women do so at various ages, which isolates us even further. Note that religious communities engender a greater sense of community according to Rausch, but isn't it the case that they are also upholding the same values and, possibly, timeline of accomplishments, and in the case of the Orthodox Jewish community, women prioritize having children and being home to raise them.

I recall thinking, around the age of 24, that the most impossible thing to do was get married and have children. Then if I did, I'd be alone in doing it, because everyone else was at work. Until we recognize the value of women's contribution to community and social cohesion, and that this was traded for a "career" and the ghost town street, the issue with our young people (what few there are since birth rates have gone bust) will continue to suffer.

Women played a vital role in society. Feminists destroyed that society.

Expand full comment

Have you read Mary Harrington’s book, “Feminism Against Progress”? She writes here at:

https://tinyurl.com/4w853c2u

Expand full comment

Harrington and Perry wrote the books I should have written when I saw the handwriting on the wall in the late 90s.

Expand full comment

No mention of the moms who didn't work away from home. In my day (b.1949) every neighborhood had a couple of moms at home. Maybe they were watching, maybe they weren't; but they were always there. There was comfort in that, and it probably inhibited some of our wilder impulses.

Expand full comment

I think it's an important topic but I reject these explanations entirely. Television may have stolen time from other activities, but during that era television was itself a unifying activity, generating a previously undreamt of amount of shared cultural experiences. I'd argue excessive television-watching was a result of reduced social cohesion and community, not a cause.

I blame very different trends from that era...

- The Drug War and "tough on crime" policies that generated a massive amount of fear among parents and created a hostile relationship between police and youth (and continues to, to this day).

- Christian fear-mongering over Satanism and witchcraft, creating even more reasons to keep a close watch on your kids.

- Racial integration of schools and neighborhoods which gave white parents an urgent reason to restrict and monitor which kids their kids played with.

It wasn't distractions and technology or the lack of a global war that lead to reduced trust and cohesion. It was the spectacular and enduring success of professional fear-mongers.

Expand full comment

I think another driver of the loss of local communities is one we’re all reluctant to face, I.e., the return of women to the workplace. While it’s been good, and even necessary, for women, it’s had unfortunate effects for kids. Instead of playing and interacting with other kids in their neighborhoods with mothers around to look out the windows and keep track of them, they’re in daycare, where their play is all structured and they’re being force fed information that they can wait until school age to acquire. We need to develop some neighborhood-level strategy to take the place of the at-home parent.

Expand full comment

Or maybe restore the at home parent. Perhaps the expansion of working at home might do this.

Expand full comment