Banish this Uniform (p. 977)
Solidarity can be one of the most effective confidence-building mechanisms we can engage. If we are part of a team, no matter how we screw up, we are still part of a team. As a member of a family, no matter what decisions we make or behaviors we experiment with, we are still a part of the family. The list goes on. Solidarity is not morally qualified though, it is simply morally affected, so any group can have solidarity so long as they have certain codes and beliefs that bind the members together. So it is not inherently good or bad, it just is.
I'm not going to be cryptic about the inherent flaws of a solely belief-based solidarity. Just five minutes ago I read how the Westboro Baptist Church protested an openly gay Missouri football player with their usual hate-speech, yet were blocked by a half-mile long human wall outside the stadium. Present are two different types of solidarity; Westboro is bound together by religious-fueled intolerance, and the human wall--comprised of students, faculty, and alums--enacted an event-based and tolerant solidarity.
Not all group-think is corrosive, zombifying, or oppressive; it just seems that way because intolerant group-think often makes headlines. My teacher recently reminded me that when America's Constitution was created, a group of brilliant men banded together to use reason cooperatively but fiercely in the creation of a new country. They had a specific function and used reason to create codes and laws that would be effective not just in that time, but years from that time. The product of their solidarity was not created by their credentials, yet facilitated by their credentials through granting them attendance. I say this because the purpose of their attendance was to create practical, reasonable ideals, not just stand around and be recorded as brilliant men having stood around. It was a put-up-or-shut-up scenario, which is an indication that even though they shared a mutual secular/reasonable respect, it was active and progressive.
Many groups bound by solidarity are not progressive, or open to change through some variant of objective evaluation and improvement. Modern political conservatives do not want to change--hence conservative--thus limiting their ability to improve. I find this limiting because when you are so wrapped up in conserving an ideal, whether it is religious or political or whatever, then you are not open to the myriad possibilities of improvement. But just because you are open to change does not mean you necessarily lose solidarity! The potential for losing solidarity is surely there when you open yourself to change, but it has always been there. Just because your group is stubborn to "evaluate or adapt its principles or values" does not mean it is any stronger than a group that embraces change. This is a major fallacy. Belief-based groups justify their reluctance to self-evaluate through making outrageous excuses, citing the most effective witness ever; history. "We've done it this way for so long, so it must be working." That is merely mistaking quantity for quality. I tend to think past-based groups like Westboro are addicted to certain emotional and subjective mechanisms, handicapping both their ability and will to think with their minds. I am not promoting a purely objective existence--that would be impossible for a large percentage of people--however when we seek out or maintain a solidarity based in mechanisms insulated from reason, or the past, we are not binding together as much as binding against.
I am a big proponent of incorporating the distinction of us and them into any discussion. I do it almost ad nauseum because I have found that it is not popular to clearly identify (thus, judge) the us's and them's present in our daily interactions. There can be universal us's (for me, my teacher), and universal them's (for me, Westboro), however as we maneuver the smorgasbord of engagements, we are going to inevitably associate and dissociate with others based on accidental run-ins. Stop at a gas station, you become an us with others fueling up. Impeded upon by someone soliciting at your door, they become a them. It is only natural. A more significant aspect of our nature though is our ability to understand these relations, because that is the only way we can change them, or even know if we want to change them.
The point I am making is the virtue of being proactive, rather than reactive. The mind is stimulated through proactivity, because that is how it is built; the intellectual centers are designed to process information from the environment, project into the future based on this information, and reflect upon current knowledge or beliefs to construct a newer, more viable solution/vision. This does not have to be high-ended, but the intellect exists to move forward, not backward. Only the limbic system is required for past-orientation. (Not to discredit the limbic system, but it only operates subjectively, and in the past time frame).
Solidarity can thus either be a powerful narcotic--if a group uses emotional or subjective mechanisms to fuel it--or it can be a calm, collected mechanism that allows the members to be individuals to think, explore, and be bound by a sense of common meaning. This manifestation of solidarity is not a shackle, yet a sense of membership and community that harvests an individual person in the moment, rather than as an agent to wage a sense of predetermined purpose. It is a fundamental discrepancy of orientation: Either one specifically and intellectually determines the us group, or they prescriptively and repressively determine the them group. Past-based groups (the latter) are just hell-bent on them-determination, and present-based groups (the former) operate with more us-based determinations, allowing the members to band together like the Missouri human-wall, because their solidarity is defined by overarching commonality and ultimately, tolerance.
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