Otherworld is a community (www.otherworld.org). It does other wonderful things (like have great adventures), but at its root it is a community. My political background is relevant here, I am NOT (never been) a communist. However, we do need to recognize our biological imperatives. We are a community animal. Unfortunately, too many of our political systems encourage conflict and competition over cooperation and community development.
Before we get to why the systems do that, I think that it is necessary to address the argument that I hear under your breath: but competition is the only way that we make “progress”. Now, there are a lot of arguments about whether the “progress” that we’ve made is worth it or is even progress, but now I would like to address the complaint in a different way. Otherworld shows me how amazingly powerful a community with shared goals and a shared ethos really is. Our society, I think, discourages the development of communities because if we saw how powerful they are we might not believe that conflict and competition are the only way to go.
Maybe the practical complaint about running a society on a communitarian model is the best one. The fact that we no longer see any such society does say something. That is why I might be closest to an anarcho-syndicalist of any political stripe, but can’t throw my lot in with them without seeing how a community-based polity would work in the “real world”.
Maybe Madison was right (it was Madison int he Federalist Papers who expressed the opinion that a real democracy was likely limited by size – if not him, I know that the thought was widespread in the late 18th and early 19th century). Maybe the nation-states that arose in the 18th century and that we live with today are just to big to support a community. Maybe any polity as big as those around today are doomed to live on conflict, and competition, and hate and not on cooperation. I don’t like to think that, but maybe we can’t live in a cooperative community in the “real world”.
If that is the case, it is even more vital to create our own communities. Our online communities have some force and some reality. Our circle of friends may be most like what we have spent the bulk of our existence as a species living in, but here I want to talk about how special Otherworld is as a model community.
Otherworld is a group of people who have a shared ethos, a shared mission, and a shared viewpoint. They are also fun, welcoming, and interesting. This group of people can create important and powerful experiences. To me it demonstrates how strong and life-changing a group, a community, can be. Otherworld reinforces my view that communities are the ideal polity.
Is there a way that we can structure our governance, our societal organization, to encourage rather than discourage community. Is there a political form that makes the development of health communities more likely? The political systems that I see today rely on competition and distrust to enforce power relationships. There has to be another way, a way that takes advantage of the biological necessity for community as well as the wonderful power of community) and that will not fall prey to the corruption of unbridled power and selfishness. The self is critical, but we must remember that the proto-humans (and current humans) did not survive on the savannah as individuals, rather they did so as a community. Is the world any safer now than it was then? Is there less of a need for the support and protection of a community now than there was then? I, for one, don’t think so.