being well Area

being well during the 2020 pandemic

gary e. davis
May 2020
Spontaneous emergence of clapping and singing on balconies, etc. may feel somewhat trite by now, but it’s never tired to recall that thankfulness and care are the basis of such displays of solidarity—showing dramatically shared feeling of belonging together in the same times: same difficulty, same experience, same ground that holds “Us” constructively together.

And beyond ephemeral unities, the 2020 pandemic has evinced a resurgence of neighborhood. There is “reorganizing around local support groups,” Max Fisher notes about the new normal, “as people instinctively shift toward thinking in terms of their immediate community.”

David Brooks sketches an appealing sense of solidarity in “Screw This Virus!,” that’s useful to consider because he’s improvising in the wake of books of his on “the social animal” and one’s “quest for a moral life”—and he’s instructively misled.

“Through plague eyes,” he writes, “I realize there’s an important distinction between social connection and social solidarity,” such that former is supposedly feeling empathetic toward others and being kind to them.” But actually, that’s what an ethic of care is about, involving degrees of engagement. Caring lives in a continuum of self/[inter]personal differentiality, from civil decency (very differentiated from one’s selfidentity) through solidarity and friendship to intimacy (which is inter-selfal, having little s/p differentiality). A notion of mere connection conceals sensitivity toward kind of relationship and situation. Solidarity is part of the continuum of caring.

“Social solidarity is more tenacious. It’s an active commitment to the common good…” No, solidarity is always issue-specific or event-specific. Commitment to “the” (?) common good expresses the humanism of ethical life altogether, born from appreciation of one’s own humanity scaled up, so to speak, to an appropriate degree of identification with general human interests. What’s active is sensitivity to what’s apt. Solidarity derives from appreciation.

One is civil as a matter of mere decency (nonetheless integral to our humanity), but also as a matter of identification with one’s community as “ours.” The stranger is a civil kindred. In solidarity, “we” are bonded in something specific between us. We feel compassion for the suffering of strangers because we identify with their shared human interests—more than “common,” because it depends on one’s ability to relate aptly, thus to feel shared belonging in the same issue or event.

Brooks says his “concept of solidarity grows out of Catholic social teaching,” but Christian humanism isn’t especially Catholic; rather, it’s especially humanistic, born from Renaissance humanism which traces back to the Hellenistic ethos of first century BCE Palestine.

Brooks says “it starts with a belief in the infinite dignity of each human person,” but there’s nothing infinite about finite life, which calls for appreciation of its finitude. We hold good that the dignity of our being is intrinsic, and therefore believe that human dignity is integral to ethical life.

Brooks “sees people embedded in webs of mutual obligation,” but actually obligation is derivative of human interests held to be intrinsically good (I would argue, in terms derived from a well-known literature on theory of value). Being “embedded in webs” of “one another” (Brooks) is humanistic; and “to all creation,” poetic of Our evolving.

I agree, though, that “solidarity is…an active virtue.” “It’s out of solidarity,” but more, “that health care workers stay on their feet amid terror and fatigue.” It’s a matter of selfidentical belonging to their calling, which, to my mind, may be understood as divinely humanistic in a value-conceptualized sense of ultimate importance.

next—> reason for hope in relation to system




  Be fair. © 2020, gary e. davis