There’s a lot of reasons to be pessimistic about the future of humanity. Here’s why I am an optimist.
Read this to give yourself a dose of optimism and to learn about the potential of community to save humanity.
Let me tell you about a legend in the pharma industry.
There was once a medicine with infinite healing capacity. It had an infinite supply. It was free and accessible to all humans. It required very little technical expertise to manufacture or administer. Every human, regardless of their age, could naturally manufacture it at any point.
Sounds unrealistic, doesn’t it?
Well, it’s not. This medicine exists today. The research still suggests its superiority. And, all humans still have access to it.
That medicine is called community.
Community is a type of a social network characterized by regular and supportive human contact, and a feeling of mutual care and cooperativity.
When I studied pharmacology in school, I didn’t believe in such a legend. I thought drugs had no replacements. I thought prescriptions were necessary for optimal longevity. My classmates and I listened and absorbed what our professors taught. We had become indoctrinated.
Then, I started leading street parties. And my life changed. I had discovered a phenomenon that was much more powerful than any medication I had taken. That phenomenon was mass emotional connection.
Emotional connection is felt. It occurs through touch, eye contact, and shared expression. Emotional connection can also occur through intellectual connection, or ‘knowing’ someone.
Ecstatic partying aside, I had discovered the power of unified human expression and synchrony. And, my path took a turn. I started exploring public health and substance use, and the role that human contact plays as a preventive. There was no going back to conventional medicine after that.
During my study of public health, the seeds of my current life philosophy had been sewn. Never would I have known that I would be such a community geek after 5 years had passed.
Never would I have known that my life’s mission would be to restore human contact in western culture, because of the strong-held belief that it’s the most effective health-hack on the planet.
How I have evolved… 😅
I believe community can solve the societal problems of our time. When you study these problems, it’s difficult to not catch the pessimism flu.
Let’s take a dive into the societal problems of western culture (modernized, urban life in most of the world). Let’s focus on America, and begin with the leading causes of death in America.
Cardiovascular diseases, Cancer, Alzheimer’s. These are all lifestyle diseases. And accidents? Well, what if I told you that this category is dominated by motor vehicle accidents. Hmmm. Sounds to me like these deaths might also be related to our lifestyles. Hint: Alcohol consumption.
Now, let’s talk about suicide, loneliness, and depression. Yep, let’s go dark. The statistics are dark as well. Even before the introduction of the iPhone, all three have been going up.
In summary, the American way of life has a problem. Mental health is declining rapidly and the greatest leading causes of death are inactivity-, diet-, and alcohol-related. We’re not a very healthy culture.
But there’s more to be pessimistic about, isn’t there? There are gender wars, racial wars, pay-equity wars, privilege wars… and these wars are pretty much happening between two political poles.
Finally, there’s the war waged by technology. What I mean by this, is the constant struggle between our discipline and intentions and the allure of social media and screen time. We are being sucked into their devices. Our happiness is being dissolved by the commoditization of attention.
— wow. Lot’s to be unhappy about. Preventable diseases, tech-addicts, and seemingly un-bridgable divides. Western culture sure is great.
There’s a solution to all of this.
Community is the antidote.
Community is the medicine.
Community is the solution.
Well, not the root solution. But an intermediary for sure.
Let me tell you why.
Community has the potential to cure our culture’s preventable diseases, tech-addictions, and political divides. Sure. But how do we create community?
To create community for all requires communitarianism: a shift in our cultural values from individualism to collectivism. From ego to unity. From personal achievement to group achievement. It takes a systems approach. To make community the default way of life requires an overhaul of western culture. Then, community can work its medical magic by reinforcing the social bonds, peer support, and social trust in our cities.
This is another article entirely. So let’s focus on how community can heal the big three sources of pessimism for humanity.
Relationships reduce our stress, a factor in all the leading preventable causes of death. Close relationships are the greatest protective factor against mortality according to research in Growing Young by Marta Zaraska. Specifically, ‘committed romantic relationships’ have almost twice the effect of diet or exercise.
Human contact, both physical and emotional, releases oxytocin. And this is a stress-reducing neurotransmitter.
There’s a lot of research about the links between mortality and relationships. I am not going to bore you. All I will say is that relationships are good for preventing lifestyle diseases and recovering from them. The mechanisms involve stress, leisure time, time outdoors, and likely many more!
Community is the bedrock that naturally creates these protective relationships.
The opposite of addiction is connection, said Gabor Mate, the renowned addictions physician from my hometown of Vancouver Canada.
When we have peer support, we can cope with cravings. We can rely on others in difficult periods when we’re likely to relapse. We can talk to people about our issues.
Not only are caring relationships a means out of addiction, but they are also a means to prevent it. When we spend more time with others, we spend less time on screens. When we are enjoying the company of others, we are less likely to give into the instant gratification machines. Being alone can lead us into a downward spiral. Social connection is a much healthier distraction from any discomfort.
The mere exposure effect: The more we see someone, the more we like them. Interacting over social media breaks this rule, because we do not experience the emotions and humanity of others.
The more we hear each others stories in real life, the more we cooperate and care for one another, the more we learn about each other, the more we feel each other’s emotions, the less likely we are to label, accuse, and stereotype “the other.”
Community and cooperation go hand in hand. And cooperation leads to the breakdown of hatred and othering. When we come together in person, we see the virtues in one another more than we fault-find each others’ dogma.
For all of this to happen, community must be face-to-face. This is why I define community as involving human contact! It is very difficult to hold contact with another through the internet.
I guess this means that we community builders need to spend more time building REAL communities, instead of merely online ones.
More technology is not the solution.
More money is not the solution.
More GDP is not the solution.
The solution is simple.
Design our societal systems to foster community, not competitiveness. To cultivate understanding, not stereotyping. To boost social trust, not cynicism.
Community is the antidote. It is the medicine we have been waiting to develop. It is the penicillin of the 21st century.
— The Party Scientist
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