COOL IDEA: Repairing Our Frayed Social Fabric

If you read the news, surf on the Internet or just breathe, it is hard to miss the social fragmentation breaking down the American and global social fabric.  Distrust, polarization, alienation, racism and tribal incivility have crept into our politics, our civic institutions and our Internet culture.   NY Times columnist David Brooks and the Aspen Institute has commenced an effort to replace social isolation, division and distrust with relationship, community and purpose through its Weave: Social Fabric Project.

Brooks theorizes that American is suffering from hyper-individualism, i.e. we have swung too far in the direction of individualism. The result is a loss of connection—a crisis of solidarity. In his 2019 book The Second Mountain, he argues that the central problems of our day flow from this erosion: social isolation, distrust, polarization, the breakdown of family, the loss of community, tribalism, rising suicide rates, rising mental health problems, a spiritual crisis caused by a loss of common purpose, the loss—in nation after nation—of any sense of common solidarity that binds people across difference, the loss of those common stories and causes that foster community, mutuality, comradeship, and purpose.   He fears a cyclical descent into deep national dysfunction absent a moral revolution that restores the importance of interpersonal relationships and the moral foundations that support them.   A moral revolution where “we” must precede “me”.

The Aspen Institute Social Fabric Project seeks to promote and highlight “weavers” who are working to restore this morality through their work or “reweaving the fabric of reciprocity and trust.   They promote an alternative good life; one that is relational.   And one that is balanced between work and play, between self and society and between accomplishment and moral joy.

The “weavers” which the Social Fabric Project looks to promote isn’t necessarily someone who has set-up a nonprofit or some community institution.  These weavers look more like:

  • somebody who invites her neighbors over for dinner.
  • who rents a food truck and then invites everybody on the block to come out and eat.
  • who starts a whiskey club or a craft beer club,
  • who gets the neighborhood caroling at Christmas time, who organizes the cleanup of the park.
  • who think it’s wrong if they don’t know the eight families who live closest to them and they resolve to do something about it.
  • who really do believe that it takes a village to raise a child and they’re perfectly fine when their neighbor reprimands their kid for misbehaving.
  • who hangs out at the local bar striking up conversations with strangers or playing songs about connectedness in the local café.
  • who volunteers for a local mentoring program to help children or struggling families.
  • who works at a library or other civic organizations.

If you consider yourself one of these people, or know someone who is, why not highlight the weaving that they are doing?   The Project has made it possible to celebrate weavers in your community.   Connect with the Social Fabric Project and share your stories with them.

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