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  • Writer's picturePSBN David

Why Neighbour is spelled with a U - Sorry, Americans!

This month, I was going to write about the history of our school and instructor KJN McCondach. However, given the world’s circumstances, it feels appropriate to put that on a hiatus for now as well.

Instead, I’m going to discuss the importance of community. I’ll tie it in to martial arts as well, don’t worry.

I’m sure there’s many different definitions of what makes a community. In this case, I’m going to define a community very loosely, defining it more through examples. These types of things I feel are better defined in a “spirit of the law rather than the letter” sort of way. So at its very base, I define a community simply as a collection of people who, in some way, are looking out for each other.

In small communities, this is a lot easier to accomplish as you either know everyone personally, or are only very shortly removed from knowing that person. This is like how you “kind of know” your friend’s grandparents, even if you’ve never met them. This is easier for people to manage as there’s no anonymity. Accidents aside, if your actions ended up harming your friend’s grandparents, you’d feel some level of direct responsibility.

Now step up a level to a city. You can’t possibly know everyone and your actions can affect someone you’ll never meet. This is where communities become a little looser, it becomes easier to “look out for number one” when you won’t be confronted by any potential negative consequences of that action. Now it would be naïve to tell someone they shouldn’t be acting this way, at least to a degree. At a certain point, you have to look out for yourself or there’s a good chance no one will. This is where the dichotomy rears up. A whole neighbourhood of people looking out for just themselves is going to break down quickly; but in a neighbourhood of do-gooders, a single bad actor can come in and reap a huge amount of undue rewards by taking advantage. I’m sure there’s a very extensive thesis on the game theory of this out there.

So how does this get balanced? The world isn’t just a 50/50 split of generous and selfish. This is where each society’s values come heavily into play. Laws mitigate the most egregious offences, but communities are where the cracks are filled in. It’s not illegal, but it’s generally “frowned upon”.

Now enter in a disaster. Earthquake, flood, economy crashing, a virus. Suddenly the internal equation shifts. The benefits you get from looking out for your elderly neighbor are now being heavily outweighed by the benefits of buying that extra bit for yourself instead. This is where you’ll see someone’s personal morals come out. To be able to take a hard look at what’s happening, see the benefit to yourself, and be able to say you’ll go without. You don’t know the person you’re helping. Your kindness may be taken advantage of as the next person comes through and sweeps up all those supplies. But you do it anyways. Because maybe the person you help turns out to be your friend’s grandmother. Or someone else’s. At that point, you make a moral judgement on the anonymous “next person” and figure that, yes, they’re worth giving a bit of a helping hand.

Now, as I tuck my soapbox away, I said I would tie this back into martial arts. Martial arts have tons of benefits which I’ve gone into in previous posts, but they are still militaristic in origin. Largely developed as a way to defend yourself and, you guessed it, your community. One of the often-overlooked benefits (and teachings) of martial arts is the camaraderie. This is especially strong in arts like Kuk Sool Won, where there is a strong drive to have everyone learning the exact same thing, no matter who you’re learning it from or where you are in the world. Getting our practice just right is what unites everyone into a community. I could leave tomorrow and travel halfway across the world to another school where I couldn’t even speak the local language, yet I could still easily get through another instructor’s class.

…Quarantine notwithstanding, of course.

This sense of community is part of what drives people to be better, to build something up together rather than to tear pieces off for yourself. I want to contribute to the community because everyone can benefit from that. So does your shard look better in your hands or in the mosaic with a thousand others?

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