As I look around me today, here in this future land of 2013, I’ve noticed that there are an even greater number of clubs and associations than I ever imagined possible back in the 1700s. There are city clubs, Rotary clubs, religious associations, non-profits, athletic clubs, social clubs, parent/teacher associations, fraternal orders – the sheer variety boggles my mind!
And yet, I’ve also become aware that there appears to be a decline in the vitality of many such organizations. In fact, a professor at Harvard University named Robert Putnam wrote a book, “Bowling Alone,” in which he notes the growing tendency toward going it alone in 21st century America. He likens it to the decrease in bowling clubs or leagues, which once were an extremely popular pursuit, especially for the number of people like myself who were of the middle class, shopkeepers, or tradespeople.
If this is indeed true, I deeply grieve and decry the trend. The way I saw it in Philadelphia (and I continue to be of the same opinion today), the only way that our society was able to move forward was by joining together.
From my earliest days organizing clubs, neighborhood watches, fire departments, and militias, to my later years advocating the coming together of our thirteen colonies in the common cause of seeking independence and starting a new nation, I felt that people accomplished far more when united for a single purpose than individuals were ever able to achieve alone.
Even my years in France were spent building alliances and relationships, which allowed our new country to succeed in its endeavors (especially in the Revolutionary War).
Back to the present
As I survey the current situation in these United States of 2013 – and, in fact, take note of developments like the desire of certain regions to secede from their state or country (in Colorado, Maine, New Mexico) – I can envision a very dangerous precedent being set. Instead of people coming together for their mutual benefit, they seem to be more inclined to go their own separate ways.
What that does to the social fabric of a nation is frightening to consider. Imagine fewer and fewer people contributing to necessary public services, like firefighting, public safety, health care, maintaining roads, libraries, and the like. As a result, the costs of such operations would be unfairly borne by a decreasing pool of taxpayers.
Consequently, each individual in this declining pool would be asked to shoulder an even bigger burden financially. Ultimately, the cost would be too large for these few to support, and the service would then disappear entirely, for lack of money to continue operating the police department, tending to the repair of roads, or whatever.
Does this country really wish to go in this direction? Rather than having a population continuing to drift apart, it would be far more desirable to come together for the common good.
As I said once, so long ago, we had better hang together, or assuredly we will all hang separately.
Your humble servant,