Meet Hugh McKay “the art of belonging: it is not where you live, but how you live”

Meet Hugh McKay “the art of belonging: it is not where you live, but how you live”

– Evolutionary theory: humans are relentlessly intent on looking out for number 1
– it is not in our nature to be altruistic
– MacKay believes we are both (at times)
– we are social by nature, & therefore we are also born to cooperate rather than merely compete & respond only to our self-interest
– for e.g. Humans are not very good at living alone (despite there being isolates in our society)
– cooperation establishes communities (physical safety & emotional security – our mental health depends upon having robust, stable, cohesive & harmonious communities)
– communities do not just happen “spontaneously”
– the human dilemma
– we are social beings
– & unique, independent individuals
[this creates struggles & confusion as we reconcile social & individual interests][independence & inter-dependance]
– civil society involves us behaving cooperatively
– team sports symbolise e hunt, the battle & the need to cooperate to be successful
– he discusses the “fantasy” of the village where we could really fulfil our desire for community (warm, friendly, & respectful) & yet it is a fantasy because we cannot go back because of modern technical advances
– high-rises are called “vertical villages”
– & yet we know that density paradoxically drives humans apart & more jealous of our guarding our privacy
– life in Australian society has changed radically over the last 30 or 40 years
– change (which we have welcomed) he believes works against community, increasing fragmentation, & the sense of isolation & loneliness

Primary Factors influencing a sense of community
A) Marriages:
– 1974: approx 8% of marriages ended in divorce
– today: 35 to 40% of contemporary marriages end in divorce [Source: Institute of Family Studies]
– impacts family, children, streets, neighbourhoods
– 1,000,000 Aussie children live with one parent
– 500,000 of these same kids make a weekly or fortnightly mass migration every between households containing the custodial and non-custodial parent
– this is always disruptive. For the child, parents & neighbourhood friendships circles
– 25% of all households that contain dependent children, are single parent households
B) Birthdate
– today: 1.8 children per woman
– 1961 (end of baby boom): 3.6 children per woman
– replacement birth rate is 2.1 children per woman
– Australia is currently producing the smallest generation of children ever produced in Australia relative to the total population
– many implications
– children can act as “social lubricant”
– he notes pet ownership has conversely gone up (as child substitutes)
C) Rise of the 2 income household to sustain the desired standard of living
– means everyone is busier
– there is not the time for incidntal neighbourhood interactions
D) Shrinking household (demographic shifts)
– today: the average Australian household contains 2.5 people
– single person households account for 27% of all Australian households
– 2 person household accounts for a further 26% of all Australian households
– more people than ever before in Australia’s history are living alone or with just one other person
– 100 years ago – as high as 8 people in a single household
– today: problems of loneliness, alienation, social exclusion,
E) Mobile population
– today Australians move house every 6 years (same as the USA)
F) universal car ownership
– implication: dramatically reduced footpath traffic in neighbourhoods
G) IT Revolution
– creates the illusion we are all connected
– rather than in ten traditional face-to-face human way
– discusses research in this area (noting it can be highly political/motivated to produce particular outcomes), but what he believes is clear as a result of reaearch is as follows:
– redefining privacy
– redefining identity (multiple online identities)
– online is clever & connecting
– nonetheless he believes it reduces the richness of human communication face-to-face (facial expression, tone of voice, posture, rate of speech, eye contact, gesture)

All this change means it is harder for neighbourhoods to function
– to compensate, we need to work at community, like we do with friends, marriage etc.,
– requires personal determination

Carl Rogers: [reporting about his clients] – when my my clients come to a real understanding of who they are – it is to realise they are not alone & that their identity depends upon being part of a family, an organisation, a community, a neighbourhood of some kind.

You don’t know who you are until you know where you belong.

Source: ANU Podcast | date: 5 November 2014


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