New Story New Way


Language Matters When Creating Change

Diversity, Personal Sovereignty and Community

There were 20 people on the call, people from all over the world. Some people like Kris sat quietly as they listened to the Coffee Connections conversation. Others like Meghan, Kathi and Linda were passionately sharing their ideas.  The question on the table was “I believe Happy Communities __________________. Fill in the blank.

People dove into the deep end and got into the real substance of the question.  Farida, an English teacher from Colombia, wondered whether happiness is possible unless you have the basic needs satisfied first. Asem was raised in Jordan and now lives in the Netherlands. He has observed the corrosive effect wealth has on community cohesion.  Mike lives in a small village in England near Wales. He brought out the importance of how local control over centralized control affects community wellbeing. Others from North America engaged in conversations about family, belonging and caring.

What we have learned is that community is a complicated, dynamic place and the best people to know what makes their community a happy community are the people who live there. And so the first seeds of a movement have been planted – a movement to put control of community into the hands of people who live in community.

Community or Personal Sovereignty

After the Coffee Connections conversation was over, Kris who lives in South Carolina, USA, reached out to me by email with the challenge:  Is community and individual sovereignty compatible? WOW. What a great question.

So we set up a call to explore the idea in depth.

Language Matters

Kris is studying for her Masters Degree in “Engaged Humanity and the Creative Life”. Kris and I talked a lot about diversity and how important inclusion and equality are to our society. But this language itself is exclusionary. There is a ‘we’ and a ‘them’ that is inherent in this language. There is the ’we’ who are ‘including’ ‘them’ who are ‘diverse’ from ‘us’ and this already sets up a power difference of inequality no matter what the good intentions are. The language does not match the intentions.

A Movement to Create a New Story

At the Happy Community Project, we are in the early stages of creating a movement.  The audacious goal is enabling people who want to live in happier communities to create new story for our society – a new story to succeed the old story handed down to us by the elites of business and government over the last one hundred years. Why a new story? We tend to act in accordance with the story we live within. Perhaps the story that puts economic growth and personal freedom first is past its prime and perhaps another story could serve us better? Perhaps the people who are living everyday in the communities where they work, raise families and socialize know what story they would like to live by? Perhaps their story places Happy Communities First before economic growth, polarizing agendas and diminishing our humanity?

If we are ever to have a new story, the language the story uses is critically important and that is where Kris comes in.

New Questions for a New Story

In raising the question whether community and personal sovereignty are compatible, Kris is redefining the question. Most, if not all of us, would agree that personal sovereignty is important for our sense personal happiness. Who likes people ‘doing things to them’?  We need to be able to be ourselves and not have others do unto ourselves in ways we do not want. But at the same time, personal sovereignty without community is also bereft of happiness. We need others around us for us to be fully human.

And so – perhaps in our new story we have Happy Communities that are places where we can be ourselves while enjoying social connectedness, belonging and the caring of others? In a Happy Community we can enjoy ‘personall sovereignty’ while having our ‘personal sovereignty’ validated by the community while we in turn validate the personal sovereignty of others by providing meaningful support and caring.

In this kind of community, we don’t need to use words like diversity or label diversity with color, gender, race, religion, language etc. We honour each other for our personal sovereignty. What an idea?

Thank you Kris for your insightful thoughts. It’s ideas like these that can shape our future story.

Who Gets to Make the New Story

If you want to be part of these conversations, the next one is February 3rd. You can register here.

If you have your own thoughts about “I believe Happy Communities_________________. Drop me a line: barry@happycommunityproject.com.

If you want to know more about the Happy Community movement –  watch this?

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