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Cooperation, Community and the Common Good
(Adapted from "We Don't Agree, but...," by Paul "the soaring" Siegel

The benefits of cooperation are obvious. You help her and she helps you. As Bob Burg puts it, you enjoy a "win-win" situation.

The benefits of cooperation are greater than you may think. The benefits to you as an individual increase substantially when you cooperate with members of a self-interest group, thus building a strong community.

The benefits of your self-interest community cooperating for the common good with other self-interest communities, are great enough to prevent terrorism.

Individual and Community

We, in the United States, believe in individualism. We therefore tend to avoid community building. But merely by becoming more involved in a community does not make you any less of an individual. There is no conflict between individuality and community. The individual vs. community conflict is a myth.

I want to emphasize this. As an individual, you have many rights. None of these rights are impacted when you voluntarily decide to work for a community. On the contrary, the more you work for a community, the stronger the community becomes, and the more the entire community can better protect your rights as an individual.

The Common Good

Though it may not be in fashion today, the common good should be a major concern of all citizens. As Montesquieu has said:

"The virtuous citizen was one who understood that personal welfare is dependent on the general welfare and could be expected to act accordingly."

For years the common good has been the subject of intense debate. At one time those who were toiling to improve the lot of low-paid workers insisted they were working for the public interest or the common good; business people claimed they were working for their own self-interest. People working for the homeless believe they are working for the common good, though many consider these selfless individuals as part of a self-interest group. Even civil rights lawyers are considered by some to be part of a self-interest group.

The question, then, is: "What is the common good?"

I am sure that anyone who lived through the events of September 11 would agree that preventing terrorism is a common good. Terrorism has harmed, not only the families and friends of those killed, but employers and employees throughout the land. Our soldiers have gone to war and some were killed. Industries have suffered. Tourism declined precipitously. Relationships among people have changed. Many of us live in constant fear of the next terrorist attack.

Because the September 11 attacks affected all of us, preventing such a catastrophe from happening in the future is a common good.

Community Breakdown

If you analyze the September 11 massacre, you will come to the realization that it was caused by a breakdown in the community - the world community. If, indeed, there were a thriving, cooperative world community, I believe such an atrocious attack would not occur. There is no real world community. The globe is divided into many different nations, each working at its own so-called self-interest. Competition rules. Terrorism results.

Self-centered actions occur at all levels, not merely among nations and religions. Because each person is concerned only with himself, there is a complete breakdown of the community. This happens with reference to individual members of a community and also with reference to specific groups within a larger community. The resulting terrorism occurs at all levels:

When the Columbine High School community broke down, Harris and Klebold killed their fellow students.

When the business community broke down, Ken Lay and the other "barons of bankruptcy" (as the Financial Times called them) caused over 90,000 people to be thrown out of work and investors to lose over $200 billion, which resulted in economic terror.

When the national community broke down, Timothy McVeigh bombed the Oklahoma City Federal building and terrified Oklahoma and the rest of the country.

When the world community broke down, Atta and the other 18 suicide bombers produced the outrageous September 11 attack against the U.S.

Community Harmony

If community breakdown is the cause of terrorism, building community harmony should be an excellent way of preventing terrorism. To achieve community harmony:

- Stop thinking as an individual. None of us is alone. We are all members of society.

- Learn to cooperate with members of your group in order to make the group a true community.

- Instead of always being focused on self-interest, get your self-interest communities to seek the common good.

- Work together with other communities - including antagonistic ones - to achieve mutual goals, thereby encouraging harmony.

- Act as a Global citizen. Consider the common good for the world, not merely for your country.

As a citizen of the Globe, going about your daily business and other activities, you can prevent terrorism by being more cooperative, building communities and working for the common good.

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