Opening up Pilisuk and Parks (1986), the first thought that came to mind is that laughter is the best medicine. Given that healthy and supportive community is necessary for our physical and emotional health and well-being, this should be obvious to most.
Even though Pilisuk and Parks temper their remarks, cautioning us “not to generalize too much …, especially since they all deal with psychological consequences of insufficient support,” and stressors differ from person to person and from community to community they bring up some interesting ideas that support some of my personal observations. While the Western medical professional has evolved since the days of suppressing folk and community medicine and are beginning to acknowledge these adjuncts, there is still much work to be done, as I see it, if all the sciences, clinical, medical (especially in the area of medical specialization that does not treat the whole patient as a person, rather than as an object to experiment on), folk, et al, are to work together to improve communities by considering the person as a whole as well as their personal support system, their place in the community as well as the social, emotional, and spiritual support system that the community provides to the individual. What is particularly unfortunate but not surprising to me is the minimal support system and social networks of individuals suffering with major and not so major psychiatric illness as there are in my family, especially since Pilisuk and Parks indicate its normality for this population. What is particularly intriguing is the size of one’s social network of friends and contacts in relation to mental health, but given the fractured state of societies and individuals; I don’t wonder that I want to start an intentional community with like-minded individuals to help and support each other in addition to growing our own food. Honestly, I see a very vital, powerful, and evolutionary support system here at Saybrook that I have never seen in any other educational environment.
The interview with Len Duhl supports Pilisuk and Parks’ ideas in such a way as to provide me with real world example of community planning that I want to see locally and in my lifetime. Duhl voices similar frustrations and confirmations of mine that are similar, that government and the people that control it are completely self-absorbed and self-interested and much of what is intended to uplift in this society and others is a threat to the power structure. The solution is either compliance and submission, rejection of that power structure or compromise. I can see two options in my future work but never submission when the evolution of lives within healthy cities is concerned.
In the end like Duhl, since historically in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, the United States, possibly as I see it, because of heavy micromanaging of infrastructure and ordinances that prohibit creative problem solving, is a late-adapter of progressive solutions. Duhl, in his frustration with getting it done here, managed to generate interest outside of the United States until areas of the United States was forced to pay attention to results and adapt. Some countries and some cities have become so large as to be unmanageable unless broken down into sectors, political (most likely) or otherwise. Most intriguingly, he has developed Healthy Cities in such a way as to incorporate individuals in each city sector to come together, assess and take stock of individual skill sets and organize themselves into a unit that functions, to me, like an asset-based community development unit (ABCD). What is key, though, is the enthusiasm of the members of the cities and his presentation and recruitment of them as members of the “steering committee”. This is key, and stating that it needs to be implemented world-wide is both an enthusiastic cheer and an understatement for me.
Flower further expands on Duhl’s Healthy Cities initiative interview in Healthy cities – healthy communities by providing an intriguing plan of action with elements that I have seen in other publications. It’s somewhat utopian in intent but practical in design involving politics, human disagreements, and long involving many meetings. If I care about my community, I’ll keep the ultimate goal in mind and “keep my eye on the prize,” so to speak. Communities worth saving and fighting for require lovers, activists, and organizers that see the end result and are willing to work for it. And like anything else except demagogic governments controlled by dictators, communities require communities of optimistic individuals willing to work for it to succeed.
Having said all of the above and read the accompanying literature, I can only ask, how and where can we do this immediately in our own communities because it certainly isn’t one of the many communities where it has been implemented.
Pilisuk, M., & Parks, S. H. (1986). The healing web. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England. (pp. 29-61).
Flower, J. (1993). Building healthy cities: Excerpts from a conversation with Leonard J. Duhl, M.D. Retrieved from http://www.well.com/~bbear/ (Links to an external site.)
Flower, J. (1996). Healthy cities – healthy communities. Retrieved from http://www.well.com/~bbear/ (Links to an external site.)