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