Interdependence and Care

There’s a contrarian, anti-authoritarian, demand-avoidant, coercion-rejecting, anti-social core to me that made me an atheist amidst Southern Baptist patriarchal authoritarianism at age eleven. I credit those tendencies as inoculative in that case, but they also made me susceptible to individualism framing, framing heavily reinforced by my experience as a “roaming autodidact” benefiting from meritocracy myth and savant narratives and perceiving the world through the white-male effect.

Those who helped me out of my individualism framing were fellow contrarian, anti-authoritarian, demand-avoidant, coercion-rejecting, and anti-social neurodivergents. Many of them had shorter roads or no roads at all to shucking the framing of individualism for interdependence. I read in the neurodiversity and disability communities of the less privileged and lucky roads.

My coworkers at Automattic also helped me. I need a team. My particular spiky profile is really good at some things, and completely incapable at others. I couldn’t have started Automattic myself without a team, and I couldn’t have kept going there without a team that centers care.

This rumination is brought on by these two quotes I came across today.

Putting care—not just care work, but care—at the center of our economy, our politics, is to orient ourselves around our interdependence.

Source: The Year That Broke Care Work | The New Republic

care work makes all other work possible

Source: Care for All Agenda

My time in the neurodiversity and disability rights movement and my time helping build teams and companies has taught me the beautiful inevitability of interdependence and the necessity of care.

The notion of disability in our society is underscored by a bizarre conception of “independence”.

It is time to celebrate our interdependence!

Source: The Myth of Independence: How The Social Model of Disability Exposes Society’s Double Standards » NeuroClastic

The Western conception of the person as a bounded, unique, more or less integrated motivational and cognitive universe, a dynamic center of awareness, emotion, judgment, and action organized into a distinctive whole and set contrastively against both other such wholes and against its social and natural background, is, however incorrigible it may seem to us, a rather peculiar idea within the context of the world’s cultures.

In America, the individual is almost always the point of reference for thinking about success, about morality, about how children are educated and what defines adulthood. It’s about me, not us. As I argued recently, the astonishing selfishness of people who refuse to wear masks or restrict their activities during an epidemic – putting their “liberty” to do whatever they please above a sense of responsibility to (let alone concern for) the well-being of others – is really just an amplified version of what our whole culture represents.

Most of us are no more aware of the individualistic worldview that shapes us and defines our culture than a fish is aware of being in water. This is the context in which to understand how the central lesson in American schools, as Philip Jackson memorably put it, is “how to be alone in a crowd.” Learning is regarded as an activity for a roomful of separate selves, not for a community. One of my elementary school teachers used to trumpet, “Eyes on your own paper! I want to see what you can do, not what your neighbor can do!” This announcement, which issued from her with all the thoughtfulness of a sneeze, annoyed me at the time mostly for its contrived use of the word neighbor. Later I came to realize how misconceived the whole posture was. An impossibly precocious student might have turned to that teacher and said, “So you want to see what happens when I’m stripped of the resources and social support that characterize most well-functioning real-world environments? Geez, why wouldn’t you want to see how much more my ‘neighbors’ and I could accomplish together?”

Decades’ worth of research demonstrates the benefits of cooperative learning (CL) — an arrangement in which students of all ages and in just about all subjects figure stuff out together, in pairs or small groups.6 CL isn’t just about dividing kids into teams; it’s about creating “positive interdependence,” meaning that assignments are constructed so as to foster active collaboration.

But the larger point is that it doesn’t make sense to think of achievement in a purely individualistic way, as we do in schools, workplaces, and our society more generally. Tackling tasks together — particularly but not exclusively for people already predisposed toward interdependence — is usually a lot more productive.

Not only should we offer opportunities to learn and work cooperatively — the whole idea of achievement should be reframed to reflect collective accomplishment.

Source: All of Us Are Smarter Than Any of Us – Alfie Kohn

Do you know why we have the sunflowers? It’s not because Vincent van Gogh suffered. It’s because Vincent van Gogh had a brother who loved him. Through all the pain, he had a tether, a connection to the world. And that is the focus of the story we need. Connection.

Source: Hannah Gadsby: Nanette – Netflix

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