What Tuesday Feels Like in Our Time

A healthy community is one in which a reasonable person may expect to find basic goodwill, common sense, and a foundational level of mutual respect in the majority of his fellow men. This man will, in other words, live his daily life as though these conditions may be presumed to obtain in ordinary circumstances, though of course understanding, in theory, that there will sometimes be unfortunate exceptions.

An unhealthy community, by contrast, is one in which that same reasonable person must presume that he is alone in most situations, and not merely alone but isolated. He must assume that most of his fellows would be unmoved by his pain, and even willing to cause it in the name of achieving a perceived benefit, however small, for themselves. He must inure himself to the reflection that his most reasonable and moderate thoughts and choices will regularly be treated as threats to the community and offenses against the common good.

In a healthy community, a reasonable man may view everyone as a potential friend, and perhaps even fall into naiveté about other men’s motives or abilities. In an unhealthy community, by contrast, he may expect to be friendless, would be wise to harden himself to this likelihood — and will therefore have to exert increasingly painful, because usually fruitless, efforts to keep his heart open to even the possibility of an exception to this expectation.

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