Daniel Patrick Moynihan
If the cliché “Ignorance is Bliss” were true, legal marijuana would go up in smoke. Our ignorance would be sufficient to keep us happily stoned. In our state of Bliss, we would be sublimely governed, assured that our rights were fully secured and knowing that our daily bread would produce loaves plentiful enough for generations. Would World Peace be far behind for dummies and cafones?
But as that bothersomely observant Greek Plato said about ignorance and its consequences, “Those who believe they are too smart to engage in politics are punished by being governed by those who are dumber.” (Write in your own association to modern times here. _________ I’ll wait.)
One of my heroes, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, was a sharp observer of the human community. He famously reported on the utter collapse of the family and the coarsening of our social relations. He concluded famously, “We have defined deviancy downward.”
But here’s the good news: many of his acolytes grew less tolerant of bad behavior even as it became the norm. How could we not? It makes us crazy. It is no one’s goal to live in a time when mental health is defined by the phrase, “If you are not schizophrenic, you just are not thinking clearly.”
Another cliché now applies. “It is darkest before the dawn.” There is much going on in society to revive it. At the Intelligent Community Forum, we are not a “think” tank so much as an “action tank.” And our actions are an attempt to move each community forward to a better place. Best practices teach us.
Can You Wait 200 Years for Your City to Get Better?
As he watched smaller cities decay, a frustrated Senator Moynihan was asked how to make a great and prosperous city. He thought for a moment and joked, “Build a great university and wait 200 years.”
For sure. But who has that kind of time these days?
The small band of brothers and sisters we call the Intelligent Community Forum certainly do not. Patience, yes. An ability to learn, for sure. But there is little time for the endless warring and the tenor of grievances that permeate societies. We have cities to build and to rebuild. Leaders of Intelligent Communities believe they have the tools to get the job done. The ICF Method among them.
The qualifying difference between citizens of an Intelligent Community and those stuck in low gear will be familiar to you. It is a gap in human behavior as vast as the Grand Canyon. It is the difference between those who know it all and those who are SURE that they do not. This admission of their ignorance is the viral strain for their cure. An alcoholic who finally admits, “I am a drunk,” has not necessarily had their last drink, but they have had their first day of recovery. Those who are confident enough and committed enough to admit that someone else in the world has the same issue and challenge, and may have a path forward, are members of an Intelligent Community in the making.
Psychologically the difference between “smart cities” and Intelligent Communities rests on this notion. Intelligent Communities are governed by bright people who are forever asking how to holistically get it right.
They Know Something that “Old Eagle Beak” Taught Me
The Sisters of the Holy Trinity
The Sisters of the Holy Trinity were a small band of very dedicated nuns who were my first educators. Their objective was to activate and reinforce a desire to learn and in doing so to seek the assurance of a greater happiness – or else! I can only imagine what Sister Mary Pauline (“Old Eagle Beak” we called her) would have said about today’s deviancy (twerking on TikTok on a supermarket floor comes to mind) and surrender of community.
But I digress.
“Eagle Beak” would have loved the concept of the Intelligent Community. She was a student of the meaningful twist of phrase, and she often repeated the one I still rely on. Religion, she noted as wryly as Moynihan and as profoundly as Plato, is a “practice” because no one gets it right. Grace – and the inevitable fruit of grace, success – comes when you accept that fact. But there is a final step. That you bring to your community what you know, join and enjoy the search and wait 200 years if you must. But hurry the hell up!
Hence, Intelligent Communities.