cannot create, plan or even attempt to rebuild a city like Florence.It has to grow - like an ecosystem.And this is why cities like Florence and regions like Tuscany
can be said to be resilient.Left
to themselves, they evolve, grow new centres and repair local damage
without ever losing their organic harmony.This is apparent in Frances Mays’ beautifully illustrated
book on Tuscanywhich
shows how public places invite and support a sense of community
reflecting Philia values.
is the bouncing back of an ecosystem, human or physical, individual
or collective, to its original form after a shock or a stress.This concept is closely related to Philia by the emphasis on
interconnectedness.Aristotle thought that human beings are by nature political
animals - zoon politikon -
meaning that it is in their very nature to live in communities.Thomas Hobbes, who inspired a certain form of liberalism,
believed the opposite to be the case: that man is a wolf to man -
homo homini lupus.Adopting
the Aristotelian rather than the liberal perspective has important
consequences.Social engineering corresponds to a vision of society as a
passive machine, an artificial collection of private individuals.The Aristotelian concept of society as a living community of
social animals requires what I would call a “natural model of
social action”, a model inspired by Hippocratic principles, the
first of which is “firstly, do no harm”: Primum non nocere!
Social change in this perspective consists chiefly in removing
obstacles to communities’ self-healing powers.Five types of social actions flow from this natural model for
A liberating action removes the obstacles that prevent
people’s natural sociability. Some of these obstacles can be
legal, financial, psychological and institutional. Our systems of
caring have often unwittingly created dependency on services.
Creating individualized funding or direct payments could be an
example of a liberating action.
These actions are about avoiding or stopping certain
behaviours. For example boycotting a certain product or socially
irresponsible corporation are inhibiting actions. ‘Turn off the TV
Week’ or ‘Buy Nothing Day’ are other examples. Producing
consumer guides and rating systems promote inhibiting actions. In
social services stopping the use of terms like client and caseload
could inhibit the treatment of people as objects within the system.
actions could also be considered homeopathic. They are the small
actions of ‘the right dose at the right time.’ When the timing
and dose are just right the effect is large. Such actions may
trigger a breakthrough in how people or communities view themselves.
Our systems of care often override timing or prescribe the same dose
Inspiring actions connect people to meaning. They remind us
that there is something larger than ourselves. Viewing art, writing
or reading poetry, engaging in dialogue and walking in a beautiful
garden can all be acts of inspiration. How can our systems of care
inspire both those giving and receiving care?
People and communities need daily nurturing to remain
intrinsically at their best. Nurturing actions consist of planning
time and space to make room for the small miracles of daily lif: the
sense of wonder one feels at beauty glimpsed in a finely crafted
object or furniture, a painting briefly lit by a ray of sunshine ...
As Blake said :
who binds to himself a joy
the winged life destroy
he who kisses the joy as it flies
in eternity’s sunrise
we need to learn to see eternity’s sunrise in the smile of the
strangers we meet and that, smiling back, we choose to include
in our world.