Tag Archives: community

Trying to Fix a Missing Stair

Recently, my corner of social media has lit up with a somewhat complicated controversy. The details of it are important but aren’t important for me here. This was a case of a missing stair and the people who wanted to fix it. I don’t have the time right now to construct the beautiful evolution of the metaphor that would have been here, so let me cut to the chase. Communities can be thought of as networks of relationships. Each relationship may not be critical to every other relationship but many relationships rely on the existence of a few relationships. “Fixing a missing stair” implies that you can simply replace that hole with a new stair, but really, when you take out a community problem you are often ripping apart that problem from their existing relationships, which changes what the community as a whole is.

What happened was, I feel, effectively a party split. For some people, the existence of the party as-it-was is the most important thing, because that idealized party is what they associate with good things. Their main concern is that their community as-they-know-it is being threatened. The other side will have members with one of two characteristics. First, they may be relatively unconnected from the “missing stair”, so they aren’t as threatened because their relationships aren’t being attacked. Second, they may be committed to the effort of reforming such a community without the problem of that missing stair.

To use the crude metaphor that I had been trying to avoid, when you fix a missing stair, you are not replacing one stair, you are ripping down the staircase and building a new one. Let’s say it’s a Model X staircase (I’m sure they don’t have “models” but go with it). Some people will only be satisfied with another Model X staircase. Some people will not even trust that a new Model X staircase can be properly built and so they’re against fixing it in the first place, even if they think the missing stair is a real problem.

Some people just want to be able to get from one level to the other. We have to ask ourselves: is having the exact same staircase more important than being able to get up and down without tripping?