A Philosopher's Blog

The Tree of Community

Posted in Miscellaneous, Philosophy by Michael LaBossiere on September 18, 2011

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While I was doing some touch up painting on Thursday, a storm suddenly rolled in with wind, rain and a little thunder. As I was packing up my gear, I heard a tree fall. I went out to look and saw that it had fallen across the road in my home owners’ association. While it did not block my way out it did block some of my neighbors. Naturally, I went out to move the debris.

As I was clearing the debris, two of my neighbors came out. One woman helped as best she could with the branches and the other went to find out who to call about a huge tree in the road. The boyfriend of another neighbor came out and helped until he had to go, but he said he would be back with a winch to pull the tree out of the way. Another neighbor came out and offered to help clean up things, once the storm passed. At that moment, the rain began to pour down. Since we had cleared enough debris to allow people to get by the tree, everyone retreated from the rain.

While this was just a small thing, it does show what is best about people: our ability to join together to do good-even if it is just something like clearing a path through debris so that a neighbor coming home from work can get to her house. It is easy to forget that we are bound together by ties of our shared humanity and that being there for each other, even for the little things, is an essential part of being a good person.

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20 Responses

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  1. ajmacdonaldjr said, on September 18, 2011 at 9:53 am

    So very true. I was living in downtown Little Rock, Arkansas when an F-3 tornado ripped through the area only a block from my home. Needless to say it caused tremendous damage and the entire community was immediately involved in pulling people from the wreckage what were, only moments earlier, homes and businesses. Disasters force us out of our comfort zones and our isolation and force us to prioritize. People are more important than things, or money. It’s too bad most people don’t seem to realize this fact because, if we did, there would be far fewer wars, executions, and abortions. And perhaps better driver training as well, to prevent the over 40,000 death that occur on America’s highways each and every year, all of which are preventable.

  2. magus71 said, on September 18, 2011 at 11:12 am

    High trust society. This only happens in high trust societies. Social science has produced a trust index; areas with high trust index have more experiences like you had. Areas with very low ones have more experiences like they have in Afghanistan.

  3. T. J. Babson said, on September 18, 2011 at 10:30 pm

    I’m proud that your community was able to accomplish a downed tree removal without FEMA. Odds are you broke some laws, however…I’m sure some permit was required that you failed to obtain.

    • dhammett said, on September 19, 2011 at 12:06 am

      Yes, those pesky laws. My neighbor has a tree that blocks my view of the bedroom window of a healthy young woman who lives two doors down. Imagine the legal channels I’ll have to go through to get him to remove that damn tree! As it stands I have to skulk around in the dark to peek into her room. 😦

      But seriously, folks . I doubt that in a true emergency the usual paperwork would be required, or that one would be fined or otherwise punished for failing to follow procedures to a “t”. Sure there are likely extreme cases of pure assholery that can be cited where that may have happened, but they’d be fairly rare exceptions that people jump on immediately when they’re looking for an argument for small government in a large country with a large population. Right now, in my opinion, there are more serious matters to be concerned about than shrinking the government.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on September 19, 2011 at 7:57 pm

      No doubt. While permits can serve a purpose (like making sure that construction is safe) they can also impede.

      • T. J. Babson said, on September 20, 2011 at 8:30 pm

        Why doesn’t this stuff bother you guys? It’s everywhere.

        “This week Adam Guerrero, a math teacher at Raleigh-Egypt High School in Memphis, TN., along with three students became lawbreakers after they continued to tend to a garden after it was deemed a neighborhood nuisance. Guerrero was citied for violating city ordinances 48-38 and 48-97. His crime, as reported by the Memphis Flyer, consists of failure to maintain “a clean and sanitary condition free from any accumulation of rubbish or garbage” at his Nutbush home.

        When Guerrero asked the judge to define what a nuisance was he was told that if it generates a complaint, it’s a neighborhood nuisance. The Memphis Flyer reports that there’s no visible trash or garbage and that plants are kept off the sidewalk and driveway. While the garden is on personal property Guerrero says he uses it as a school garden of sorts. A place where three neighborhood youths learn to make biodiesel; the glycerin by-product is used to make soap and the youths harvest honey from beehives behind the garage.”


        • T. J. Babson said, on September 22, 2011 at 11:43 am


          The city of San Juan Capistrano, California is laying heavy fines on a local couple for hosting semi-regular bible readings in their home. From the Los Angeles CBS affiliate:

          Homeowners Chuck and Stephanie Fromm, of San Juan Capistrano, were fined $300 earlier this month for holding what city officials called “a regular gathering of more than three people”.

          That type of meeting would require a conditional use permit as defined by the city, according to Pacific Justice Institute (PJI), the couple’s legal representation.

          The Fromms also reportedly face subsequent fines of $500 per meeting for any further “religious gatherings” in their home, according to PJI…

          After city officials rejected the Fromms’ appeal, PJI, which represents other Bible study participants, will appeal the decision to the California Superior Court in Orange County…

          Neighbors have written letters to the city in support of the Fromms, whom they said have not caused any disturbances with the meetings, according to PJI.


          • dhammett said, on September 22, 2011 at 2:58 pm

            These events do seem to prove one thing. Bureaucracy and idiocy aren’t limited to the federal government. Looks like municipalities and states, even though they’re much smaller governmental entities, are also fubar.

            Perhaps the primary influence has come from the top. Perhaps it’s rising from the bottom..There are two theories on that, both involving excrement. Shit flows downhill. Turds rise to the top. And variations thereof.

            I see a little of both. Pure incompetence,downright dangerous inaction , real needs, etc. sometimes necessitate action at higher levels. Sometimes/often, the state can’t or is not willing to undertake the necessary actions. But the action at higher levels that is precipitated by inaction, folly, criminality, etc. at lower levels frequently, unfortunately, calls for additional bureaucracy .

            This isn’t a comprehensive view, but unlike some views, it does consider at least two angles. What other views are missing? What are the alternative? Would anarchy be preferable?

            • T. J. Babson said, on September 22, 2011 at 3:31 pm

              “What are the alternative? Would anarchy be preferable?”

              What about a lean, efficient government that feels it has more important things to do than to harass kids about lemonade stands?

            • Anonymous said, on September 28, 2011 at 9:34 am

              “What about a lean, efficient government that feels it has more important things to do than to harass kids about lemonade stands?”

              I tried to cover that in my third paragraph (2:58). In a country with laws, as opposed to an anarchy, cycles can get set into action that frequently precipitate more bureaucracy. Municipal or state screw ups lead to additional federal bureaucracy. Additional federal rules, sometimes poorlly considered by Washington lawmakers, occasionally initiate specific poorly thought out local efforts to skirt those federal requirements. Add state legislatures into that mix, and you’ve got a massive bureaucracy machine.

              “Lean, efficient government” in a country with 50 individual states, a population of 300 million is going to have to involve a trade off between safety and inconvenience, because at some point safety laws will be inconvenient to some. Ever get cut off in traffic by a speeder who’s late to work? If a restaurant must follow food safety rules, should the little girl and her lemonade business be exempt from food safety requirements?
              So that brings up another question, variations of which I think I’ve asked millions of times on here.
              Who will decide which rules are beyond the pale? Will that person or group become part of an even larger bureaucracy?
              Please, please, can I be that person? You’d prefer it be you? I’d wager we’d make some different decisions that may grow or reduce the bureaucracy. At the same time, it’s guaranteed that the safety or convenience of the American citizen would be altered.

            • dhammett said, on September 28, 2011 at 10:24 am

              9:34 was from me, dhammett.From now on, I will be Anonymous and identify myself within the text of my post.


            • dhammett said, on September 28, 2011 at 10:27 am

              Sorry. We’re back to dhammett. Unless, of course, I’m faced with a WordPress situation where I have to log in to WordPress to post a comment.

          • Michael LaBossiere said, on September 22, 2011 at 4:14 pm

            It seems odd that there would be such a law. After all, it would seem to apply to friends who get together to watch sports, play a game, or just hang out. Of course, it is CA-almost nothing surprises me about that state. 🙂

            • T. J. Babson said, on September 22, 2011 at 8:35 pm

              You guys are catching on (slowly). The government is too big and it is out of control. Mission creep everywhere you look.

        • T. J. Babson said, on September 24, 2011 at 3:13 pm


          You grow a garden; you expect to be able to harvest the food from that garden and eat it. You raise a cow; you expect to be able to milk that cow and consume the milk. You raise chickens; you expect to gather eggs and eat them. It’s uncomplicated, simple, a fundamental right. Perhaps you wouldn’t feel this way if you lived under some other form of government, but here, now, in America and other democratized countries, this is what you expect.

          According to Wisconsin Judge Patrick J. Fiedler, you do not have a fundamental right to consume the food you grow or own or raise. The Farm To Consumer Legal Defense Fund, the pioneers in defending food sovereignty and freedom, recently argued before Judge Fiedler that you and I have a constitutional right to consume the foods of our choice. Judge Fiedler saw no merit to the argument and ruled against the FTCLDF. When they asked him to clarify his statement, these were his words:

          “no, Plaintiffs do not have a fundamental right to own and use a dairy cow or a dairy herd;”

          “no, Plaintiffs do not have a fundamental right to consume the milk from their own cow;”

          “no, Plaintiffs do not have a fundamental right to produce and consume the foods of their choice…”


  4. Anonymous said, on September 27, 2011 at 10:35 pm


    For centuries, a bedrock principle of criminal law has held that people must know they are doing something wrong before they can be found guilty. The concept is known as mens rea, Latin for a “guilty mind.”

    This legal protection is now being eroded as the U.S. federal criminal code dramatically swells. In recent decades, Congress has repeatedly crafted laws that weaken or disregard the notion of criminal intent. Today not only are there thousands more criminal laws than before, but it is easier to fall afoul of them.

    As a result, what once might have been considered simply a mistake is now sometimes punishable by jail time.


  5. T. J. Babson said, on October 2, 2011 at 8:04 am


    In case you needed further proof of the American education system’s failings, especially in poor and minority communities, consider the latest crime to spread across the country: educational theft. That’s the charge that has landed several parents, such as Ohio’s Kelley Williams-Bolar, in jail this year.

    An African-American mother of two, Ms. Williams-Bolar last year used her father’s address to enroll her two daughters in a better public school outside of their neighborhood. After spending nine days behind bars charged with grand theft, the single mother was convicted of two felony counts. Not only did this stain her spotless record, but it threatened her ability to earn the teacher’s license she had been working on.


    • Michael LaBossiere said, on October 2, 2011 at 10:20 am

      That seems like an odd charge, given that public education is supposed to be “free” to children. The real crime is the terrible disparity between schools-this is well known, yet rarely ever addressed.

      • T. J. Babson said, on October 2, 2011 at 11:27 am

        Those who have tried to address these issues have been targeted by the teacher’s unions.

  6. T. J. Babson said, on October 2, 2011 at 8:05 am


    SCOTTSDALE, AZ – A Scottsdale man faces possible jail time if he doesn’t cut down a tree in his backyard.


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