Size Matters

The big Christmas concert has come and gone.  It was pretty wild week, but now we’re on the downward slope.

When I first started doing these little Christmas concerts, we had maybe 100 students at the school.  There were no dance classes, and drama was kind of tacked onto English.  The focus was on the music, and in such a small environment, everything was simpler:  setup, planning, logistics.  It was all accomplished more informally.

Now the student body has nearly tripled in size.  With that growth has come added complexity.  Put it all in a gymnasium during basketball season—the sport third to only baseball and hockey for numbers of games and practices—and it makes for a herculean task.

I’ve been pondering this phenomenon lately.  While I appreciate the grandiose and over-the-top—what I shoot for with school concerts—certain things don’t scale up well, or down.  Socialism works in a household—helpless children are provided for—but fails miserably on any level much bigger (and it’s a bit of a perversion to call parenting “socialism”).

As my little school has swelled in size over the past decade, it’s not so little anymore.  That’s changed a number of policies and procedures.  What used to be done informally or as a community effort now requires more protocol, more officiousness.

Rather than humming as one whole community, size has brought increased complexity:  greater specialization, to be sure, but some friction.  That friction can also create harmony, but suffice it to say that everything is more by-the-book.

Despite the specialization, it’s become more centralized, too.  At one point, teaching felt a bit like living in the colonies of British North America following the Glorious Revolution and before the end of the French and Indian War, that glorious seventy years or so of “salutary neglect.”  Now that the blasted French have been subdued and absorbed into an expanding empire, the costs and demands of expansion call for greater control and regulation.

The European Union seems to be a similar case.  Great Britain held elections yesterday which saw old Labour strongholds fall to the Conservatives, in some cases for the first since the Second World War.  The message is clear:  traditional Britons want to be free from supranational tyranny, and they want to control their lives and their homes again.

There is a push and pull between localism, nationalism, and imperialism or globalism.  The latter of the three has been ascendant since the end of the Cold War, with its bland, unifying sameness (we are all economic units, and cultural differences are either a product to sell or a nuisance to stamp out, per the globalists).  But imperial ambitions predate the modern world, too.

Nationalism is a truly modern phenomenon, dating at least to the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, which ended the Thirty Years’ War.  It centralizes, but is at least bound up in a people, place, and culture—it is a collection of localities writ large.

Localism is the option I prefer.  The United States used to be a nationalist system with a high degree of localism baked into the cake; we called it “federalism.”  It still exists, on paper, but the States used to enjoy broad, unrestricted freedoms and sovereignty.

Tight-knit communities, close bonds, connected families, extended kin groups:  these arrangements seem to foster happiness and growth (not to mention certain economic benefits).  I’m not advocating a revival of tribalism, but at least some greater appreciation for another way to leave.  Instead of casting about as rootless economic units in search of the next paycheck, we could build communities again.

Just some musings for this late Friday evening post.  Here’s to a comfy weekend, warm and inside from the rain.  The ultimate localism is being bundled up with loved ones on a cold winter’s day.

2 thoughts on “Size Matters

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