July 16, 2013
Seeing, Not Watching
Today I'm thinking also about neighborhood watch groups - the dark side of neighborhood watch groups and neighborhood associations.
I spotted this poster this morning that got right to the heart of the question that I have been pondering. When did neighborhood watch groups get to be more about watching than seeing? And when did neighborhood associations get to be more about controlling than associating?
I am willing to look at myself and the work that I do professionally with eyes that see some uncomfortable truths about what we do with the best intentions that push people away from neighboring, friending, associating, and seeing. I know that those of us in the institutional world have a part in this.
But what really troubles me is what people sometimes do in the name of being a good citizen - being responsible, going the extra mile, showing that they care. And, I must admit, what I have done myself when I was a zealous neighborhood association leader - cataloging and reporting code violations without talking to people as neighbors or offering to help as one embarrassing example.
I appreciate the spirit that moves people to connect, mobilize and act out of concern for their neighborhood. Without implying that I think that every neighborhood association or neighborhood watch group has gone over the ledge of vigilante-ism or suggesting in any way that I think we would be better off without these groups, I do have a wish. My wish is that every neighborhood association and every neighborhood watch group would gather for a conversation about this poster, with eyes that let them see - and confront - any uncomfortable truths that may come up. And then begin again - this time with a pledge that whatever they do will reflect their strong commitment to really see and not watch.