Not charity—responsibility

Rory Rottschalk, a 40-year resident of Chico and a graduate of Chico State, is vice president of the structural engineering firm Culp and Tanner.

Editor’s note: In the Aug. 17 Guest Comment, Rory Rottschalk raised the idea of a “community alliance.” He wrote this piece to revisit it; our year-end issue seems a fitting time to do so.

In the beginning, there was a “community-at-large” (CAL) and a “community-at-risk” (CAR). The CAL was sufficiently equipped to empower and care for the CAR, possessing all of the time, talent and treasure necessary.

This was indeed a symbiotic relationship, in the sense that the very act of caring for the CAR protected the CAL from becoming proud, self-indulgent and apathetic. These traits are the secret destroyers of culture, luring society’s members away from responsibility with promises of personal ease and comfort.

As members of the CAL chose self over others, the plight of the CAR worsened to the point that some other caring mechanism had to be created. The solution developed naturally, as an affluent CAL preferred paying for services for the CAR rather than expending the time and energy to provide them directly.

Thus, a vast network of private and public institutions arose. Staffed for the most part with truly caring people, these institutions labor valiantly to identify and organize the CAR into more easily serviced groups.

Solutions—in the interest of efficiency and out of the necessity to extend available resources—took on more of a group form. One-on-one methods, though most effective, are sacrificed by necessity (and possibly as a reflection of the disinterest of the CAL).

Warning signs have begun to appear as the cost of this approach increases at an alarming rate, service providers burn out quickly, and the CAR continues to expand as a percentage of the overall culture. Unfortunately, the continuing prosperity of the CAL allows it to continue to foot the bill rather than to take on the personal responsibility for members of the CAR.

The CAL and the CAR are now alienated. Without a direct relationship, all that is left is mistrust and suspicion, which, unchecked, grows into anger and malice.

The original design can no longer work. Individual members of the CAL can no longer resolve the complicated issues of individual members of the CAR. The resources of the multitude of institutions are stretched to the breaking point, and the group approach has proved unfruitful, even as its works become more and more necessary.

What is needed is an alliance, a community alliance. The community-at-large and its institutions need to band together.

The culture needs to return in mass to its primary responsibility: caring for the community-at-risk. Individuals need to touch individuals. Where necessary, they can do so with the guidance and protection of the institutional professionals.

Together, we can bridge the gap.