Besides living in a post-Ferguson, post-Rams, digital, post-modern, polarized, and globalized world...what separates St. Louis Strong's effort to bring St. Louis City and St. Louis County together from past attempts? It is not what we say we are nor is it necessarily why. The separation from past attempts arises from how we define ourselves.
- to join together into one whole.
- to make firm or secure.
- to form into a compact mass
- to plunge or engulf in something.
- to cause to combine, unite, or coalesce.
- to blend gradually by stages that blur distinctions.
- to cause (people or things) to be joined or brought together.
- to make into a unit or a coherent whole.
While the above words are synonyms, the connotation (con-notation, with notation, musical) and meaning that arises from each can stand worlds apart. 'Consolidate' (con-solidate, with solidarity) at first seems ideal. Too often in this hyper-polarized world, where attacks against your sense of identity arise from a screen sitting in the palm of your hand, we instinctively separate each other into in-groups and out-groups . We could use more solidarity. Yet, to simply lump people together into a compact mass negates the independence of individuals and may counterproductively heighten tensions.
'Merge', which often appears in the context of 'submerging' or 'emerging', implies a consumption by or escape from some larger abyss. Often we hear of corporate 'mega-mergers'—the event whereby complex and calculated moves slowly subsume two identities into one. Again, this 'blurring of distinctions' refutes the independence and importance of the smaller parts that make up the whole.
Both 'consolidate' and 'merge' imply the erasure of singularities into one larger abstract abyss. Consolidation and merging is the process whereby unique subjective experiences and particulars lose themselves under the garb of a larger, perhaps more ominous, identity.
"Being at one is god-like and good, but human, too human, the mania
Which insists there is only the One, one country, one truth, and one way."
~ Friedrich Holderlin, The Root of All Evil
How does 'unify' differ?
First, this word acknowledges and affirms the existence of people. Resources are consolidated. Legal entities are merged. People are unified. Second, to unify is to create a harmonious system by bringing individuals together. Each note in a song creates a coherent melody from which various meanings arise out of and unify the whole—the abyss (universe, uni-verse, one-song).
So yes, while St. Louis Strong seeks to consolidate cities and merge resources, our deeper project centers on unifying people; for, people make up cities and provided resources. What good is it to throw structures together if we do not bring together people first?
The word 'unification' reflects our motto: "Lift the Gateway Higher." It is an appeal to the higher potential and deeper sense of self that resides within each individual. Only out of the inclusion of the unique character of every individual does a greater whole—a Greater St. Louis—arise.
“One citizen differs from another, but the salvation of the community is the common business of them all.”
No one correct way to live exists. No one correct way to arrange a community exists. Yet, the beneath the abstractions that generalize, violate, demarcate, and alienate we remain not just one community, but one humanity 'connected in the deep.'
“We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep.”
~ William James
We are neither independent nor dependent. Aim higher. We are interdependent. This is the paradox of the individual within society. We are utterly disconnected from each other but also intimately tied to one another. In order for the whole to fully thrive, so must the individual. In order for the individual to fully thrive, so must the whole.
“Towns sprang up here, flourished, then disappeared; men passed through, loved each other or cut each other’s throats, then died.”
~ Albert Camus
We get one life to live and one song to sing. Will we spend it tearing each other down over petty differences or helping each other actualize the truest versions of ourselves?