Some of you may recall Robert Putnam’s classic Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. Putnam argued that community is declining in America. His primary evidence was the significant membership decline in civic organizations such as Rotary and Kiwanis and other community groups and activities such as bowling leagues.
While people continue to “bowl alone” in America, community and civic organizations are thriving outside of America. In this Washington Monthly article, John Gravois traces the rise of organizations such as Rotary, the Boy Scouts, Lions, and Toastmasters in places like Uganda, Sri Lanka, and the United Arab Emirates.
Here is a taste:
In a radio interview earlier this year, the former Arkansas governor and Fox News personality Mike Huckabee sniffed at President Obama’s childhood years in Indonesia. “Most of us grew up going to Boy Scout meetings,” he said, “and, you know, our communities were filled with Rotary clubs, not madrassas.” Huckabee’s innuendo was unmistakable, but he got one thing precisely backward. Indonesia has more than twice as many scouts as we do. In fact, with around 17.1 million badge-seeking, uniform-sporting, oath-swearing youth, Indonesia has the largest scouting association in the world. The United States, whose scout numbers are steadily dwindling, is not even a close second. And for the record, Rotary has around eighty-nine clubs in the country as well.
OK all you blog-reading pundits. What does this mean?