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The Office’ exemplifies solidarity

Letter to the Editor | Monday, October 1, 2007

What does solidarity have to do with the hit TV show “The Office”? We could start with the international solidarity of it, in that we have England to thank for coming up with the original British version. It is important, after all, that we recognize that sometimes humor does translate (think Monty Python). Perhaps there is more to this cubicle-world commentary than the usual British fare, no matter how entertaining the usual fare might be. This show has something worth translating. Could it be solidarity?

Consider, for example, the way that the characters interact with each other. First of all, they become familiar with each other, building relationships out of necessity and not always voluntarily. Nonetheless, it is an essential part of the human experience. You have to learn to get along with the people around you. It is, in fact, a basic human impulse to do that by building relationships. It is no secret that the oldest form of human punishment was and still is among the harshest: Banishment from the community. Studies have shown that there is no greater indication that a relationship is nearly over than when two people stop responding to each other. Even the snide and awkward comments that erupt between characters on “The Office” are far better than no response at all.

Consider also the characters themselves. Where else would you get such an unlikely, eclectic group of people who gather everyday and spend a majority of their productive time together than an office? What better metaphor is there for our common humanity? We are lumped together on this planet, given responsibility for the resources of the world and each other.

Solidarity is nothing more than acting in accordance with our collective responsibility for each other. When the members of the office are not beating up on each other but rather supporting each other by contributing their piece of the work, the office flourishes. Similarly, when each individual acts in community to contribute to the common work of the world, the world flourishes.

Here on campus, The Center for Social Concerns is highlighting this point during the 2007-08 academic year. In the 20th anniversary year of the encyclical Sollicitudo rei socialis (On Social Concern), Pope John Paul II describes solidarity as the reality of how humanity shares responsibility for the goods and the problems of the world. The Center for Social Concerns is holding this encyclical up by celebrating solidarity in its 25th anniversary year with events such as the Oct. 14 talk by former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, at Washington Hall. See socialconcerns.nd.edu for more events and information.

It is fitting and natural that we gratefully share in England’s good idea – “The Office” – and it is similarly fitting and no less natural that we should also share responsibility for addressing the local problems of world hunger, poverty, disease and suffering in general. If we can share a few laughs along the way, that’s even better.

Mary Tracygraduate studentDepartment of TheologySept. 28