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Are your friendship within a “clique,” a “clan,” or a “community”? Joseph Epstein’s 13th chapter in Friendship: An Expose, explores friendship through these three categories. Where are yours?
Announcement: Our next book will be Citizenship Papers by Wendell Berry. About six weeks.
Let us define, as he does, a clique as a narrow, exclusive circle or group of persons and a clan as a group of friends rooted more in ethnicity, and then community as a group of, say, 30 or so folks where there is a cooperative spirit and concern for one another.
His chp focuses on his own clannishness: “Some people,” he admits, “do not include ethnicity in their estimates of people, but I am not among them.” Further: “I think it imperceptive, even in the name of great tolerance, not to consider ethnic background as part of one’s appraisal of a person who is a potential friend.” Even further: he finds it “a bit unusual, and the more impressive for its unnaturalness, is when a deep friendship is struck by two people who ostensibly have very little in common … but good feeling and good feeling.”
Do you choose friends or relate to others through such perceptions?
Perhaps this says more about me than either clannishness or community, but I don’t think I make any friendships on the basis of ethnicity or clannishness (as he emphasize the term). I’m Scottish; have no regular friends that I know of who are Scottish (other than my doctoral supervisor, Jimmy Dunn). We see one another at our annual academic meetings. Maybe this says that I’m an American mongrel, that I’ve percolated into the steaming pot one calls “American,” and it is only for that reason — that I don’t identify myself in ethnic terms — that I don’t choose friends that way. Instead, I look for other mongrels. Perhaps so.
What about you? Do you factor into your consideration of choosing friends their ethnicity? Does it matter?
I have a close Indian colleague, Rajkumar Boaz Johnson — ever hear of a more appropriate name for a professor of OT at a Swedish university?, but I can’t say that I think he does anything in any particular way because he’s Indian — though we both joke about this. Another close colleague is Lebanese American — Brad Nassif — but I can’t say I’ve ever wondered if a comment to me was Lebanese — though lots of them have been Orthodox.
As for friends, I think mine are chosen on the basis of a combination of clique (fellow academics, fellow golfers, no White Sox or Yankee fans) and community (fellow professors, those who walk around the lake in our community, etc.).

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