Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Seeing the elephant

One of the things near the top of my list that I've not sorted out is community. It's a popular buzzword with all the right soft fuzzy elements; many organisations and individuals use it. South Gloucestershire Council want to know how I feel about the community I live in, and declare their intention to improve it. At assemblies at a school I worked at, the headmaster was always trying to instil a sense of pride in the school's community (with little apparent success from most of his hearers). You see phrases like "the gay community" (and other subcultures too, if you get my meaning). But what is it and what's involved in being a member of one?

I'm a member of lots of groups. I'm a member of the Methodist Church because I went through a service of entry, and it would take much carelessness or worse to have my membership revoked. I'm a member of the Chess Club because I've paid my subs for this year. I'm a member of the Nuneaton Games Club although I don't go more than once in two or three months (I'm a member because I have to pay my £1 when I do go). I'm a member of the Gridiron "community" because I have a password and so long as I keep getting my orders in on time, I should remain so (winning the divisional title again would also keep me in the spotlight). And I'm a member at the College (part of the College community) although I do need to sort out my NUS card. And so on; the Monday roleplaying group, the library, the "Buckfast" group ...

But which of these are a community? I'm not even sure community is like the elephant (I can't define one, but I know one when I see one) because I'm not sure I do know one when I see one. I think that Kingsmen/women may be a community but I certainly don't feel part of it. Do gamers make a community, or just a minority group? Smokers? Gays? Any group that feels embattled, ridiculed, forgotten or marginalised can be tempted to reassure themselves by envisaging themselves as a community, but I'm not sure that's enough.

There's something about commitment involved, I think, but I'm not sure it's either necessary or sufficient. Participation helps you to feel it but may not create it. Community can be destroyed but if you believe V for Vendetta, which I heartily recommend, it can be revived by ... an idea? an idealist?

I'll have to come back to this.

1 comment:

charity said...

community has replaced the word relationship!