Friday, 22 August 2014

A sense of community

From Wikipedia

Here's an interesting quote many folk will have come across at one time or another.

He could not see, it was not born in him to see, that the highest good of the community as it stands is no longer the highest good of even the average individual. He thought that, because the community represents millions of people, therefore it must be millions of times more important than any individual, forgetting that the community is an abstraction from the many, and is not the many themselves. 

Now when the statement of the abstract good for the community has become a formula lacking in all inspiration or value to the average intelligence, then the “common good” becomes a general nuisance, representing the vulgar, conservative materialism at a low level.
D.H. Lawrence - The Rainbow (1915)

Such a common word isn't it? Community. What could be nicer than to be part of a community? Yet a community binds us together in a way which may be benign or oppressive, but is too often merely political. 

Community. A community facility. A community resource. A community organiser. Wasn't Obama a community organiser? Or maybe a community organizer. Sounds grim to me. Not a job I'd relish. 

Unfortunately Lawrence was right. The idea of community has become a formula lacking in all inspiration or value to the average intelligence.

We've forgotten that bit haven't we - the inspiration? We've sucked the human juice out of a useful notion and made it dull, mechanical and more than a little unhealthy.


Sam Vega said...

Ironically, those who should have known better have contributed to the decline of the term. Sociologists once had a use for Ferdinand Tonnies distinction between Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft. But they seem to have been the ones who used the term in such ridiculous forms as "the gay community", "the black community", "the criminal community", etc. I think the underlying intention is to somehow flatter the group you are talking about, and also to make the listener think that you are talking about a real thing, rather than a random collection of people who happen to share some characteristic you are interested in.

Edward Spalton said...

Coincidentally I have been doing a little research into the concept and practice of the Volksgemeinschaft ( people's community) in Nazi Germany. In many respects it was really Blairite. Even university rectors went out of the way to show how close to the people and relevant to everyday life they were - thereby gaining the Fuehrer's approbation and prominent participation in the big rallies. Businessmen were wooed too. Reichsminister Funk ( economy and president of the Reichsbank) talked of " the creative power of the individual, grounded in the community".
That could easily have been Blair speaking at some industry award ceremony or leadership group.

A K Haart said...

Sam - yes there is an element of flattery. In some cases there is even the faintest hint of disparagement directed at those unfortunates outside the community.

Edward - interesting. Do you have a blog?

James Higham said...

I've no community spirit, other than to the blogging community and some friends, though it doesn't hurt to be nice to everyone. But it's a wonky concept, community and leads to communitarianism.

A K Haart said...

James - it is wonky and much corrupted. The blogging community is interesting in that it's real yet virtual.