Wednesday 12 October 2016

A return to Community?

I've never seen the film, 'Inside Out', but I'm always impressed by the quality and detail of animated films. The subtle, and not so subtle messages they convey, appealing to, both adults and children.
An amazing talented group of people.

As the mental health of the nation becomes an increasing concern, I was surprised to find out that the film 'Inside Out' actually touches on what it's like to live with a period of depression.

Previously I had been sent this clip by someone who suffers from anxiety. Again, very interesting.

As researchers begin to uncover the depths of this growing problem, and are resolved to finding solutions, I tend to explore the demise of our traditional communities, and find myself in agreement with this article written by George Monboit.
In the past, I have heard people refer to depression as a Western problem.
In the West, I have heard of it referred to as... a rich mans problem.

E.g , rich people have time to get depressed, whereas the poorer classes are just too busy fighting for their rights, and to put food on the table.
However, this (if it ever was) is not the case.
People.... get depressed.

Our traditional communities and our sense of community has been obliterated by years of neoliberalilsm yes, but perhaps even more importantly, we have witnessed the shift from the tangible community, to the virtual, in huge swathes.

Online communities are THE communities of our modern times. From remote villages of the Global South, to cities in the north. We are linked more than ever before, yet global loneliness continues to rise.
We make 'friends' across the globe, yet poverty increases. Our online world has sold us a dream. A dream of an ideal community, one which you can see, feel, but may struggle to touch.
Unable to take food to your 'friends', or hot 'chicken' soup if they're unwell, unable to simply 'hangout together; our global communities provide a sense of togetherness without ever really being together.
It's not all bad though, so please dont mistake my assessment for gloom, as there are definitely positives.

Progression in my opinion, is the ability to turn our virtual communities into real life communities and connections. It's a dream perhaps, but once upon a time .. so was the internet.

Our virtual communities offer a sense of belonging. You can easily find like minded people, and if lucky, reduce any feelings of social isolation; isolation which can be, and if often caused by societies commitment to classism, racism, ageism, and gender bias.
You can meet great people who become great friends, and an important part of your life.

We live in a world where communitarianism is cast aside in favour of a self serving and self pleasuring way of life. Governments have reduced spending on adult education and communities for that very reason; the main reason remaining that 'communities' equate to a sense of 'people power' and governments tend not to be in favour of such a concept. The global south continues to live a more traditional community focused life. Life in Africa for example, is very much an extended friends and family affair, with networks, tribes, and links which yes, have their drawbacks, but in the main, definitely produces positives.

A way of life in Africa ( or the global south) is a way of life we have struggled to sustain here in the global north.
Yet beware.
However, that way of life in places like Africa, will be, and is at risk. As Mark Zuckerberg continues to visit Africa and further extend his reach, communities there, will soon become a mass of virtual communities before our very eyes. Communities will become further divided by those who can afford the modern gadgets required to access this world, and those who cannot.
This will further divide the poorest in society whilst the richest ( or policy makers and 'leaders') will undoubtedly remain untouched.

The only way to subvert this potential catastrophe, is a return to traditional communitariansim; and traditional community development. To understand fully the virtues of socialism, ( or neo socialism) once more, and to learn once again, that we are truly interdependent.

Virtual communities work best when balanced by traditional communities.
As we witness the rise in mental health issues, it should be a warning that selfishness or a lack of investment in communities really isn't the best way forward for any of us.
Let's hope that we find a way back to recognizing that the 'traditional community' has the potential of a powerful family, with a wealth of resources.. yet we should not 'throw the baby out with the bathwater'.

You may disagree with me... if you dare :)
[Click for Imagined Communities by Benedict Anderson]

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