Community. It’s something that I’ve been thinking a lot about recently. Its importance has been drilled into me by my grandparents, my old school and by the biographies of the great and the good. It’s something that matters to the rest of us too. We feel lost without it. And many have lost it. With the upsets of Brexit and Trump having been dissected to death, many in the media have echoed “globalisation” as the root cause of these phenomenons. People broadly like the economic progress achieved with globalisation, however they don’t like that we’ve forgotten about the local. We’ve lost the idea of community and, therefore, the self.
We often measure the self in terms of our position in the community. Traditionally the measurements weren’t quantitative but qualitative. Our grandparents measured the self in terms of church attendance, positions of leadership and contribution. You knew who you were by your membership of clubs, church and political party. Today this has been eradicated by consumer culture. We’ve been indoctrinated in the cult of consumption that measures one’s self in cars, gadgets and clothes. Of course such greed has always existed, but never at this price.
Globalisation is fuelled by unsatiated consumption of disposables that are replaced within a year. Local shops have been replaced by huge chains that have successfully taken advantage of this economic shift. Shops are uniform with the same goods being sold and the same corporate jargon being spoken by workers. Schools, the stalwart of any community, are placing employability as their highest priority. Church attendance is also falling year on year.
Immigration has been a boon to economic growth. However, in some cases, this has been to the detriment of community. In areas which have not been fortunate enough to experience successful integration, the sense of community has undoubtedly suffered. The votes for Brexit and Trump were not because some uncultured working class people were racist, but because many believed that their core traditions and values were being dismantled in the name of economic gains.
Although I am a devout remainer and Clinton supporter, there was logic in the votes and a sign of sad desperation. It is important to consider the difficulties of achieving integration with the language and cultural barriers that many immigrants face. For me, and I suspect a lot of my remainer peers, community matters less because of our existence as a transient section of society, one that is able to travel and see the benefits of thriving multiculturalism.
This is not an article that despairs about the state of the world, but simply seeks to remind ourselves what is important in the world as 2017 is still in its infancy. As we students moan at the sad and outrageous current state of affairs, we need to remind ourselves that the world is built up of nations, which are built up of communities. To reverse the ugliness we need to remember the importance of community. Our next election may depend on it.
(Image courtesy of Quartz)