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Staying connected

April 01 2022

The importance of being connected with one another can’t be overstated and is essential to all people. Some thoughts on the need for connection, by Leon Eckford

Whether it's primitive people grunting over a wild boar dinner around a campfire thousands of years ago, the Greek philosophers pontificating furiously over the human condition or the remaining remote African villagers discussing social issues with their tribal leader, one of the human being’s central needs is to be part of a team, family, or organisation. Bottom line is, we need each other.

If we put our primal heads on, evolutionary psychology would point to our survival instincts, where the individual orientates themselves towards the group to protect themselves against Mother Nature. I would prefer to be with my family when the sabre tooth tiger is outside the mud hut, thanks!

A healthy environment gives us better opportunities to have a healthier approach to life and all the inevitable turbulence we will experience. We can take from this that the external world influences our internal, and vice versa.

The developing child works through school, college, university, and professional life. Underpinned with family relations and informal clubs, religions, community organisations, sports, and the like. We are constantly seeking frameworks of organisation to keep us involved socially, helping us avoid the inevitable anxiety we all manage individually on a minute to minute, hourly and daily basis. It is a 24/7 pastime.

Moreover, in today’s tech savvy world, we have even developed social media frameworks built on the concept of connection on various levels. An algorithmic answer to our need for feeling we are part of something bigger than ourselves.

The Silicon Valley squad identified that a sense of community, caring for others and being cared for are universal needs. But social media can both capture and scatter your attention. With a simple “refresh,” constant new information is at your fingertips. This can lead to diminished cognition whilst simultaneously shrinking parts of the brain associated with maintaining attention. So, more “connection” yet poorer performance neurologically? Paradoxical right?

Unpacking the development of the individual and the psycho-social environment surrounding them, I think of where our street community fits into this complex puzzle of networking.

Frankly, I don’t think we recognise the street community itself. Joe Public doesn’t see the day-to-day interactions. Who knows who, who gets paid this week, what is the quality of gear on the streets, where the scoring points are, where you can get a free breakfast at 6am; the variables are endless. On the streets we see people’s capacity to love, show compassion and enact empathy. Just because the surroundings are distasteful to some, doesn’t mean that the community is to be disregarded. Certain judgements in our society lead us down alleyways of subjugation, where we cast our negativity and forget that people living on the streets are human beings. Whole human beings. For me, they reflect us. Meaning they are part of us. Together. Suffering is difficult to see and genuinely empathise about.

One of the most precious aspects of our relationships with our street community is the sense of humour between us. At the same time, it is important to understand the boundary line. As a wise man said, after the moment: “All that is left is the empty hall and the echoes of yesterday’s laughter.”

We do not want our actions and communication leaving feelings of neglect or abandonment. One does not want to be part of the problem, if you will.

My colleague put it most succinctly: “Our job is about building relationships.” This breaks down our role perfectly and applies to whatever competency the professional framework requires.

Whether we are an awareness instinct in a bag of skin, or a child of an overall creator; whatever your belief, I would offer one absolute, in a world of non-absolutes: We need each other. The principle of unity is not a power grab, it is to trust each other and work with each other to make this place better for the next generations ahead of us.

To summarise, the very notion of a separate individual, the phoney sense of self-identity where the world is separate and inconveniencing the attempt to make more money and look after number one, is a fallacy. Stay connected.

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