Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656

Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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Community notes

June 01 2023
Paris in the Spring © Christopher Pritchard Paris in the Spring © Christopher Pritchard

How should we interpret community? Taking a look at the meaning of the word through a historical, contemporary and social lens. Words by Leon Eckford

Community, split this word in half, we are left with a cheeky ‘comm’ plus a splash of ‘unity’, together as one. Through an academic and empirical filter, we touch upon the Latin ideas of Con and the word Munis, referencing public power leading to the sexy Monaco-associated word of Municipality.

Pardon moi, the municipality references local self-governance of a city or free town however, as I sit and gaze through a self-critical filter, I ponder the mega-rich of Monaco who can afford their free town whilst exercising autonomy and power through choice and opportunity every day.

I wonder if even a tiny fraction of that assumed wealth and autonomy landed at the feet of a rough sleeper in Westminster, what would they do with that opportunity? Unfortunately, all we see from a street perspective is overspills from A&E, Mental Health wards, Social Work departments, including those looking after children, all underpinned by misguided criminal justice approaches towards addiction. All while so many people in our street community are yearning for someone to re-assimilate them back into our society. When the municipality or community breaks down, what have we got left?

A range of disassociated and disenfranchised people drawn together by psycho-social causation and frankly, victims of austerity and uncompassionate policy implementation. To summarise – Ouch!

Rewinding time, Aristotle’s Greek fingerprints lurk heavily around this word ‘community’, establishing the word as a group established by men having shared values. We will ignore his latent misogyny and leaning into the patriarchy, thinking of the amount of theory still applicable today. We forgive you big A.

These concepts underpin who we are, or at least who and what we aspire to be, in public power. Interestingly, the community overlay invites contradictory ideas of collective benefits within each separate community.

The conflicts of our communal ideas are laid bare in the celebration of uniqueness and freedom for the individual, balanced against a common or public power and value set shared by all.

Since getting clean, back in the heady days of the 2000-teens, I moved away from the recovery community and aspired to join my self-proclaimed, new community of the ‘Recovered’.

I have felt a bit alienated from this latter group, adapting to life as a norm, a square or just as a member of the public. No higher order self-gratified actualisation, no Maslow-esque climbing of his hierarchy of needs, where I would posit on a baseline level: I am just an average person trying to move through life in the most orderly way possible.

So as usual, I am left with questions. Are our current systems designed to encourage community? Or are they designed to de-evolve the idea to the point where the individual’s territory, population, authority, and recognition is held in higher esteem? My journey through the hierarchy would suggest that.

Do the current systems of power need a population connected and co-existing with shared values, looking after each other and tolerant of humans regardless of their status in the world? I think not, unfortunately.

What we can do to combat this depressing outlook, is remember the power of connection, of community and, fundamentally, of each other.