Thursday, July 08, 2004

Feeling Community

Globe article from July 7th (or 6th) on people's feeling of attachment to community.

A Statscan survey released recently had some interesting results about Canadians' feelings of community. While 85% of those surveyed said they had a very strong or somewhat strong sense of belonging to Canada, only 68% had the same feelings about their local communities. Not surprisingly, the smaller their communities the more likely they were to feel an attachment.

This survey seems to support what I've been feeling - that we are losing touch with our communities. While its great that almost all of us feel "Canadian", we need to localize these feelings. If we can't share a sense of belonging and responsibility with our neighbours, we will continue to lock ourselves away and allow our social constructs to deteriorate.

There is a saying, "It takes a community to raise a child". This is so true. I believe many of the negative feelings we have towards youth and crime have been fueled by this loss of community.

When I was a kid, I knew that if I did something wrong away from my house, there was a good chance I would be dragged to my house by some other parent who would present me to my parents. Similarly, if I needed help, I could find it at almost any door. Today, if you were to bring a child to their house, you can't be sure you wouldn't get assulted by their parents. And kids certainly don't feel comfortable walking up to just anyone's home.

We need to work very hard to take back our communities. We need to reach out and start caring. This will be difficult. There are too many factors that have led us here - both parents working; long commutes taking us away from our homes. We live one place, work another and play in another. But somehow, we need to do this. Its important to realize that feeling Canadian means feeling part of our community.

Monday, July 05, 2004

Organic Governing

I've been reading a book by Bruce Stirling, one of the great observers of humanity, where a not too distant future society has all but dissolved. In its place, are smaller, nomadic societies. These societies exist as functioning groups, completely co-dependent. Everyone has a role and a skill that can be used. Government is dynamic and liquid. It exists when it is needed by the community and changes often. Anyone could have responsibility at any time. And, it worked.

I have seen this on a smaller scale in a shorter time frame, but just as effective. The weekend gathering I attended recently was just such a society. Everyone was responsible and everyone contributed.

I believe this is what we are missing in our larger societies. We no longer feel a part of the solution. We have no real recognized responsibilty or skills. Our participation has been reduced to tax payments, and activity we all resent. How do we give everyone the abilty to 'chip in'? How can we all feel like we are part of what we are building? Give us pride in the results? Make us all instruments of change?

There is no doubt that to do this we need to make huge, wholesale change. Governing can really no longer be a career; it needs to be a necessity and one where everyone understands and reaps the benefits. If we can achieve this, I believe we will have made great steps toward effective communities again.