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Wednesday, November 21, 2012


               A community is a concept very regularly used in a positive manner. It speaks to us about collaboration, unification, effort and aid. The term is far from the idea of singularity, and this is seen when looked at the first use of the word, back in 1130. It came from the Old French word communité meaning joint ownership3. From this we can start to understand that this is a collective collaboration of the people of a group, where everyone is part of a bigger system which completely works for the people, by the people. This also relates to the idea of communism, which is defined as a system of social organization based on the holding of all property in common, actual ownership being ascribed to the community as a whole2. I do understand that communism is more of a successful theory than a reality, but if it was practiced in the right situation with the right constraints, it could have very strong potential. China's current progress is an example of this. An accepted definition today for community is the body of people having common or equal rights or rank, as distinguished from the privileged classes;  the commons; the commonalty3.  The community is something that works together, in unison, and everyone with equally manageable responsibilities.

               This was how the term was solely used before the enormous growth of suburban sprawl. Here, we can look at the problem of fake communities. The film Radiant City talks about the suburbs of Calgary being fake communities; a social space which was intended for a community, but doesn't function at all like a community. There are very few interactions between the people who live there and their lives consist of spending time at home, work or these power centres where all their needs and resources reside. There is no downtown area, no visible cultural groups and barely any open natural spaces. The word community in this context is simply used as a tool in advertising. We used to know community as the positive term explained above, but developers abused this idea and it can now be understood as a cluster of houses with people living inside them and not talking. This is a completely degraded use of the word, but that's how it has been transformed through suburbia.

"In our culture of rugged individualism - in which we generally feel that we dare not be honest about ourselves, even with the person in the pew next to us - we bandy around the word community. We apply it to almost any collection of individuals - a town, a church, a synagogue, a fraternal organization, an apartment complex, a professional association - regardless of how poorly those individuals communicate with each other. It is a false use of the word. If we are going to use the word meaningfully we must restrict it to a group of individuals who have learned how to communicate honestly with each other, whose relationships go deeper than their masks of composure, and who have developed some significant commitment to 'rejoice together, mourn together,' and to 'delight in each other, make others' conditions our own.'"1


1. Peck, M. Scott. The Different Drum: community-making and peace. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987.
2. "community." Dictionary.com. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/dictionary?s=t (accessed November 15, 2012).
3. "community, n.." Oxford English Dictionary. http://oed.com/view/Entry/37337?redirectedFrom=community#eid (accessed November 15, 2012).

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