by Joe Courter
Community: this word is in my mind a lot. We humans are social beings, and how we relate to one another impacts ourselves (our internal experiences) and the others in our shared world. The Google dictionary says this:
- a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.
- a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.
If you are lucky (and I am), you get to live in and become part of a community that gives you validation and purpose. Through the circumstance of becoming, in 40 plus years of living here, an active participant in this place we call Alachua County, I know lots of history and a lot of people. I have become active in various communities within the broader general community.
There is the community of people who love nature and work to protect it. There’s the community of people who love music, either as musicians, as people who love going out to hear music, or as the people who make music events happen. There are the people who involve themselves in the work of local government, who join boards, who run for office, or who watchdog those in power. There are social justice organizers who work to give voice and power to those who need it, doing the work of obtaining rights, benefits and liberties for those who need and deserve them. These are by no means exclusionary groups, in fact almost everyone I know active in one of these categories also inhabits others as well.
There can be dangers with thriving communities, in that they become so focused on the path they are on, that they become blind to the existence of others who are not sharing in that positive community feeling and, in fact, may resent or even suffer because of the dominant communities’ actions. We have a great example of this in Gainesville regarding gentrification and rapid development changing the character of neighborhoods. These neighborhoods are also communities, tied together by their being “in the same place,” such as Porters Quarters or Pleasant Street. Previous Iguanas documented the impact on well-meaning home owner Lee Malis (see Vol. 32, Issue 11/12 and Vol. 33, Issue 1/2), when the city allowed an apartment project to be plopped in his backyard without any care for his quality of life or the value of his investment. That was but one example of GNV Rise and the “Department of Doing,” but citizens mobilized and fought back, forming an ad hoc community of common interest, and were definitely heard at the City Commission meeting.
Another aspect of communities is shared responsibility, that everyone gets along with the same basic rules and practices. This not only makes things function more easily, but, in the aspect of my four favorite words in the U.S. Constitution, “Promote the General Welfare,” it is key. Public education uplifts everyone and is an investment in the future. The contrast of our broken for-profit healthcare system with the vastly superior single payer systems in Europe is undeniable. There, the whole society pays in, “sharing common interests and goals.” In this perverse nation, where “rugged individualism” and the glorification of self-interest overpower desires for community uplift and cooperation, the proof can be seen in so many ways: poverty, underemployment, healthcare-related bankruptcies – all the while corporate CEOs rake in more than a human can possibly spend.
So the essence of community spirit is empathy, caring and even a bit of sacrifice for others. This is not the path on which Trump and his ilk are taking us. Their path is greed. And they rise to defend their chosen path by fear-mongering, by raising the specter of some confiscatory authoritarian nightmare. And our media does not help: see the video clip in the Editors’ Picks (page 9) on the Green New Deal. The mischaracterization of Democratic Socialism, framing it without explaining it, does not help in advancing to a better society. And of course this is not new.
The struggle continues … D