“The society which has abolished every kind of adventure makes its own abolition the only possible adventure.” Paris, May 1968

Monday, 1 November 2010

Too many communities, not enough community.

"You are totally alienated from the Polish community", was the rebuke recently handed out by a relative to someone that I know . I suppose such conversations take place everyday in the families of all types of religious and cultural minorities. The end result can range from a grudging acceptance to an honour killing. What perplexes me is where all these "communities" came from. The Muslim, Hindu, Black, Jewish, Somali, Gay, White Working Class, and Rural (to name but a few) communities all vie for attention, "rights", loyalty and funding. I have been trying to remember when the word "community" became so much a part of our daily language. Sure, back in the early seventies I helped set up a "community workshop" , the first time incidentally that I realized that workshops were not necessarily associated with light engineering. Yes,we thought that community was important but I'm sure that we located it within geographical rather than cultural or religious parameters.
In post-war Britain class played a major part in the definition of communities. The East End was very much a working class community. Large parts of Central London were mixed communities where the working class and the better off rubbed shoulders. The point is that the community was rooted in place rather than anything else. Running across the grain of these communities as it were,there existed a huge variety of sub-cultures based on ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, politics, work,music; the whole patchwork of what goes to make us who we are. This is just how it all seemed to me as a young guy feeling his way around the world in the late fifties and early sixties and no doubt many people who served their time as sociologists rather than as Thames bargemen will be able to make a far better job of analysing this stuff than I can. At some stage, and I really can't be sure when it was, these sub-cultures became communities and took on the role formerly assigned to place. As the developers prepared to destroy real communities at the behest of modern capital so the new "communities" waited in the wings for their cue. Just as love of place at times was able to obscure the relevance of class, so these new pseudo-communities threaten both love of place and class consciousness; and that it seems to me, is the real problem of multiculturalism.

1 comment:

Dave E said...

Reminds me of the Steven Stills song - Love the One You're With - but in a general area sense