10 November 2008

Community Matters

To what extent do participants in joint activi...Image via WikipediaThe current economic instability seems to be encouraging an increasing realisation that we need to move on from the hedonistic, consumption focus that got us all into our current mess and embrace a more sustainable, community based model for living.

Unfortunately its not as easy as it sounds. The art of building community has been sorely neglected - if not actively discouraged - in many places and healthy communities don't just happen because people finally realise that we need them. They take work. They need active citizens willing to get involved in community initiatives and prepared to participate in the decisions being made that will affect their neighbourhoods, families and livelihoods.

If we want to rebuild Community, we need to understand that our rights as property owners, business people and community citizens come with responsibilities. It is our obligation to be actively involved in the well being of our neighbourhood. Whether that is standing for office in Local Government, being a contributing member of the local school community or making an effort to attend community events.

When we choose not to take an active role in our community, and hand decision making power over to Government, big business, foreign investors or even just let it concentrate in the hands of a select few of our neighbours then our communities wither and die. In a healthy community, people feel that they are listened to, they know they are valued, they are empowered and they have control over their collective destiny.

We need to realise that working for the common good doesn't undermine our rights as individuals, it strengthens them. Building Community isn't about some people having less so that others can have more, its about making sure that everyone has enough and that all our needs are met. In a healthy community those who can look after themselves and contribute to the community do so, and those who can't are respected and supported.

Strong communities offer support when times are tough. They advocate for the weak. They take care of their own. Because of this they are resilient. Because when it comes down to it self-reliance is a cooperative activity. In order to survive comfortably in hard times going it alone just doesn't work, instead we need to build and nourish our community connections.

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