Surprisingly, although I have repeatedly written about community in my blog, I have never dedicated a full post to it. Well, here you are:
It used to be that when you were born you had automatic community for life. Even if you lived in a big city, your neighborhood was your community, you would go to the same grocers, church, cafés, etc. Now, especially in the increasingly hyper-capitalist suburban individualist world, the concept of community has pretty much vanished.
Maybe because of the importance of community and the lack thereof, the US is obsessed with the concept of community. Sadly, for all the talk, community is another word they cannot spell.
With the different buttresses that community offered mostly gone, the only one that continues (mostly) standing is work. So, work has become -in many cases- our only community touchstone. Gone are the neighbors, the churches, the meeting points. We just drive from our isolated house to work and back. Of course, many folks have strong communities built around church and clubs and different associations, but even these are discrete and rarely connected, which means that you have your church friends, your work friends, your café friends -if you are lucky- and so on, but not the network, the rich tapestry that used to define community.
I have been keenly aware of this problem since I moved back to suburban US in 2005. It would eventually become one of the factors that led me to depression. Since then, I try to build strong communities wherever I go. My efforts other than work, fall on volunteering, church, and of course Film Club! Yes, I chat to some people at the gym, at yoga class, and at my café, but those venues have not surprisingly given any tangible results.
Like pretty much everything else in life, you have to actively work at building your community, it is not going to magically fall on your lap one day, a wonderful support network where you can express yourself and get any sort of help from moving a sofa to a comforting chat. Nope, you have to work for it. But more importantly than working to form your own little support group, your real community will flourish when you build community for others.
Notice that I did not mention family, which is of course the cornerstone of community. But when you move away from home, that most important foundation is only available on the phone or during visits -if you are lucky enough to visit.
The result of the erosion of community systems is that folks are increasingly lonely, alienated, and sadly, eventually depressed. So go work genuinely and honestly on your community, the results will be worth it!