Thursday, 11 August 2011

Community versus society

Whilst out walking on Tuesday, I listened to Radio 5. One thing I noticed: In what must have been ten hours of coverage, 'society' was only mentioned twice: once by a caller in the phone-in show at twenty past nine, and another, in a negative context, in the early afternoon. In contrast, 'community' seemed to be on everybody's lips.

Of course there is a significant overlap between the meaning of the two words, but the differences are important. When someone mentions 'community' without context, I wonder which community: a geographical one, a religious one, an ethnic one, a cultural one, or one based on sexual orientation? When someone says that there will be people on the streets protecting their community, is it everyone in the community or a small subset?

On a large scale 'community' is divisive: I cannot be a member of the gay, Islamic, Christian or Hindi communities. By saying you are a member of any specific community then you are by definition excluding those outside the community.

Yet we are all part of society.

Am I the only one who thinks that this focus on 'community' over 'society' with respect to the rioting is rather worrying?

Perhaps Thatcher was right, and the media now think that 'there is no such thing as society'.

This brings me onto another bugbear of mine: people who use Thatcher's infamous quote should always mention the context in which she said it. As it happens, these riots makes her words seem all the more applicable:
There is no such thing as society. There is living tapestry of men and women and people and the beauty of that tapestry and the quality of our lives will depend upon how much each of us is prepared to take responsibility for ourselves and each of us prepared to turn round and help by our own efforts those who are unfortunate.
In other words, if we want a good society then we should help ourselves and those less fortunate than ourselves. Perhaps the rioters and looters (especially those employed as teaching assistants) should consider this.

1 comment:

Alan Sloman said...

Yes - Agree totally David.