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March 12, 2008

community is a good thing.

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7287984.stm

Not a coherent essay, but some thoughts.  Like a blog should be.  From the BBC:

School-leavers should be encouraged to swear an oath of allegiance to Queen and country, says a report commissioned by Gordon Brown on British citizenship.

Report author, ex-attorney general Lord Goldsmith, says it would give teenagers a sense of belonging.

Council tax and student fee rebates are suggested for people who volunteer - as well as a "Britishness" public holiday.

This is the type of idea that gives the concept of community a bad name.  It associates the act of belonging to the national community with the monarchy, which in my view is a pretty pointless institution.  This assocation seems an outdated view of what belonging to a national community is, leaving wide open the train of thought that it is something reactionary.  It encourages the point of view that being interested in one's country or wanting to belong to a national community, is not far from Nationalism or BNP-ness - caring about your national community at the expense of any and all others.  I grew up with this point of view, and as a result showed no interest in my country whatsoever.  I remember a chat with a friend sometime in the past 18 months, when he told me that he paid no interest to what politicians said or did in this country because it didn't affect him at all - I don't really want to subscribe to that sort of isolationism.

I'm starting to think that belonging to a community, even a national community, can be quite a beautiful thing.  It is about friendship, connection with other humans, and responsibility.  Which is why I sympathise with this report in its aims, but not in its methods towards those aims.  I've been thinking recently about the communities that I belong to, and what I can do to participate in them.  There is the community of place - the town (Leamington Spa), the nation, (increasingly) Europe and the human community more generally.  On a more localised, measurable and down-to-earth level, I'm a member of the university community, the Film Department community, a stand-up comedy community (national and local), and I'm currently trying to get accepted in the BJJ community in Birmingham.  It feels better to be doing something as part of a community - since I've started thinking about these recently, one advantage I've thought about is that the work that you do feels like it has worth for other people, and you can also turn to others in your community for encouragement or advice. 

It shouldn't really be about ritualised false gestures of respect to someone who many people actively dislike or don't understand the point of.  This gives community a bad name, and encourages people to think about themselves and little else.       


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