Reflections on Van Wormer and Besthorn’s Community and Community Development (Ch 6)
“What does wellness, security, and happiness mean to you?” Thus, my first Community Psychology class ended with a question and an introduction to the first reading. My first reaction was, this is Abraham Maslow and his hierarchy of needs. On page 198 of the reading, Maslow’s third tier of needs is introduced as community and belongingness. But wellness, security, and happiness condensed this into the hierarchy of needs up to and including self-actualization.
Community is introduced as something with a perceived common characteristic among individuals, while larger communities are geographically larger with more cultural diversity and little in common. In my outside readings in anarchism and temporary autonomous zones (TAZ), this idea of community in wellness, security, and happiness is particularly intriguing as it promotes the common interests of small groups. Community beyond the spatial unit of geography through electronic communications expands the idea of a “small group” into a much larger unit with close ties of a small group, but one that may be the size of a mid-sized geographic area or larger. This is particularly interesting from the aspect of values, obligations, and expectations and the influence of groupthink.
The authors also discuss the sustainability of a community and reference the 2005 UK government’s largest sustainability conference where it was defined as “a place where people want to live and work now and in the future” (p. 199). I would also include TAZ, planned communities, such as the anarchist collectives based on mutual benefit, support, and interests. Unfortunately, as the UK government states that it is interested in community sustainability, it demolished one of the largest Romani/Traveler camps a few years ago without even considering the needs of the residents.
Community breakdown, globalization, corporation and community. While I agree with Marshall McLuhan when he wrote that new technologies would create newer means of creativity and communication that would, by their very natures, force each of us to navigate our individual worlds in new ways, I also side with Jacques Ellul who believed that technology is a force that essentially eats itself. I mean by that that technology continuously innovates, improves, and advances. We, individually, collectively, and corporately, have to keep up or move to the side and be demolished in its wake. There is no voting to stop technology because it controls us. My realistic view is somewhere in the middle. I do not believe it can be stopped, but I also believe that I must choose the technology to let in my life and others must do the same.
Corporations and communities are another matter entirely, though that is still a choice to frequent or not. History tells of the Company Store with its exclusive scrip where workers toiled fourteen hours a day or more and the only retail outlet to buy goods for money or credit was the company they worked for. With retail behemoths like the cited Target and Wal-Mart, the local heterogeneous Mom and Pop grocery and record stores are dying and being replaced by the homogenous giants, although in some communities, record stores are fighting back and staying alive, barely through a devoted vinyl culture and the promotions of Record Store Day.
Transportation, rural communities, and mass education. It is difficult to determine whether or not a national light rail would have developed because it does not exist. I can posit that had there been a stronger and more violent protest of the destruction of the mass transit of the time, there may have been a better chance for light and long distance rail to have survived as a practical means of transportation as it does efficiently in Italy and the exceptional city of New York. In the early 1900s, most of the continental United States was rural farmland and most of the population were farmers or farm laborers. According to the text, only 20% of the United States is rural and the relationship between country and city is adversarial at best. Frankly both are needed for communities to survive and ways to bridge the gap between the groups are needed to teach survival, to teach sustainability, to teach health, to teach healing through food. Education, at least at the elementary and high school levels is not and has not been a place to teach individuals to think. It has been a place to indoctrinate into the current order, and there is little means of the United States to compete on the global scale. Children and people should be taught to think for themselves. While there are various reasons for homeschooling at present, it is an option that I will seriously consider when I do have children.
Alternative communities: Racial and Ethnic, GBLTQ, Deaf, and Religious. Each of these has one thing in common with the Anarchist collectives mentioned above. Each are built and supported around the concept of mutual aid, support, and benefit. In the anarchist community and in self-supporting communities, there exists the concept of barter rather than fixed sale and purchase price. This has been in place since before the concept of money and used in times of financial crisis when individuals are forced to become creative to survive and thrive, though it is more familiar to European market days (and occurs in childhood groups trading food and toys). It has also occurred in several communities around the country interested in developing a local “trading currency” of copper, silver, and gold tokens that by law can have no “monetary” value. They have value as metals in the communities that are interested in becoming self-sufficient and independent from the US government in the event of its collapse.
Van, Wormer K., F. Besthorn. Chapter 6: Community and community development. Human Behavior and the Social. 198-226. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.