What is ‘community’? It is a noun, and has a verbal form, ‘communication’. This gives us the essence of a ‘community’, for it is nothing more or less than a group of people who are in full communication with each other. This full communication is frightening, and many people, and groups, will shy away from it.
There are several ingredients for a successful community to form, amongst them facilitative leadership, as opposed to an over-organised and rigid professionalism, obsessed with not causing offence. Indeed, it is almost certain that offence will be caused on the way to a genuine community based on listening rather than on persuading.
Communities of necessity must move from being an association of individuals, with private interests, to a body that is concerned about the needs of others, and is unafraid of appearing vulnerable in their disclosure of their own needs and struggles.
Can anyone achieve this? Any normal person should be able to do so. But there is a big proviso.
This normal person should be psychologically mature, not co-dependent on anyone, as sons sometimes are on their mothers, even after they are dead and gone.
The practical outcome of such an upbringing is that these sons are incapable of disclosure, since their over-protective mothers prevented them from addressing crisis situations where psychological strategies could be developed which would answer the problem.
Such people have not developed the secure sense of identity (‘individuation’, in C. G. Jung’s parlance) that is essential if self-disclosure is to be made possible. Equally, it is possible to give what looks like self-disclosure, but which is really the result of an experienced ‘test wise’ counsellee.
One is fear, the other a fake. The person who has been held back from developing maturity will live in fantasy as a means of coping with life; they will run away from community, never developing further, a child in an adult body, living in a demi-monde of their own – and their mother’s – construction.
A mature person loves themselves, and is not afraid of self-disclosure, even that of a traumatic past that brings out shame, anger and tears.
This is the beginning of community, the place where a polite pseudo-community breaks down, and real thoughts and feelings begin to emerge.
This is to start the journey towards community, albeit with chaos and pain as part of this ‘road less travelled’.
Vulnerable disclosure changes the group from those who wish to provide solutions, to those whose priority becomes that of listeners. In this dynamic interaction of self-disclosure and listening, the attitudes of both parties are changed. Community is beginning to be forged.
The challenge then, is how to create more communities, in the sense we have described, that transcend the destructive individualism of western culture, the ‘Me First Society’.
The individualist ‘who did it my way’ is not a mature, pro-social person, but someone who is focussed entirely on themselves, a state associated with early childhood. Far from being a society of mature people, western culture encourages mass narcissism and infantilisation, in ever-increasing numbers.
The challenge for the west (and other so-called ‘developing’ nations) is how to break this spiritual and moral backwardness and poverty. The news is not good.