When I was little, community was the first word in ‘community centre’. It still is, of course – even if I no longer live in the countryside and my small world no longer revolves around a small building in the middle of a small village.
While community centres still exist (I think), the word community seems to have taken on a life of its own. Rather than just a simple adjunct to another word, like centre or rural, community is a term imbued with its own connotations.
When TV reporters head into the field (usually a place, rather than a green piece of land), they refer to the community – they talk about the ‘reaction of the the community’, ‘the feelings of the community’. With a knowing tone, we are all supposed to know what they mean – we’re supposed to feel their interviewees’ collective pain. Because in the end, we’re all part of a wider and understanding community. But are we?
I would suggest not, actually. What we actually have is rampant individualism, and what was started in the 1980s has come to a head in the consumer and celebrity-obsessed noughties. The internet isn’t (always) helpful. Web 2.0 is meant to be about collaboration and community but often becomes manifest as individualism, with everyone worried about their presence – look at my Twitter page, pay attention to what I think, please read my blog. Talking of which, please read my blog.