The Myth of Community

At this time of year, of holiday cheer, there are many who revel in family and friends gathered together, sharing gifts, ice skating and building snowmen together are visions which are both reactions to capitalism and bandaids to hide the unhealing disease within. As urban planners and environmental designers, such visions proliferate the literature so profusely, it’s sickening.

Community is an immense myth driving much of urban planning and architecture circles. In capitalism/authoritarianism is the harsh world of exploitation and cold exchange. And so in reaction they seek for that great “good” in which we have a world which transcends cold hearted monetary exchange, when people “give” to each other based on “love” and “family,” but even more so, a world where ‘blood is NOT thicker than water.’ When even this is a myth which alienates.

For so many, blood being thicker than water is a binding force which gives one a sense of security amid capital’s need for constant insecurity. You always have “family” to fall back on. Government itself provides its own artificial “care” to people. Instead of getting to know the people around you, instead of ending social and economic alienation between us all, we turn to “family” and we turn to government to “bail us out.”

And even amid the banks and automakers and others being “bailed out,” it is all still a part of the self same beast, the beast of ownership – a beast which enslaves us, causes us to compete with each other to survive in the ownership system, capitalism.

The buildings which rise up around us, they are all owned. The plaza, the police protect from vagrants, from loiterers. The planners protect property values, they ensure that every box of a building is set back the same as the rest, for the more things are the same, they easier they are to exchange on the market. They preserve the ownership system, but they simultaneously want all to feel welcome in that plaza, on that street, they want “community,” but it is myth. For when the people in business suits, when the skateboarder, when the homeless person, when the parent with the stroller stand side by side, they are all alienated from each other, by money, by the social exclusion of childhood and youth, by race and ethnicity, by social exclusions of gender, and by the obligations of marriage. Alienation run rampant. How can a welcoming plaza, street, shopping mall corridor, main street u.s.a, bring community together. THEY CANNOT. It is a myth.

Perhaps there is a place you know that draws lots of people, where a diversity of people feel quite welcome. But it still does not end the root of it all. Windows on the street, an often referred to way to make a place feel safer, but this still does not end the system. The only way this can occur is if there is an end to all authority and power over others – when anarchy has finally come.

Violence truly is the root that upholds capitalism. It is the way that capitalism thrives. When the police put down their guns, and when the robbers do too, when we all step away from the “need” to own the behavior of each other, and from owning things, then does it end, this cannot occur unless change occurs within the minds of people.

They must begin to see the world and their interactions with others in a totally new way. For those who first embrace it, it may be so difficult for us. For we are afraid to give up power, to give up control of things and people, feeling so alienated, we are afraid to bridge the alienation by proactively reaching out. We must have courage to reach out, to establish places without ownership, to hold the hands of others, to touch them, to let them know that there is nothing that is mine and nothing that is theirs, we just live together. It is about breaking the boundaries alienating us all from each other.

I am constantly encouraged to learn of tales of others, of polyamory, of WWOOFs, of intentional communities which are seeking to create places where “community” does not exist, only people living together and sharing life together, without rent, without money, without power over others. We only exist. It is in the concepts of opposites that capital draws its power. “Free love” itself denotes that some love can be bought, when we want a world without free love and without bought love, where our lives together are all that matters.

Jan. 7, 2009