A community is a social group identified by its shared values, usually resulting from shared circumstance, background or experiences. It is inherently self-defining. Communities are strengthened by the sharing and celebration of those shared values, and by devices that reinforce them. While they may evolve over time, the evolution is always based upon the internal growth and development of the community.

A team is an example of a community, sharing values related to competition. To celebrate and reinforce those values, they get together and talk about the game, about what makes them successful as a team community. They work together on skills that they believe are needed for them to win. They develop internal relationships of trust and mutual responsibility. They are proud to wear their uniform and to be identified with the other members of the team. They celebrate the individual successes of the team members, and relate those successes to the growth and development of the team. As any coach knows, you can’t build a team from the outside. You can’t “legislate” team spirit, a winning attitude or team brotherhood. Junkanoo groups and lodges are also examples of communities sharing values.

Why, then have we concluded that we can “make” our civic communities from the outside? What makes us think we can draw a line on a map and decide that “this is such-and-such a community”? How do we ignore the whole question of shared values and assume that all communities must be the same because they share our prejudices? A legislated grouping may be a constituency, but that does not make it a community. And more often than not, a constituency is made up of many communities, and therefore no single “community” device (e.g. a community center) can address the value-sharing or value-reinforcing needs of all of them.

In my opinion, we have been actively destroying communities for the past several decades in the name of Community Development. The devices that promote the sharing of community values – churches and church halls, youth groups, community gatherings to share cultural expressions, social societies – have been phased out in favour of externally-designed “one-size-fits-all” solutions that destroy the souls of the communities. For example, in the community I grew up in, self-reliance was an important value, and part of what brought many of the men and women we now call the fathers and mothers of the nation to the stage. Today that community is defined by its attitude of dependence and the shared behavior of constant begging. I don’t accept that the change is due to natural “evolution”.

There is a need to revisit our attitude towards communities, to regain respect for the existing social and micro-political structures as representative of the value systems shared by, in some cases, generations of families that have filtered through those communities. We need the humility to seek out the internal coaches, human and otherwise, who know how to build team spirit, to involve the community in training to win and how to develop internal trust and responsibility. Once that is done, legislators can ask what kinds of support is needed by those coaches, rather than constantly sending in new coaches with “one-size-fits-all” game plans and a rule book that promotes dependence on a Central Government.

Two final comments come to mind. Einstein is reputed to have said, “A problem cannot be solved by the mindset that created it.” I think what we are seeing in our communities – from environmental degradation to crime – we have created with the mindset that disrespects the inner sanctity of communities. It is time to change that mindset.

The second is a note from a book I read some years ago. It said there are three conditions of human existence. In hierarchy, from the bottom to the top they are dependence, independence and inter-dependence. Real communities foster inter-dependence.

I was born in Grant’s Town and raised in Bain Town. There is no such community as Bain and Grant’s Town. ‘Nuff said.

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