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Community Alienation

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Saggio l'uno

Joined: 22 Apr 2002
Posts: 6075
Location: Canada

PostPosted: Sun Sep 14, 2008 7:03 pm    Post subject: Community Alienation. Reply with quote

I've lived in one town my entire life. I was born here, I was raised here, and I'm still living here today while I pursue my education. By all measures, the place in which I live is a most typical community. In its past, it was a railway hub, the centre of the region, the major stop between the great port on the coast, and the rich resources in the interior of the province and the country. It was a small town, it was one with a coherent local economy and community, all the services one could ask for were all within its borders, and everything that wasn't, wasn't needed or could be acquired or reached easily enough.

But like many smaller towns in North America, the changing economy and the changing demographics left this place where I live in a bad situation. As the importance of the railway lessened, the importance of the town itself decreased. Industry left, and the once busy rails that carried the foods and goods needed to sustain an empire from one side of the continent to the next, slowly began to be overtaken by trucks and barges and planes.

The rest of the story is fairly straightforward. As industry left, local jobs left, but instead of the town shrinking into obscurity, like so many others in the hinterland, it in fact grew. Next to a major urban centre, this place began to host more and more bedroom workers - toiling away in the office towers an hour away, while coming home to sleep in this once thriving centre of trade. The things necessary for a person to exist in this place, jobs, industry, entertainment, and services, all slowly began to change character. The result being that everything that was designed to serve a local community has been retooled to serve the transient population of sleepers who now overwhelming make up the majority of residents in this place.

Now that itself may be cause for alarm, or not, depending on your viewpoint, but what I wanted this post to be about is community alienation. I've lived in this place forever, and what I have seen happen increasingly over the years is a detachment by all residents from the actual goings-on of their local town. The people who live here don't concern themselves with anything - they don't vote in the local elections, they don't partake in any kind of community events; there is no public forum for all citizens to mix and mingle and discuss what is best for the community. These people only concern themselves with one thing: themselves and theirs - that which is cloistered away from everyone, the neighbours, the people down the block, the rest of the people in the city.

How can a person even call this place where I live a "city" (which implies very strongly a "polis") when the only interaction people have with each other is on the road out of town? Is this really the way that we should be building communities? I need something more substantial in the place where I live. I need a permanence of institutions and people and that doesn't exist for me in this place. But I'm beginning to seriously doubt that it exists in a meaningful sense elsewhere, too, and that's something I don't know how to deal with.
Philosophy is the art of preparing for death.
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Joined: 17 Sep 2007
Posts: 96

PostPosted: Sun Sep 14, 2008 10:10 pm    Post subject: Not my best post, but I'm tired? Reply with quote

Run for local government?

My friend is a councilor, and was elected so at 19 so please don't use the age card as a reason not to. Like you, he is very politically involved (and has been so from a young age), politically aware and he wants to change things for the better. Yes, he can be a bit self important and self interested at times... and socially he can be a bit... well, strange sometimes (which I don't think you will be/are). But well, he's a councilor. He does a great job and is currently undertaking honours in political science (I think).

Anyway, I think the point I was trying to make is that you can try be a councilor and change things from there. My friend did, and like him you seem passionate and intelligent, perhaps even more so. He doesn’t have a huge amount of power (well, he and the other councilors do control the council’s coffers… and he does other stuff too so maybe he does have a bit of power – provided other councilor’s vote for whatever with him) and there seems to be a lot of bickering and pettiness among the councilors but he does have a lot of standing in the community and some capacity to change things.

Obviously if you even got to that stage the odds would still be stacked way, way against you (from what you’re saying, I think) but being elected as part of your local government (however it works and however it’s structured) could be a good start to seeing things change in your community for the better.
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