In the aftermath of the sudden and ferocious storms that besieged the US yesterday, afflicted residents of the southern states between Mississippi and Missouri were forced to spend their New Year clearing debris and residual damage. When the dust began to settle, 6 fatalities had been recorded alongside other serious injuries and considerable damage to material property and buildings.
What became apparent however was the sense of community and togetherness that had been fostered through hardship, as countless residents gathered to assist the Red Cross operatives at the scene. This reflected an incredible selflessness of character, as individuals put their own issues and suffering aside to help the rescue efforts and clear the debris from the roads and man the refuge centers and facilities.
This reaction and communal spirit displayed in common is the instances of emergency and natural disaster, and serves as a comforting reminder of the best side of human nature and behaviour. However, this sense of community and selfless distribution of time raises another question, as it is at odds with the behaviour and conduct witnessed in every day life and contemporary society.
The concept of communities working together with its individuals operating as a weave of intricate threads is an old fashioned one, and was a prominent feature of societies in the 1960’s and 1970’s. This was a global phenomenon, influencing the vast majority of western cultures and civilization, which saw people endorsing a communal team ethic in order to protect against social afflictions such as crime, violence and poverty.
These trends in thinking and social union diminished gradually, and are particularly rare and unheralded in contemporary society. There are many reasons that may be responsible for this, but what it is interesting is that these instinctive feelings of community and team work resurface in instances of extremity and hardship. This proves that though the traditional understanding of community and belonging is less prevalent, it is still an inherent part of the make up of individuals and therefore of society.
One of the potential reasons for the lack of community spirit in every day society is the progression of multiculturalism. This is not a sleight on the concept of multiculturalism itself, but more an issue with how society has and continues to adapt to it. Fostering a tightly woven and spirited community is easy amongst a group of people where values and belief systems are the same, but becomes more troublesome where a society consists of diverse individuals with variable thoughts and aspirations.
The validity of this theory can be seen in the decline of community through the modern era. Throughout the first portion of the 20th century until the close of the 1970’s, the US and other western societies were not nearly as diverse in terms of race and religion as they are today, and therefore union was easy to forge within a group of similar individuals. Once different cultures began to be integrated with more frequency, the traditional idea of community diminished as the individual component’s of society changed.
Another potential issue is the way that the terms of community are understood in modern society. Social networking sites are prevalent in contemporary methods of communication and interaction, and are a defining factor in many individuals social lives and existences. The fact that these sites encourage their own sense of private and limited community is crucial, as it directly effects the way that the current generation understand the nature of society and a closely connected group of people.
The ideal of social union and the concept of community are still of great importance, and both remain apparent through situations of hardship or natural disaster. This proves that while these concepts are not especially fashionable, they remain core fabrics of society and the individuals that live within it. Given the diverse nature of contemporary western society, it should be hoped that as people adapt further to multiculturalism through the continued integration of cultures, that they may be able to develop a greater understanding of each other and forge a contemporary community.