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Posted by Jeevan Sivasubramaniam, Managing Director, Editorial, Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.
In his new book, author Paul Born explores what makes a strong and sustainable community. One of the things Paul warns about is how many are often lulled into a false sense of security by participating in "shallow" communities -- communities that seem, initially, to be strong and supportive but whose foundations are flawed.
Here are five signs of shallow communities:
1. Communities of Fear: These are groups formed of people who share a common fear. The problem is that fear is not something that bonds people to each other; all it does is make people more paranoid by validating that paranoia by bringing in others who share the same fear no matter how irrational it may be.
The Alternative: When groups are afraid they can share their fears with each other, bringing what they know, have heard and observed to the whole and in turn make sense of the fear going on around them. We realize how irrational many of our fears are when we deal with them together.
2. Communities of Hate: Aryan Nation groups and others like them claim to be about self-preservation but in fact they are more about hating others unlike them. Whenever you have a group that stands against something as the foundation of what they stand for, it's a sure sign of instability and irrational thinking with foundations in negativity. Nothing good can come of a community founded on hate.
The Alternative: There really is no alternative here. If you are part of a community of hate, please get out and find one that is caring, open, and accepting of debate and diversity. Collective hate will create an “us vs them” scenario every time. Find a Deep community that is welcoming of who you are, all of you.
3. Communities of Elitism: Gated communities and those of the very wealthy are surprisingly poor and lacking in community spirit in comparison with middle class and working class neighborhoods, and the reason for this is simple. Communities of the elite are focused on exclusivity, not inclusivity. However, the same mindset that detaches such people from others will often detach them from their "own kind." There's always elitism even among the elite.
The Alternative: Enjoy all of the differences in your community. Gated communities are most often beautiful and orderly spaces but they are also uniform and homogenous, so you don’t experience or learn anything new.. When you live in a diverse community, you build new skills and are constantly learning.
4. Communities of Hedonism: “We are here for a good time not a long time, so have a good time the sun can’t shine every day”, is one of my all-time favourite musical lines from the band Trooper. Though living excessively for pleasure, going from one joyful experience to the other comes at the expense of engaging in the lives of people all around you and the real problems that face us. Hedonism is an escape from reality but as we all know, we can never actually escape reality.
The Alternative: The simplest way to deepen your experience of community is to have fun together with the same people over time, which builds reciprocity and trust. Reciprocity and trust are the gate ways to mutuality and caring for one another and the world around you. So go ahead have a good time, just remember at least some of those experiences should be with people who get to know really well over time.
5. Communities of Loneliness: I cannot tell you how many people I know that live in apartment buildings who no few or any of their neighbours by name. Living in close proximity to one another can cause us to create space and boundaries around ourselves. We feel secure in our anonymity. Anonymity has but one friend and that is loneliness.
The Alternative: We all love our own space so I will not ask you to give that up. It is always a good idea to know you neighbour and I can almost guarantee when you do you will find out they love their own space as much as you do. Humans have co-existed for a long time mainly because we are pretty good at enjoying each other, relying on one another, working together and still finding plenty time for ourselves and the things that matter to us.