What is community? Why is it important? I believe it was the most essential building block of society but is now stripped of all power, to a point where it is unrecognizable for what it once was, and for what it could be.
Our dependence on state and corporate social structures is so nearly complete, we don’t even notice. Charles Hugh Smith writes, “… not only have non-state, non-corporate social structures vanished, people have lost the values, skills, and tools needed to assemble and maintain such structures.”
The problem is more fundamental than social media and smartphones, and has been with us for a long time. But the effort to dismantle community has been intentional and systematic.
The first wave of the industrial revolution created the machines of production but stalled momentarily in the mid 1800s, when in the United States they could not find citizens in sufficient quantity to run the machines. They had to take a largely agrarian populace, centered on the extended family, with an artisan approach to work, and turn them into efficient cogs in a larger machine. The solution was to turn citizens into consumers, accomplished by creating a need. Edmund Bernays, who in 1928, literally wrote the book on “Propaganda” (which he rebranded as “public relations”), referred to it as “the engineering of consent.” You’ve been played since before you were born.
Go to Ground
Matt Taibbi writes: “First, we’re taught to stay within certain bounds, intellectually. Then, we’re all herded into separate demographic pens, located along different patches of real estate on the spectrum of permissible thought. Once safely captured, we’re trained to consume the news the way sports fans do. We root for our team, and hate all the rest. Hatred is the partner of ignorance, and we in the media have become experts in selling both … The news, basically, is bait to lure you into a pen where you can be sold sneakers or bath soaps or prostatitis cures or whatever else studies say people of your age, gender, race, class, and political bent tend to buy.”
Money, which we accept as the “medium of exchange,” is anything but. It always seeks a return. We are charged a fee or penalty to play, and we always have to give back more than we’re lent. Money has ceased to be the medium of exchange particularly since 1971, when it became a plaything for bankers, and rented by the rest of us, particularly if you actually work for a living.
Stuart Ewens, calls it “colonization of the mind” in his book Captains of Consciousness, where he traces the insidious way unaccountable power has steadfastly insinuated itself into what heretofore was sacred space, social space, community space.
Community has been hacked. Any structure or institution with intrinsic sustaining value has always been hacked to provide a monetized return on investment. Like our hacked food system, the replacement is never healthy.
With a nod to Fermat, lack of space prevents me from revealing a solution, but I’ll hint: Every figure has a ground. Go to ground, look to the margins. Your community sits staring off into the abyss or into a black screen. Yeats asked, “And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?” Let it in, unchain it, or invent it.