Community | Perspective


Schemata, philosophies, religions, scientific theories, and even aesthetic prejudices, can all act as bulwarks against the basic, cosmic anxiety which we all suffer when we realize how large and how indifferent the world is, and how small and helpless is each individual in it.4

The passage above, from psychologist Anthony Storr, highlights some of the various structures we use in order to defend ourselves against what Storr refers to as ‘cosmic anxiety’. When thinking of yourself in isolation the world can seem a foreboding place, full of infinite possibility and choice; often too much choice.

One of the primary benefits of community is the comforting sense of perspective it provides. Like those defences mentioned above, it helps us to break the world up into manageable structures, and can provide closeness, familiarity, and meaning.

Part of the joy we derive from large-scale events comes from the sense of community that develops around them. Sporting events are a good example of this, particularly those that take place on a large scale, such as the football World Cup.

The World Cup creates an immediate sense of a global community, united through it’s interest in the event, and kept in contact through widespread televised coverage. Through becoming a spectator, or even through holding a passing interest, we are inadvertently creating a link with thousands of others who are doing the same. The festivities that surround the event help to further the sense of coming together, and an ad hoc community is created - community through competition, through celebration, through spectacle.

When we watch a game our eyes join with thousands of others all over the world and we establish a temporary common ground. This link may only be a peripheral awareness, but its impact can be significant, in that it allows us to re-assess our perception of the world - to reduce something large and unknown into something more manageable. Where before the world may have been a collection of countries and people we know little, if anything, about, now it is a large collection of football fans; wearing colours that we recognise, thinking thoughts much like our own.

Big Brother is another interesting example of an event generating an instant community. Not only does the show become a televisual feature through it’s steady broadcasting over a defined and lengthy period of time, it also becomes omni-present through extended media coverage. From it’s own satellite shows (Big Brothers Little Brother, Big Brother’s Big Mouth, etc) to almost daily coverage in newspapers and magazines: as a society we become aware of its presence.

By choosing to engage we enter into a community, one not too dissimilar to the sort that springs up around sporting events; there are programmes which allow us to publicly discuss the event, in which it is expertly and not so expertly analysed; and in the studio audiences of Little Brother and Big Mouth we have mini-communities created before our very eyes. For a defined period of time a community springs up, its eyes trained upon the same things, its thoughts in synch.

Through creating community on both national and international levels, these events allow us to enjoy one of its primary benefits; they make the world seem a smaller place. The effect may often be near-unconscious, but it is significant none-the-less.

2 comments:

  1. An individual may be alone in a physical sense for many years and yet he may be related to ideas, values, or at least social patterns that give him a feeling of communion and "belonging".

    [Erich Fromm]
    The Fear of Freedom, p.15

    ReplyDelete
  2. We have come to recognize culture in the broader sense as an arena in which the discarded and dispossessed can explore shared meanings and affirm a common identity.

    [Terry Eagleton]
    After Theory, p.97

    ReplyDelete