I don't have a community

I get confused when I hear statements on the news like "community leaders have called for calm" or "community leaders will be encouraged to host informative programs" or "assurances were provided by local community leaders" or "community leaders have launched a campaign"...

I want to ask you a simple question. Who are your community leaders?

Take a moment to think about that.

Who are my community leaders?

I don't know how I identify myself. And I'm not sure if that's a problem or not.

I don't have a religion.

I don't have a profession, as such. My career is a haphazard mish-mash of jobs. There's no chartered body which speaks on my behalf and asks me to submit to their rulings.

I am a member of a Trade Union. But they don't ask anything of me other than monthly fees. I'm free to listen to them or not.

I know a few of my neighbours. They're nice enough, but I don't share anything much with them other than a postcode. I doubt we'd band together for anything more than an ad-hoc litter pick - and that's unlikely to be organised by a "leader".

I don't follow sports, so have no answer when someone asks me who my team are. If the captain of the England squad runs a campaign about men's health then I'm unlikely to know who he is, let alone trust his advice.

I'm not a member of a political party. Even if I was, I doubt I'd follow all their edicts. I've got a local councillor and MP - I wouldn't describe their relationship to me as a leader.

What are my tribes?

Humans are a social species. I have friends - both online and meatspace. But I don't feel like I have a community.

I am a geek. Would I describe Torvalds and Doctorow as my "community leaders"? Nope!

I enjoy drinking beer and cider - I even go to festivals. I don't care what you drink, or if you don't drink. I don't care what CAMRA defines as "real" - if you enjoy it, drink it.

I love Star Wars, but who leads that community? I ignore the people who get upset that a person who doesn't look like them is now a protagonist. I didn't need to be lead to that conclusion.

I have opinions about LGBT+ rights. But I'd far rather listen to the experiences of my trans* friends than those from a self-appointed leader.

There are things I like, and people within those communities who opinions I find interesting. But I'd struggle to call them leaders.

My hobbies include not collecting stamps

Can I only define myself by the things that I'm not?

Am I missing out on some vital human experience?

I'm not naïve enough to think that I've derived my own personal philosophy - everyone is a composite product of their culture and environment.

But it troubles me. Everyone else seems to have a community, and a leader. Do I need a community? Do I need to be led?

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6 thoughts on “I don't have a community”

  1. Alex Gibson says:

    Not strange at all - I can nod along with everything you say there.
    In fact it made me ask myself - what must it be like to feel the need to look to a leader or be part of a group? Is there comfort to be gained from that state of mind, or is it a trap from which I am (relatively) free?
    I'd agree that in your choice of roles, and even setting up this blog, you are assuming some element of leadership yourself - but as a facilitator, I don't sense any need or desire to gain followers, just put some things that interest you out there.
    What does frustrate me is to be shoehorned into a tribe by someone else. As a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant male (by accident of birth), this happens a lot in the background these days, and very occasionally front and centre. For the most part I'm happy to acknowledge that any negative impact to me pales by comparison to very real, if never asked for, privilege I benefit from. Part of that privilege, at least for most of my life so far, is NOT being routinely labelled as part of a specific group, so I really won't cry about it! But I was stung by a recent online encounter with a person who I generally respect and promoted, when I was randomly put back in my box with a very free and easy ban hammer threat, for a point I made that others also did before and after without negative response, with a follow up to clarify I did not have the right to make it based purely on the fact that 'my tribe' had not done enough to tackle their personal bêtes noirs.
    The sooner we can shake off the shackles of tribalism, and become true communities of autonomous, equally empowered and respected individuals who don't need leaders or scapegoats, freely choosing to associate around the things that interest us, the better!

  2. Community is, obviously, all about self identification. I think it's also important to acknowledge that just because you feel you are in a particular community doesn't mean you are beholden to follow - or even like - other people in the same group. Am I in a community with Cory Doctorow? Yes. Do I agree with everything he says - hell no.

    When I was half my current age I though that "geek" was it's own singular culture (rock music, role playing games, SF, tech, specific ways of dressing, etc). The pony-tail I've sported for over 30 years was a conscious signal to people that I was part of that group.

    As I've grown older I've become aware that in reality things are much more diffuse and fluid. Unless there is some kind of gate-keeping (required approval, sign-up, payment, etc) then, like gender, someone is a member of a community if they say they are.

    I'm a proud geek and very proud member of the global civic tech community - but I don't pretend to have any say over who else fits into either of those categories and no-one else does either.

  3. Marcus Downing says:

    Geeks, like many of the groups I like and respect, tend to be rebellious. They take badly to being led.

    I'd identify as a member of a number of groups, large and small; and in many of those groups I'd be able to point to people who are central to the group, who produce more than they consume, and who I respect for what they do. But they don't lead, they don't give orders (except practical ones like "Please don't burn our venue down"), they don't expect obedience and they don't enact any sort of hierarchy. They hold a respected position because of what they do, which is to create, enable, encourage and bring people together. In some groups I'm one of those people, in others I'm not.

    If one of these people started demanding respect, issuing orders, expecting obedience - behaving like a traditional tribal leader - they'd very quickly lose all that respect.


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