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What makes a “Community”?

Sometimes I wake up and whatever it is that has been happening around me seems to form itself into a post for the Blog. Other times I gather research on a topic in the hope that a Blog post can be wrested from it. I suppose both methods are essentially the same thing, it’s just that in the former method it is the unconscious mind that pulls the threads together, and in the latter it is the conscious mind. Today it is the unconscious driving things, but then, isn’t it always?

I digress. Over the course of the past two days I had the pleasure of meeting many local residents who are friendly, helpful, welcoming, considerate and kind. They are also the kind of people who, without having to be asked, will roll up their sleeves and if they see a job needs doing, get on and do it. They ask for no reward for this, because it is just a part of being in a “community”. Let me take this opportunity to say “Thank you, you know who you are”.

I have also had the unfortunate experience of not directly meeting some others, who have as their “modus operandi”, to take rather than to give. Thieves, to be precise. I assume at least two people, possibly more, working together as predators on our community. Opportunistic, without moral compunction, presumably still able to sleep soundly in their beds even after committing what is undoubtedly a criminal act. They know who they are, but somehow I doubt very much they are reading this Blog.

So, I have met a few of the “good”, and the “bad”, but there are, of course, also the “ugly”. By which I refer not to the famous “spaghetti western” starring Clint Eastwood, or to the physical appearance of this third group. What I am actually referring to is the “biased”. Bias, unconsciously affects ALL our thinking, so I include myself, and all the good people I met, and the bad people I didn’t meet. We are all, to a greater or lesser degree, biased. (Please feel free to disagree with me here, the comment section at the bottom of the page is open to all).

I was recently referred to by a colleague on the Parish Council as a “keyboard warrior”. I have been told many times that I am a NIMBY (Not IN MY Back Yard, if you didn’t know). More times than not I have been told “you cannot win against the developers. They have the money, and therefore they have the power”. Personally I think these are all evidence of unconscious bias.

I think I am being told I am a “keyboard” warrior because I don’t have whatever it takes to be a “real” fighter. I am being a NIMBY because I am selfish. I am only concerned with "my" unspoilt view, not the “greater needs of my community for more houses, roads, jobs and whatever else it takes to get the economy done”. I cannot win because, as everyone knows, money is power, and “power is in the hands of those who know best”.

Actually, I am using my keyboard because I can. Because the internet, fast wireless connectivity and a small, mobile “smart” device have together made it incredibly easy for me to do so. I should also thank my state sponsored education, my teachers, my parents and my upbringing, but that is the key point I am trying to make here. I write this Blog because I can. Anyone out there, reading this, can do the same. In fact please do! I warmly invite all of you to get something off your chest, put it into words, send it to me and I will happily consider publishing it for you (content allowing).

I am a NIMBY because my back yard is so much more than just a “yard”. A yard implies some scrappy bit of wasteland that nobody will really miss, that can be built on without great loss, and to everyone’s greater benefit. Wrong! I do have a “yard” in my garden and it is mostly given over to compost bins and recycled building materials awaiting an opportunity to be returned to useful purpose elsewhere. It is hidden from view by fence panels because, important as is for the proper functioning of my garden, it is not very beautiful. Hall Farm (not quite my back yard, but close enough) is not just a “Yard”. It is full of precious but threatened wildlife, deep and meaningful local history, great aesthetic landscape value, much needed fresh air and those intangible “happy molecules” that lift the soul as you pass through them.

As I write the radio comes on with news about Government plans to allow the return of advertising high fat, high salt, high sugar, processed food because it is “cheap”, and this will help the cost of living crisis. People who work in the civil service (basically the front line of government) are to be culled to make more “savings”. Working from home “does not work” because we need to be in the office so our “betters” can ensure we are not skiving off. Migrants are to be shipped to Rwanda, despite the possibility that this is in breach of international law, because it is migrants that are taking our jobs, filling our hospitals, occupying all our houses and generally holding the economy back. Essentially a ten minute introduction to the key strands of modern British political bias. (I contend, in my own, very biased way).

To say that I disagree with the Government on all of the above as any kind of solution just reveals another “bias”. I must be a lefty, woke, bleeding heart liberal, with no idea of what it takes to run a sweet shop, never mind an economy. Maybe I am.

But to return to my original point, what is it that makes a “Community”? Because isn’t that the point of an “Economy”? The economy supports and helps the community to thrive, to sustain itself, to spread a little joy and happiness into what can be, let’s face it, a hard, cold, lonely life where pain, loss and hardship are potentially only just another “unfortunate” event or mishap away.

A community is about shared values. “Shared” as in the majority of us agree with them and “Values” as in this is what the majority of us think matters. “Democracy” is our best yet way of establishing what those shared values are, on a large scale. But “Community” it is also about the little things. Can I make you a cup of tea? Can I help you carry that? Can we share a moment of peace and tranquillity together?

Arborfield Social Club currently runs every Friday lunchtime at Arborfield Village Hall. It is free to join and is open to all. We welcome new friends and love to share what we have. Many of the “Club” are currently working really hard to advertise and prepare for the Platinum Jubilee. I am not a “Monarchist” as such, but like most British Citizens I am very proud of the role our Queen has played in our country. We are having a long weekend of parties to celebrate her place in all our lives and it will be a great opportunity for communities to come together, to see past the differences that separate us and share the values that connect us.

Shall we talk about it?

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