This whole conversation (which is fascinating, by the way) reminded me of a long-ago list by uselessness about the way the word "community" has been overused. When you really think about what it means--in the way that chained_bear and whichbe describe their experiences, that is--it can still be a powerful concept.
One irony is that if Obama had chosen a purely venal job after graduating from college--say, something to do with leveraged buyouts--nobody would be batting an eyelash. Also good to point out that he was organizing communities (I agree, it does have a wishy-washy sound to it) only up until 1988, after which he went to law school, became a professor, legislator, etc. The snarling comments about him make it sound as if he was doing this last year.
I'd argue that people in past centuries did move around and uproot themselves a bit more than we give them credit for, but also, I blame air conditioning.
We hardly knew any of the people in neighboring houses until Hurricane Isabel knocked out the power (and some of the houses and roofs) in our neighborhood, for days and days on end. Then everyone was cooking soon-to-spoil food outside on their grills, and sharing it (because there was so much of it, it was just going to go bad anyway) with their neighbors, and generally hanging out outside where there was at least the chance for a breeze. Windows were opened, and stayed open 24/7. We all could hear everyone's fights, everyone's shouting kids, even everyone's conversations if it was still enough (and that bastard next door ever turned off his g$%#&@*ed gas-powered generator that sounded like a freight train and spewed exhaust fumes into our bedroom). Just like our corner of the world was about forty years ago.
We all got to know the people who live around us, for the first time. And just about everyone I met remarked on how odd it was that they'd lived there for X years and never talked to their neighbors... etc.
Also, last night a neighbor I've never even seen before took the time to get out of his car and come up to our door to say "I think your dog is down the street. Is your dog missing?" So thank god for the neighborly attentions of that guy, who not only paid attention to the dog but knew which house it belonged to. (We got her back, safe and sound but muddy.) I'm not sure he was even here when Isabel struck, come to think of it.
Haha, where I live, there's a few neighbors who I find profoundly annoying (though easily avoidable), so the idea of having to band together with them makes me wince.
One more note--NOLA has a rich, long, layered history of "community" that is rather unlike many of the Mallmart strips of America, comparatively speaking. So in a way, it's a poor example of the 'isolation' that exists. Nonetheless, it's still rather easy for people to feel/be seperated. Having only travelled to Montreal and Toronto outside of the U.S., I'm not informed enough to speak much of other places...
True enough. I guess I'd say that that community arose because of Katrina - the community of those afflicted by Katrina - and no doubt when the Big One hits my city I'll suddenly find myself having a heck of lot in common with the Korean ESL students next door. Absent one-off (hopefully) disasters, though, I still think fewer of us belong to a community than ever.
I guess mutual interest is one hallmark of community; maybe a stronger and rarer one is interdependence.
Yarb, what you've voiced is a certain, common byproduct of this day and age. Before, humans had countless generations oriented towards "community"--villages, towns, big families, etc. But not so much anymore.
However, you'd be surprised how certain "big" events in an individuals or (more often) an environment shakes this up. I was a volunteer in New Orleans for four months after Katrina hit in 2005, and there were definitely people there voicing a similar notion to what you just said, that is, *before* their world was torn upside-down. Funny how a disaster can bring unlikely people together.
So basically it's helping poor people, or people who can't get what they need for themselves. I agree, it seems particularly senseless for a theoretically small-government republican to have a problem with that.
Surely to be part of a community, though, requires more than simply living next door to someone? If not, then it's not a very meaningful word. Most people these days have very little in common with their neighbours. I'm not sure I could pick mine out of a line-up. I can honestly say I share no (known) interests with my neighbours; even if our apartment building were slated for demolition, we'd all just move out (it's 100% rental) and find somewhere else to live.
Whichbe's definition of a community organizer is mostly spot-on; it is a squidgy term, but in general it's considered a good thing. It usually refers to a person who cares about other people, his/her neighbors and neighborhood, and works/volunteers to make life better for them in whatever field the organization or group pursues.
It's very odd to me (even leaving my fairly strong personal reaction out of it) that this phrase would be turned into an insult or a laughingstock. I think mocking the people who do grass-roots organizing on a local level is, as whichbe pointed out, pretty rude as well as ignorant, but aside from that, the attempt to adapt terms (like this one) and use them as criticisms is just... It smacks to me of a Big-Brother-like misuse of language: a confusion of general comprehension that's the opposite of what language is meant to do.
If you live in a place where there's neighbors, you are part of a community. You're just "a quiet one."
This term is a rather vague one though. I believe in the "altruistic" sense, it refers to Non-profit, out-reach for disadvantaged and impoverished folk. What that actually means can vary so much based on the organization and the people. Often the tasks involve "hitting the streets", so to speak, talking to people, getting them connected to a service or event (sometimes these are religious organizations) if they need or want it.
The hilarity of all this is that the Republicans in America so often talk about government being "small". But if government isn't taking care of community and the needs of people, WHO WILL? They should be fucking thankful that people volunteer their time and energy to this stuff, especially smart ones with a fancy college degree. But instead they bash it? Duh! The world *needs* people doing this work.
The approach of a politician to look down on the efforts of others, especially ones with noble intents, is a really fucking dumb idea. And rude. It's like how some members of the so-called Left bash Christians reflexively. I have my own uneasiness with some ill behaviors done in Jesus' name ("WHAT WOULD JESUS BOMB?"), however to blanketly dismiss the religion altogether is unproductive, disrespectful, and ignorant.
Never having identified, myself, with any community, still less desiring someone to organise me, I admit to being somewhat baffled by this term: can someone enlighten me as to what one of these is, please?
Another example of what was being discussed in the past couple days on liberal—a generally positive term or phrase being turned into a pejorative.
"The credit or blame for launching the “community organizer�? mock-fest goes to former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani who told the convention Wednesday night, “You have a resume from a gifted man with an Ivy League education. He worked as a — community organizer.�?
"He paused and then said, “What?�? as if to express befuddlement at that job title.
"Giuliani had eloquent body language — a dismissive half-shrug — as he said the words, “community organizer.�?
"Immediately the delegates on the convention floor burst into laughter and guffaws....
"What Obama’s fans see as noble and altruistic, Republicans see as a bit absurd...."