Just a little update on community. Because I know we’re all slightly worried that the idea of community is so out of fashion and that people don’t get reminded often enough that we all live in A Community and we are all members of A Community (just one though – mind now) and we must all respect other people’s Communities as they must respect ours. So it is good to see that in some few corners of the media, respect for The Community is not quite dead yet.
For instance there is this nice little BBC article which uses the word no fewer than twelve times. Not bad for such a short piece! I feel all cuddly as I read it. Stifled, but cuddly.
Some 120 members of the Bangladeshi community from London and beyond marched in protest against the forthcoming film adaptation of Monica Ali’s novel, Brick Lane…This community first complained vehemently when the novel was first released in 2003 to much critical acclaim…Soon chants began, and slogans such as “Community, community, Bangladeshi community” and “Monica’s book, full of lies” repeatedly rang out…Dr Husain delivered a short speech in which he explained how the Bangladeshi community felt about Ms Ali’s novel. “A book has been written, that has greatly offended the hard-working, industrious Bangladeshi community,” he said. “This hard-working community has been offended by lies, slander and cynicism. There should be a limit to what you can write or say.”…It was quite noticeable that there were almost no women directly involved in the march. One of the two who did march was Salina Akhtar, 41, who lives not far from Brick Lane. She said she didn’t know why women were not at the protest, but said the female members of the Bangladeshi community were upset by Ms Ali’s novel.
Isn’t it interesting the way they all feel entitled to speak for ‘the community’? How do they get that way? How do they know that every single ‘member’ or ‘female member’ of ‘the community’ agrees with them? They don’t, of course, they just like to claim they do or pretend they do. Thus coercive groupthink and conformist pressure get a foothold, and the BBC helps out.
Tom Morris makes the same point:
The Guardian has a sensible enough piece saying on the Brick Lane issue. But what they fail to understand is that by even using the word “community” (something that Natasha Walter does twenty times in this article), they give support to the very problem they are highlighting. It’s individuals we are talking about, not communities. It’s a flawed and useless way of talking about what is a matter of individuals. Some people think the book is treacherous/blasphemous/nasty-nasty, and some people don’t. To use the word “community” automatically gives these busybodies the very credibility that they are trying to achieve.
Which could be why one of the favoured slogans was ‘Community, community, Bangladeshi community’. No flies on them.
Peter Tatchell, of OutRage!, the gay rights group said: I wrote to him about lyrics that incite murder of gays and lesbians by some black singers and suggested that the CRE co-ordinate a round table meeting with the black and gay communities to have come to an agreement about challenging racism and homophobia.
Eh? A meeting with the black and gay communities? That would be kind of a large meeting, wouldn’t it? You’d have to hold it in Richmond Park, and then nobody would be able to hear. What is it with this synechdoche thing where a few people talking somehow is everyone who fits the description ‘member of the ___ community’? If some woman or some American or some atheist went to a meeting somewhere would I consider her to be representing the women’s or Americans’ or atheists’ community and therefore representing me? Just automatically, because of her ‘identity’? No. No, I’ve actually met a few women I don’t agree with about much of anything, and much the same can be said of my experience of meeting Americans. Is it different with gays and blacks (and Bangladeshis) because they’re all so oppressed that they all think alike? No, because that’s not how that works. There are lots of women who think women ought to be subordinate to men; I’m not part of their community. Same thing with any community. Bangladeshi, gay, dust-collecting; all of them. Humans don’t share one big brain, no matter how communitarian they are, and it’s not possible to turn all those billions of brains into one big collective shared brain simply by dint of endless repetition of the word ‘community.’ And a good thing too. I like to keep my brain to myself, thank you.