Category Archives: Sociology

On Communities Now and Then

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For thousands of years people lived in communities. It was simply impossible to survive alone. In the community, usually a small group, people helped each other to survive. The rules and regulations were fixed.
When members trespassed a community rule they were confronted by honorable elders and a solution was found to reestablish balance. Even if there was a dispute which led to injury of another person, a way was found to make amendments to the injured. Only the most severe offenses against the community would lead to exile.

In modern communities rules and regulations still remain a vital part of our social structure, likewise, help for survival is granted, especially in European countries with social aid systems. The rules and regulations are more complex now, however. There are entire legal systems dedicated to overseeing these issues.

In ancient communities the members used to feel bad conscience when violating the rules and regulations of their group. The bad conscience was accompanied by the fear of being expelled and exiled. An exiled member would find it very difficult to survive alone. Being expelled was equivalent to being sentenced to death.
Nowadays people are being expelled from society when sent to prison which many times means their (social) death, as well.

Today it is possible to live without active participation in any community life and still receive social aid. The dissociation of material support from human relationships seems dangerous to me. There are reports about people who have been lying dead in their homes for months before being discovered. Why? Since their bank accounts had enough money to keep paying their rent, nobody missed them.

But there are also limitations to what communities can offer: Since our society lives a life alienated from nature the rules made by modern communities lack the strength of the ancient ones. What if a particular community had cruel practices? What if a member wanted to leave because s/he felt that the rules of the community were out of sync with his/her inner truth?

As much as being expelled from community could previously mean being sent to death, in contemporary communities the opposite case, the voluntary breaking out, might be punished by death as well. Such a break out is then considered as treason. Then we hear about brothers or uncles taking revenge on their sisters or nieces who did not agree to an arranged marriage, tragic stories we can read about such cases in the newspaper.

Personally, apart from my own, wonderful, extended family, I have chosen my own “community”, a group of likeminded people who don’t live physically together but whom I stay in constant mental and emotional contact with. I strongly feel a part of this community, at the same time I would meet no external difficulties if I ever decided to quit and move on.

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