Monday, 04 February 2013

Does ‘Community’ Actually Mean Anything?

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“Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits. If one gets rid of these habits one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step toward regeneration.” [George Orwell]

Words matters.

I have a friend who’s a plumber. I phoned him last time my radiator leaked. He asked me if I’d tightened the gland nut. I said yes, and then no. I paused. And blushed.
“I have no idea what that is.” I said

Clearly defined words matter.

Especially when you’re working to build stronger communities.

We – and especially our leaders – have ransacked our language of the common good. Words like society, community, diversity and unity
have been used so often, so poorly, that they mean either nothing or worse the opposite of what they really should mean.

Unconvinced? Here is a conversation I had last year when explaining some of the work we do to build a stronger society.

“So what do you actually do?”
“We bring together a diverse group of young people.”
“Got you – all the really tricky kids you mean.”
“No – I mean a mixed group.”
“Right – just ethnic minority then.”
“No – like I said …”
” … so what do you do with these tricky non-white kids do?”
“No, that’s not .. never mind. We get them to do community work.”
“Right – so they paint a fence.”
“No we get them talking and listening so they build relationships.”
“I thought you said they do community work.”
“Never mind.’ 

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