Posted by: jackslife | May 22, 2009

Poop as a Community Element

The eminently witty and wise Jason Peters has a great post up at FPR about what a true community is. I think that he is pretty spot on in his analysis.

I had a great conversation with a couple of friends who are engaged in a community garden project that I participate in that dealt with some of these same ideas. Obviously our little garden is a way that we are attempting to address a deficiency in organic local community. One of my friends commented that a big part of being in a member of a community is having to deal with the crap that people bring into their relationships. Sometimes people are rude, thoughtless, unscrupulous, etc. Dealing with the middle finger is just part of what goes into a true community. The good news is that a true community is typically more likely to be able to deal with this behavior and to discourage it, since people know that they have to live with the consequences of their actions. Accountability is a great feature of authentic community.

Item the Fifth: Give the Finger. And let life be understood in all its beauty and ugliness. The walking, eating, kissing (etc.), and fertilizing will necessarily involve some wrath and acrimony—that is, some flipping of the bird. Acrimony tends to follow people wherever they go. But a community marked by real people in real places is poised to deal with real middle fingers. Unlike a supposed community—like, say, the FPR—an actual community is comprised of people who flip one another off in physical proximity. They do so with real fingers extended in front of faces that attach to real names. They cannot hide behind the anonymity afforded them by the computer screen. Even the young boys throwing snowballs at cars after midnight will be found out sooner or later. As a thrower of late-night snowballs I know this to be true. The longed-for anonymity is always pretty short-lived. What we throwers learn is that it’s hard to dole out abuse anonymously in a place that takes seriously the business of caring for itself.

In such a place I don’t mind getting flipped off. But let’s be clear: someone who flips you off from a moving car is a placeless coward. Let disputes take place face to face. There will be fewer of them if they are not conducted in abstraction.

I think that his point about the drive-by finger is a great one that sums up a lot of our problem in a mobile society.  By and large we don’t really live in our neighborhoods, we just reside there.  We drive large distances to get to work, to shop for groceries, to take kids to baseball games, and almost every other aspect of our lives.  I think that this is why you see the drive for people to create these non-organic communities.  I do a community garden because I never speak to my neighbors, and there are not very many options as far as shopping and the like within walking distance.  Plus, my home town has a complete and total lack of bicycle paths, making biking anywhere a hazard to your very life.

Sigh, this is life in the modern world.


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