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Thursday, December 30, 2004

Does the National Association of Associations know about this?

While visiting my brother's family in Virginia for the Mormon baptism of my oldest nephew — where, incidentally, I was conscripted at the last minute to play two hymns, reprising a role I have played in Mormon and Unitarian settings since 1982! — I picked up the Washington Post and found a marvelous throw-away article that will undoubtedly interest my fellow Unitarian Universalists: "Instant Community: No Assembly Required." Mark Leibovich writes:

These are rough days for the "rat-terrier community," the "heavy-metal community," the "porn community" and the "arms community," among other communities in the world's expanding community of communities.

But these are bright days for "community" in general, the term if not the concept. . . .

The journalism community loves communities, or at least calling things communities, no matter how tenuous or irrelevant these designations might be.

"Speaking as a member of the journalism criticism community," says media critic Bob Garfield, "I find that calling something a 'community' is yet another journalistic crutch that leans heavily on a foundation that doesn't really exist."

Garfield, who is a host of National Public Radio's "On the Media" and a columnist for Advertising Age, also identifies himself as a member of the "why-do-we-even-answer-phone-calls-from-annoying-reporters community."

As a member of the red-headed post-Mormon Christian Unitarian blogger community, I urge you to read the rest of it, even if you're a member of some other community.

Copyright © 2004 by Philocrites | Posted 30 December 2004 at 11:17 PM

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December 31, 2004 02:44 PM | Permalink for this comment

I love the wry tone of the piece, from the headline on down. Unfortunately, "community" is probably one of those wonderful terms on the brink of being co-opted out of existence. Our city operates several Neighborhood Community Centers, and even that sounds suspiciously vaguely warm-and-fuzzy (to say nothing of redundant).

Which just, I guess, makes me one of the "take back the meaning of 'community'" community. On the other hand, this one does include both genuine bonds of affection and shared moral values (laughing, but weakly).

Will Shetterly:

December 31, 2004 05:36 PM | Permalink for this comment

The reporter says Etzioni says that a true community shares "genuine bonds of affection and shared moral values." So:

1. Don't many of the groups that are mocked in this article meet that test? Seems to me that if marriages arise and principles are expected, you got yourself a community. I'm not going to back away from referring to UU members or science fiction fans as communities. You could argue that the "rat terrier community" should be called the "rat terrier sub-community," but that's getting mighty picky. They've got their own terminology that baffles outsiders. They socialize and marry. They're a community.

2. If you don't call them communities, what do you call groups of people like, oh, the millions of heavy metal folk who share similar taste in music and clothes, who may not necessarily all use illegal drugs but who mostly think people should not be locked up for using those drugs, who cohabitate and breed and dress their offspring like themselves? Okay, the quick answer is "nuts." But as a UU, I think we should be very, very slow to say, "We are an association of thoughtful individuals; they're a bunch of bozos."


January 6, 2005 08:52 PM | Permalink for this comment

I noticed that one of my local public radio stations was using the word "community" in a particularly unctuous way during its annual pledge drives. According to their many pitches, if I give them thirty bucks I'll become part of the NPR "community" and be rilly, rilly speshul to each and every speshul, elite listener of NPR. I suppose they come to my door with soup when I have a cold, too. It actually kept me from pledging this year, just because I was so turned off. I don't think WBUR used the word "community" to try to wheedle any dough out of me...I think I'll write them a check.

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