Community vs. Society
So it seems that Tonnies sees Gemeinschaft as inherently good. Gemeinschaft represents the natural, moral and pure in human culture. I find this problematic on many levels. Relationships within Gemeinschaft are conceived of as, “real and organic life” (Tonnies p35, Community and Society) I would suggest that this is no more than idealistic and that small rural communities have just as much potential to become breeding grounds for xenophobia, presumptuousness, bigotry and cult mentalities than anywhere else, and further, smaller communities can become even more dangerous as the institutions (another idealistic concept) of the larger society may not be in a powerful enough position to help the persecuted. I’m not pointing some kind of generalised finger at rural Victoria or anything like that, this is purely conceptual. I’m thinking more of stories like The Crucible (Arthur Miller) or even First Blood (Ted Kotcheff; 1982) (great film). In First Blood, for instance, a Vietnam vet is returning home with little to no society-based resources or money to help him on his way. Established as a man who has fought patriotically for his country/government/community/society, the character of John Rambo (Stallone) is then persecuted by a small town in rural America who do not want their image of cleanliness and calm disturbed by a vagabond’s presence. This is Hollywood but it resounds a bigotry that may be common all through human culture.
Rural vs. Urban/City
John Rambo then wages war on the town from the surrounding forest….
This binary is one that is a clear issue throughout everyday life here in Australia. Issues of rural Aboriginal communities, rural white communities, internet connectivity and communications, national identity, artistic representations in film and literature, art, the growing rates of capital cities and climate change all permeate the media, the news and our entire culture.
Face to Face vs. Virtual Community
A recent phenomenon in the world of social media has been the controversy surrounding the website www.seppukoo.com. This website is an anti-social networking organisation who offer their service in committing virtual suicide. The website states: “Rather than fall into the hands of their enemies, ancient Japanese samurai preferred to die with honour, voluntarily plunging a sword into the abdomen.” This form of ritual suicide was known as “seppuku,” literally translating to “stomach cutting”. The group itself has become, by definition, a social network in its own right. It claims that this is nothing more than an artistic experiment routed in ideas about conceptions of ‘virtual’ identity. It sees its nemisis as large corporations with capitalist interests who use the network for profit gain and merciless marketing schemes. It would be interesting to analyse the groups ideas in terms of free speech, freedom of information and the freedom to conduct business over the internet, and perhaps even the more abstract concept of notions of truth and the viability of your on-line virtual persona.
Never-the-less, there are some great comments on the web-page and worth anyone having a look at who is interested in face-to-face vs. virtual.
At this stage I am considering running with the them of homelessness, or perhaps halfwayness for my community. It sounds challenging but it’s doable. Anyhow, some interesting binaries:
Anonymity vs. Identity
Home vs. Homeless
Safe vs. Unsafe
Free vs. Restricted
Individual vs. Gemeinschaft/Gesellschaft vs. Deviance
– this reminds of a passage from Fellini’s La Dolce Vita (1960):
Is a hard life better, than an existence…protected by a society…organized…where all is foreseen, perfect. It is the peace that frightens me.
I dread it above all. I have the impression that it is only an appearance. That it hides the hell.
This character later murders his two children and commits suicide. It is an example of the condition of alienation being one that is potentially universal and not necessarily tied only to ones class or physical condition. It shows a condition that positions the individual against both gemeinschaft and gesellschaft.