Individualism over Community

Detail from the drawing Lamentation, by me, 2021

Detail from the 2021 drawing Lamentation, by the author

Much has already been said about the championing of individualism over community by the likes of Thatcher and others from the 1980s onwards. It is — and continues to be — a weapon used to divide and fracture opposition.

Even now small emergent virtual communities are hastily denigrated as “bubbles” and we are urged to “break out” of them, so threatening is the idea of a burgeoning community amid the classroom of competitive individualism that is social media.

I’ve been wondering whether there is a possibility for putting together tools to help build communities - I’m primarily thinking here of virtual communities, but also real-life ones. Old-style discussion forums were once the heart of this, but they have been more-or-less driven out by the ubiquity of social media.

As an aside, at times it feels supremely ironic to me that I champion the idea of community when personally I’m just so bad at it, by which I mean I am not very good at making and maintaining friendships, which are the essential cement of community.

I’ve never had a large circle of friends, and as I grow older I find this circle growing ever smaller and less enduring. Friends fall away, either gradually or abruptly, leaving empty gaps.

I grew up mainly alone (my two siblings are considerably older than me), and perhaps because of this I am inclined to be a fairly introverted and solitary person. I realise that my laconism and reserve is often mistaken for disinterest, which doesn’t help. However while I need to spend more time recharging alone than others seem to, loneliness is still an ever-present problem.

Curiously though I think this does help me realise the intrinsic value of community, even though I seem to be supremely ill-fitted to be part of one.