Reflection #1 What Does Community Mean to You?
I believe the foundation, or core, of Community is the shared vision of a particular belief system, sense of purpose, and ownership/ commitment to a philosophy, process or organization. People congregate and form a Community with their peers as a means to express a mutually inclusive intrinsic thought, or belief, in a group supported, extrinsic way.
Community is more than people living amongst each other. Community is the result of individuals coming together to create a structured environment, supportive of the common thread shared by each of them. This supportive environment includes a set of Community-created guiding principles. These principles, or laws, make it possible for the Community to effectively self-govern, while promoting individual and collective ownership to the group. Ownership to the group fosters continued commitment to the philosophy, process or organization.
The level of inclusiveness within a Community grows as the level of self-governing, and self-ownership grows. People within the group have to feel as if they have a participative role in their Community. Should members of the Community feel as if they have lost their voice, or have acquired a passive role, then the stability of the Community is threatened. The strength of a Community is directly tied into the participatory strength of its members. Groups, organizations and nations only thrive when the goal for the common-thread, shared vision, of its people are actively pursued by all members in a structured setting set by the members, for the sake of all members.
Reflection #2 Formal Democracy is not enough. Democracy must evolve along with civil society.
This statement is loaded with optimistic truth. Democracy, a grand concept of everyone being equal in opportunity, voice and influence, was originally defined by a group of Anglo-gentlemen signing a linear "Constitution". As our times have evolved, so has the structure of our great "Constitution". Amendments have been included to recognize the voting rights of former slaves and women, the voice of the minority and the civil rights of those individuals historically known as "second-class". The concept of democracy is strong in optimism for a collective thinking, productive society. Unfortunately, the scope of any democratic doctrine is limited, or defined by the individuals possessing the strongest social voice.
A strong civil society has the ability to carry the strongest social voice for an evolving culture. The core concepts of quality living and levels of aspiration for our society changes with each passing generation. As each generation comes into the spot-light of their civic lives, the wants of the people may change. Granted, our basic hierarchal needs may not change, but the value we place on community contribution will. One generation may view loyalty to a particular political party as an active sense of civic duty, while another generation may embrace the concept of "free love" as the ultimate civic sense of collective community. Lastly, as generations come into "their own", they will define the driving characteristics of democracy through the demands they place on the collective political and social consciousness of civic community.