Listen to the older generations: many of them say there’s no sense of community the way there was when they were young. They’re probably right, since communities have changed with each generation during the last two decades, although not necessarily in a bad way. The grinding poverty and terrible conditions that characterized some neighborhoods have disappeared, and that can only be a good thing. For example, you won’t find houses these days without bathrooms and indoor plumbing. Yet our elders are right in the sense that there is no longer the idea of people being bound together by the place they live. However, it might not be as bad as they imagine, as other types of communities have changed and grown.
What Changed Communities
In one word, it was redevelopment that changed everything. When the idea of owning your own house became the norm, it also became a major factor. As property values increased, people sold their houses and moved into what they saw as better neighborhoods — whether for improved schools for their kids or a host of other reasons. This gave rise to a more mobile population that didn’t put down roots in a community the way their ancestors had done. There was no longer a sense of belonging, and people knew fewer of their neighbors.
Modern communities still tend to be more transient — just look at the number of ‘For Sale’ and ‘Sold’ signs on the houses on your street as an example. Some communities, especially in larger cities, rotate through in a constant stream.
In a lot of ways, community these days is less about where we live, and more about other things in our lives. It can be school, a place of worship, a pub, a team, even global communities that have sprung up thanks to the Internet — sometimes these types of communities remain far more constant than the places we live. Communities grow up around all of them, and they’re all equally valid. As humans, we make communities around ourselves, it’s our natural instinct. So, even though it might seem as if we’ve lost our sense of community, we haven’t really. It’s just changed. Look deeper and you’ll find that it’s as solid as it ever was — it just exists in different ways now.