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Source: (consider it) Thread: Community, similarity, difference.

not waving, but...
# 15978

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I am wondering about ideas of community, similarity and difference.

In the local inner-city area where I live, a number of different groupings of people who internally share the same language, country of origin and perhaps culture co-exist - whilst having little to do with each other. Mere geographical proximity doesn't warrant describing where we live as 'a' community. In some small areas comprising a few streets, one group or other might approach a monoculture - as you zoom out, things look more diverse.

I wonder if it's possible to talk about such a situation without degenerating into accusations of - or indeed actual - xenophobia.

You see, I find the situation where on 'my' street I increasingly bump into folks who are not open to interact with me, rather lonely. This street was formerly more diverse, and latterly more of a monoculture.

I'm trying to find a way to talk about this which is not about 'bloody xxx invading 'my' yyy' - because this is not how I feel. After all, I am a Christian, a visitor on this bit of earth which does not belong to me, and if I am made in the image of God then so, inevitably, is everyone else.

But women form women's book clubs, and have girly nights out. I meet men at motorbike things, and sit around in oily sheds. We like people we can talk to, who 'get' us easily.

What about the non-chosen neighbourhood interactions? When we smile at 'people like us' (if we are part of the monoculture) is this just a cheat at community - do we kid ourselves we are part of it by smiling-with and looking-like our neighbours, without actually doing much about about being together? Is un-ease about loss-of-ground (forgive the phrase) just a realisation that such a cheat is less available, and some hard and perhaps unrewarding work lies ahead?

I hope this thread might allow me to acknowledge a sense of sadness about mutual distrust; a downside to living where I do which does not originate in hate. But if you feel that anyone who expresses difficulty with 'multicultural' living is a racist and is to be despised, then I guess you must say so.

"We are punished by our sins, not for them" - Elbert Hubbard
(so good, I wanted to see it after my posts and not only after those of shipmate JBohn from whom I stole it)

Posts: 1596 | Registered: Oct 2010  |  IP: Logged
Erroneous Monk
# 10858

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How do your neighbours express the fact that they are "not open to interact" with you?

And I shot a man in Tesco, just to watch him die.

Posts: 2950 | From: I cannot tell you, for you are not a friar | Registered: Jan 2006  |  IP: Logged
Raptor Eye
# 16649

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People naturally choose to associate with people who are like us, who share the same language and cultural expressions, who we feel comfortable with. Some distrust those who are outside of their own comfort zone, some feel threatened by them, some simply ignore them, while others see them as exotic and go out of their way to learn about their cultural norms.

A neighbourhood changes over time, from rich to poor and vice versa, from one background of people to another. It amused me recently to hear a comment by someone whose grandparents were immigrants complaining about a wave of immigrants from another culture who were moving into the area. When they grow up and go to school together, children break down the barriers and in time new communities grow, replacing old communities. This is healthy. What is unhealthy imv is when the children are kept from associating with other than those in their own culture.

And so I think that we need to accept as normal the sadness we feel when neighbours don't seem to want to mix, keep trying to reach out to them as best we can, and continue to build community in every way possible, whether through women's or men's clubs and activities, church, food banks, etc.

If we as Christians continue to show our love for everyone and serve God as best we can, that in itself will allow God to influence the culture for the good of all.

Be still, and know that I am God! Psalm 46.10

Posts: 4359 | From: The United Kingdom | Registered: Sep 2011  |  IP: Logged
Ethne Alba
# 5804

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People in every street need time to settle down and work out how they all rub along together. Community doesn't just happen...but then again, maybe it Does just happen? Surely it is about the easy greetings as we go in and out of our homes, the opportunities for accepting help as well as offering it, accepting packages, sweeping the debris up when our refuse collectors spill our neighbour's rubbish (yet again) all up and down the street.
But agreed, it is kinda tough when the neighbourliness appears to be ignored. My only advice is to develop a very thick skin and persist!
At the end of the day we are all human and usually just need to find a way to express ourselves in an appropriate way.

Don't know about other areas, but our city (we live in the same one) seems to have loads of short term rental properties, which can sometimes bring little incentive for folk new to our streets to invest in their new area.

Posts: 3126 | Registered: Apr 2004  |  IP: Logged
no prophet's flag is set so...

Proceed to see sea
# 15560

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There are cultural and national differences. When we moved into the house we have, we made a point of meeting the neighbours. Hand out for shaking and stating name. I'm one of those that if I see you doing something and it looks like you need help, I am helping.

About 3 years in, we decided to light a burning barrel fire in the front and invite everyone to play shinny* on New Year's eve. We supplied weiners and hamburgers and we ended up with an all ages block party tradition. Some of the families are culturally vegetarian so we got veggie weiners, and people started bringing other food. We now have good acquaintance with most of the people on the street, and people from the street one over are also coming. We get all sort of interesting food items. We've had some challenges with keeping it going, and others have filled in.

I suspect this might not play well in London? or New York. Don't know. It was rather intentional on our part to start it. Could you set up in a park and have a gathering? Would people come? Notwithstanding lighting a fire, but that's cold wintertime here. We also (illegally) set off fireworks a few times. But no-one reports if you invite them and feed them. The police seem to be no exception but we haven't repeated the fireworks.

*Shinny is what others may call ball or road hockey.

Out of this nettle, danger, we pluck this flower, safety.

Posts: 11498 | From: Treaty 6 territory in the nonexistant Province of Buffalo, Canada ↄ⃝' | Registered: Mar 2010  |  IP: Logged
Lamb Chopped
Ship's kebab
# 5528

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Shared work is a big overcomer of cultural difference. Try borrowing a tool or asking for advice on a car engine. Or take tomatoes from your garden to the neighbors and tell them you have too many.

A lot of this might be down to simple shyness--not having any points of contact with you, they haven't any idea how to start or keep up a conversation. The tool, tomatoes, school bus problem gives both of you a joint focus you can build on.

(It's also worth discovering whether they might in fact not speak English. Some people do a good job of hiding the fact they have No Clue™ what you just said.)

Er, this is what I've been up to (book).
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down!

Posts: 20059 | From: off in left field somewhere | Registered: Feb 2004  |  IP: Logged
# 14333

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I think opening up communication is helped by redefining what "like us" entails.

I put on my rockin' shoes in the morning
Hallellou, hallellou

Posts: 17627 | From: the round earth's imagined corners | Registered: Dec 2008  |  IP: Logged

not waving, but...
# 15978

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Yeah, I've been thinking about the dimensions of 'like us' over the last day.

I've come up with (and excuse the crappy list - I'll use it for something crass in a minute) the start of a list, from simple to more complex aspects of similarity/difference:

a) 'look like us'
b) 'can speak the same language as us'
c) 'use the same language as us at home'
d) 'share a sense of humour with us'
e) 'have a common interest with us'
f) 'share some common cultural thingy (music? literature?) with us'
g) 'worship God in a way where commonality can be, and is, appreciated' (phew, what a mealy-mouthful).

So my 2nd-gen Caribbean neighbour and I do b) to f) together. Racial difference plays no part - and it happens that our upbringing is similar enough that we 'click' a lot easier than I might with my wife's work colleagues, where d, e and g are often lacking between us.

At church, where I have been almost the only white guy for 20 years amongst mostly 1st gen Caribbean folks, we do b) to g) but maybe f) is missing. We try to force it to work - but it has never been comfortable, without our both trying to become someone else.

I have Polish friends with whom only c) is missing, and where f) might be strained. But this still makes forming friendships hard - it takes a right lot of the other aspects to make it seem mutually worth it to persevere. This means smile-and-nod terms at best with almost all Polish parents at school, and one big friendship with someone so glaringly similar in all other ways, our non-communication would be perverse!

My other-side neighbours, I share b), d) and e) with one of the boys (well, now he's a man in a big Merc, but when he was a boy I used to lend him tools (LC!) to fix his pushbike). With most of the women - nothing from a) to g). And as more of the street interaction happens between women whose culture is not to acknowledge non-family men, in a language I don't speak, I suppose it's unavoidable to feel a bit washed-up.

Then again I'd feel washed up if I were like my mate in very-white-posh-suburb, where the avoidance of neighbourly interaction (electric gates, don't walk anywhere) seems to be viewed as something desirable.

But it used to feel less like that around here.

"We are punished by our sins, not for them" - Elbert Hubbard
(so good, I wanted to see it after my posts and not only after those of shipmate JBohn from whom I stole it)

Posts: 1596 | Registered: Oct 2010  |  IP: Logged
# 16967

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If you were interested in any of the other cultures, religions, ethnic differences that are represented in your vicinity you'd latch onto something that's happening there and enjoy it, or at least enjoy learning about it: Indian cuisine or dance, Afro-Caribbean spirituality, South Asian Islam, the history of Slovak Roma, or whatever. I find it hard to believe that inner city Manchester doesn't provide lots of opportunities for finding out about various aspects of cultural diversity.

However, you imply that one particular culture is becoming more dominant in your street, though you don't say which. Maybe an Islamic culture? Some of the roads and districts in close proximity to mine in the Midlands are majority South Asian Muslim. My own road has a lot of Muslims living on it, although it's a fairly mature community; apart from the private flats, you don't have lots people moving in and out frequently, which helps. My dad is respected on the street because he's a good neighbour; the Muslims, in return, often bring gifts of food over during Islamic holidays, or as a way of offering support when there's bad news.

This kind of reciprocity represents an acceptable degree of trust, but I suppose it took a long time to develop. Maybe it helps if you're known to be a 'handy man' with useful skills, or if you're an OAP, hence worthy of respect and less likely to appear to be a threat.

If you have some spare time you could join your local or regional interfaith group, or help newcomers with ESOL conversation, or assist schoolkids with literacy or numeracy. Your church or local library should offer some information about the possibilities for 'serving the community'. In short, helping people is a good way of getting to know them.

Posts: 6668 | From: UK | Registered: Feb 2012  |  IP: Logged
Belle Ringer
# 13379

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A friend moved to a bigger house 2 blocks away in the same suburb. She said her first neighborhood was a community, when she first arrived several neighbors brought a pie, or introduced their children, the neighbors got together occasionally during the year, knew each other. In contrast, her new neighborhood offered no greetings, no neighborly gatherings. The whole area is ethnically and economically uniform, but one block has community and another does not.

A friend moved into a newly built area, thrilled to be part of a diverse community - straight, gay, black, hispanic, white, married live-together, all in the immediate neighborhood. One of the residents celebrated Cinco de Mayo by inviting all the neighbors to a Bar-B-Q with him providing and cooking all the food; my friend was thrilled. But the next year my friend didn't go, no one went, the man was out there cooking food with just his children. He was trying, no one was responding.

Some places or people just are not community interested, or there's no one who knows how to start and build community (it takes more than offering food), or they already have their own long term community (The Vet's place is the community for some in my town) and don't need to take the effort to explore potential new friendships.

Unless you are a natural community creator that others naturally respond to, the question is "how do I initiate contact with a stranger in a way that will be possibly accepted happily? Then, how do I build that acquaintance into mutual friendship?" While there is such a thing as community that naturally accepts you, in a mobile society more often community results from finding and forming and sharing friendships.

I would say the answer to the OP is learn friend making skills, there are books of suggestions (including "get a dog" because people respond to an attractive dog, you get natural chatting with neighbors). Practice acquaintance initiating skills. Slowly build community from there, or perhaps get invited into an existing community by a new friend.

[ 27. September 2015, 14:57: Message edited by: Belle Ringer ]

Posts: 5830 | From: Texas | Registered: Jan 2008  |  IP: Logged
# 10454

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Does culture inevitably divide people? It depends in part I think on trust levels. Different cultures can be cohesive if there is enough communication and trust. How do you establish trust?

If inner city Manchester is anything like inner city Liverpool, I'm surprised that it was ever not a depressing place to live. The north west has some big economic and social problems. I suspect that multi culturalism becomes a far less significant issue when an area is more affluent. Having said that more affluent areas may be less depressing but do not necessarily have stronger communities. The richer, and thus more narcissistic, people become the more isolated they seem to be.

Don't ask for whom the bell tolls...

Posts: 938 | From: Nottingham | Registered: Sep 2005  |  IP: Logged

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