Community, disagreements and manners.

Sustainable projects often focus on community to make things happen. However as everyone who has ever struggled with a group project knows, sometimes it’s really difficult to communicate effectively, get things done and also get on. But why? For thousands of years people have managed to get on, more or less. Now communication and team work are on the school curriculum because people don’t know how to get on.

Perhaps the reason lies in our very lifestyles. Because there’s so many people now, people are disposable. Before the industrial revolution very few people lived in cities, and now almost everyone does. The villages of 50 or so people, where everyone knew everyone and you couldn’t afford to fall out with your neighbour because you then wouldn’t have any metalwork (if he was say, the blacksmith). In a city, if you fall out with one person, you can substitute another.

The idea of small, sustainable communities therefore seems like a good one. But in our current society we don’t seem have the social skills for life long relationships. My theory is that traditional British manners were a way of keeping tensions quiet, of allowing people to get along who otherwise wouldn’t. In this age of frank speaking, an opinion once voiced is difficult to recind and the damage is done. If manners dictated that you didn’t voice that opinion, there was more scope for internal change.

Perhaps, as ‘manners maketh the man’, manners maketh the community.