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Women Living Well - 2004
Student Papers
On Serendip

Living in Community

Marisha Banerji

2. Living in community
Human beings are inherently social, a condition (and state of mind) that leads them to live in groups rather than alone or in small families. The development of such groups has been instrumental to the formation of social stuctures in human history and thus to the eventual development of civilisation itself. These groups are a feature of all human societies whatever their differences. We all live in communities and could not live without them. So it is essential to our well-being to make them function.

Communities bring with them a lot of advantages for the people who live in them. This after all was the original reason for their formation; people banded together to form groups because it offered them better chances for survival. Living in groups meant the division of labour, and thus the most efficient functioning of all the members of the group and the group as a whole. This feature carries over into modern communities. Living in a community such as a city for example, provides one with amenities such as easily available food and clothing from supermarkets and department stores. In return, one contributes to the community by say, providing a dental service, hence serving a useful function. It is thus a process of give and take.

Living in a community thus involves living in close proximity with other people. By experience we know that though human beings always live in proimity with their fellows, they do not necessarily do so in peace. There is always conflict when a group of people get together, thus in order to prevent anarchy and chaos, some sort of regulatory structure is needed. Thus we have rules, norms and regulations. Their intent is to regulate our behaviour within the community that we live in.

The main tension in communities is brought about, ironically, by these very rules and regulations. It is generally impossible for a group of people to always agree on anything, and there are always people within communities who are not in agreement with the rules that have been laid out by others for their intended benefit. If they are sufficiently vocal and confrontational about these feelngs and ideas, conflict is created.This conflict is the main source of tension within communities. For instance, a section of the Bryn Mawr community could disagree with a decision to remove vegan beef from the meal plan. This sort of tension can be useful if kept under control and turned to useful purpose. The pro-vegan beef people could present a logical and clearly stated argument for the continued inclusion of vegan beef and (winning) benefit the community as a whole. Or, if it gets too out of hand, the tension can have destructive effects, for instance the pro-vegan beefers could go on a rampage in the dining hall and destroy everything in sight.The important thing is thus to find a balance between negative and positive tension.
At its source, a lot of this tension springs from the expectation of conformity imposed by a comunity upon its members. It is thus important for communities to realise that it is important for it's members to have some acknowledgement of their individual needs (such as catering to vegans). At the same time individual members must be willing to compromise some of their wishes in order to live with others.Compromise is the key.

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