• Guest Blog: Community at Christmas-time by Robin Jackson

    by  • 8 December 2016 • Camphill Community, Non Fiction, Religion, The Christian Community • 4 Comments

    With Christmas fast-approaching, the festive season is a suitable time to reflect on the bonds of love and friendship within our communities. Co-editor of Community Care and Inclusion, Robin Jackson, reflects on this in our guest blog.

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    Co-editing Community Care and Inclusion has proved a rewarding personal experience for many reasons. Its publication, just before Christmas, is opportune since this is the time when people come together in various communal groupings, whether as family members or as friends or as colleagues. This coming together is an expression of the binding power of friendship.

    jacksoncommunity-care

    However, as John Macmurray notes, friendship should not be equated with a disposition to friendliness. Friendliness is only an imitation of friendship and a poor substitute for the real thing. Friendship is the social cement that binds individuals and communities together. The most important feature of that relationship is its reciprocity and unconditionality, which dispenses with all notions of those giving and those receiving care.

    A relationship based on mutuality is a relationship of equals, in which each learns from the other. It’s this form of mutual friendship that provides the cohesive force binding together the different elements of a community. It’s the mortar without which any communal edifice would collapse. Acceptance of this model presents a challenge to the quality of relationships that are found in the many artificial forms of community care provided by local authorities and for profit care companies.

    Contributors to the book are drawn from throughout the world, reflecting the fact that issues addressed relating to the meaning of ‘community care’ and ‘inclusion’ are universal, not parochial. I was heartened by the very positive and immediate responses by those invited to contribute to the book who, like me, recognise the urgency in bringing this topic into the professional and public spheres.

    This book is timely in an age when there appears an increasing emphasis on what divides us rather than what we have in common. Indisputably, the last three decades have witnessed the neglect by the political classes of many neighbourhoods and communities in this country, resulting in significant numbers of people feeling disenfranchised and disenchanted. Social media provides an all too easily accessible channel for people to express their resentment and anger often in intemperate ways, something that was impossible ten years ago. What is disturbing is the growing evidence of the creation of an intolerant climate, in which the needs of people with an intellectual disability and their families are increasingly ignored.

    Ha Vinh Tho Program Director, Gross National Happiness Centre, Bhutan

    Ha Vinh Tho Program Director, Gross National Happiness Centre, Bhutan

    Ha Vinh Tho’s chapter, arguing convincingly that the neo-liberal economic ideology which controls all aspects of Western societies is now obsolete, should be recommended reading for Western politicians. Tho argues for the adoption of a radically new approach that is long overdue. He highlights the contribution of the Camphill Movement, which over the decades has shown how innovative social reforms can be realised in living practice and where the rights and needs of the individual are honoured and celebrated.

    At Christmas-time we have a poignant reminder of a young family who, two millennia ago, experienced exclusion and rejection firsthand. Crucially, in Christian theology charity is seen as the greatest theological virtue. But for Thomas Aquinas charity should not be simply equated with love but rather with friendship. What current policy and practice in the field of community care reveals is a conspicuous lack of charity. Time for change.

    Robin Jackson is the co-editor of Community Care and Inclusion, published 24th November 2016.

     

     

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    4 Responses to Guest Blog: Community at Christmas-time by Robin Jackson

    1. 8 December 2016 at 8:00 pm

      Having just had conversation time with a long time friend who lives in the same Camphill Community as I do, reading this confirms what we just admitted to each other: we are friends who, through many years of working side by side, have grown to know and appreciate each other– our differences and our capacities– in a deep and enduring way. Our friendship has enabled each of us to find and accomplish destiny work that we cherish and to help each other (and hopefully others) thrive. What a gift our relationship has been! And yes, this is a time when these enduring bonds are even more significant and helpful. With gratitude for Robin Jackson’s excellent insights,

    2. Robin Jackson
      10 December 2016 at 1:54 pm

      When we wish someone ‘A Happy Christmas’ – what do we really mean by ‘happy’? And how do we arrive at a state of happiness? Ha Vinh Tho in his chapter notes that from ancient Greek philosophy to contemporary Asian spirituality ways have been sought to develop those inner qualities leading to happiness and a state of wellbeing.

      I would argue that the development of these inner qualities for vulnerable individuals can best be achieved within tranquil environments. But too often tranquillity is interpreted simplistically as an absence of noise. Critics of Camphill communities frequently comment in negative terms upon the physical location of such settings. What critics overlook is the fact that tranquillity has the potential to be positively therapeutic and life enhancing both for those giving and those receiving care.

      What critics also ignore is that the current practice of locating small groups of vulnerable people in urban settings too often results in placements in environments characterised by noise and atmospheric pollution, neighbourhood indifference or hostility. Research has shown that this experience for residents is neither life affirming nor therapeutic.

      What those responsible for formulating social care policy should have at the forefront of their minds is whether or not a policy seeks to develop those qualities which lead to happiness and a state of wellbeing. That should be their New Year’s resolution!

      • Andrew Plant
        13 December 2016 at 9:10 pm

        I have just sent off a review of this book to New View (without any word limit) and the Camphill Correspondence (with a much shorter word allowance). I have also sung its praises at two regional meetings of the Scottish Camphill communities – the Scottish Neighbourhood Meeting and the Camphill Scotland Council. It’s a book that should be read by anybody associated with Camphill.
        I am delighted to hear that it will also feature at the Camphill Dialogue in May of next year.
        It is a very important contribution to the social care debate and might also spur Camphill co-workers to rise to the challenge of arguing the case for intentional supportive communities.
        Great work, Robin and Maria.

    3. Steve Lyons
      22 December 2016 at 10:01 am

      Steve Lyons
      What a wonder filled book! It fills out my thinking in recent years about community, how modern community in its myriad forms is an expression of human development, especially the transition from traditional family to conscious friendship.
      My Quality Management work in the past decade leads me to see contemporary Community as the key to social renewal. There are two trends in conscious community building that both serve social renewal: the gradual awakening to the notion that community must evolve towards the aim of having the individual’s interest as its goal; modern community must also strive to collaborate with other communities in associations which respect its members’ differentiated approaches to quality relationships.
      Quality in human relationships within a community (some might prefer to call community building “organisational development”) is the outcome of disciplined conversation. A quality management approach which makes conversation a central task is also an effort toward consciously supporting friendship. Friendship is no longer simply finding those with whom one can get on. Today we MAKE friends rather than find them.
      Camphill has been an endeavour in these directions. It has been those individuals with so called disabilities who have been most instrumental in getting co-workers to wake up to the modern task of community building.

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