Thursday, July 16, 2009

Turn off your TV and read: Community and the cult of celebrity

In a feature in Orion titled "The Transition Initiative," Jay Griffiths writes about community and the Transition Initiative to reinstate grassroots action and reclaim community to move people into places of living sustainably and away from dependence on oil. I came across this bit about community and the anti-community that most of us are surrounded by on a daily basis, the cult of celebrity.

What he writes at the end of the paragraph reminds me of what I encounter every time I hear someone's story -- my realization that we all have important stories to share, and the person's relief at telling her story, and of being heard.

"For all of human history, peole have engaged with the world through some form of community, and this is part of our social evolution. Somewhere deep inside us all is an archived treasure, the knowledge of what it is to be part of a community via extended families, locality, village, a shared fidelity to common land, unions, faith communities, language communities, cooperatives, gay communities, even virutal communities, which, for all their unreality, still reflect a yearning for a wider home for the collective soul.

"...that particular social grace which seeks to create what Martin Buber called The Between. What is it, The Between? Fertile, delicious, and powerful, a co-evocation of possibility. The delicate point of meeting between you and him. Between them. Between us. ...

"Celebrity culture is an opposite of community, informing us that these few nonsense-heads matter but that the rest of us do not. Insidiously, the television tells me I am no one. If I was Someone, I'd be on telly. In this way, television dis-esteems its viewers, and celebrity culture is both a cause and a consequence of the low self-esteem that mars so many people's lives. So, the unacknowledged individual is manipulated into a jealousy of acknowledgment, which is why it is so telling that huge numbers of young people insist that when they grow up they want to be a celebrity. They are quite right. (Almost.) That is nothing less than they deserve, for we all need acknowledgment (but not fame). We all need recognition (but not to be 'spotted' out shopping). We all need to be known, we need our selves confirmed by others, fluidly, naturally. A sense of community has always provided these familiar, unshowy acts of ordinary recognition, and the Transition Initiative, like any wise community, offers simple acknowledgment, telling us we are all players."

Read the whole story at

(Photo "community orchestra" from Carf, Everyone a Changemaker, flickr)


Dionne Sincire said...

wow! this is very thought provoking and for some reason this post hit a nerve for me, because lately i find myself feeling overstretched yet underwhelmed by community. having children affords me access into networks i might not normally engage in. church communities, work associations, family, educational cohort groups, online networks..., take fb for instance.., i would definitely say that it is a viable community for me. but it is so hard to be known through two-sentence status updates or the be understood when all aspects of the language community aren't available (i.e. facial expressions, intonations, body language) sometimes language gets lost and i am often left yearning.

also, i want so badly to reach out to the community i live in, but i don't have the temerity to cross race lines and class lines to reach out even though the desire is there, i worry that my feeling won't be reciprocated and so i settle for the status quo.

Rebecca Snavely said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts Dionne -- it's good to hear where everyone is, and I think we struggle so much with community as an individualistic society. I'll be sending out good thoughts for you - overstretched and underwhelmed - and for you to find the right fit with the community that you need.

Simply Mel said...


I found your blog via Des, and I'm so glad I did.

How refreshing it is to read the words of others who so desperately want to make a difference. I believe we all can do this in our own special way. As I am teaching my daughter, "Be the change you wish to see"!

In regards to the celebrity obsession of most people, it has always sickened me. We went a step further and just threw away our television. It was nothing but a life-sucker, and our lives have enriched 100 fold because of this one easy step.

As I mentioned, I have a daughter, and she is 17 months old. She is my full-time job, but I can't wait until she is just a bit older and we can volunteer our efforts 3-4 times a week. Our community needs it, and giving our time and love to others is the greatest gift of all.

Here's to a united hope for change!

All the best,