What is a community? The simple answer is a group of people who live in the same place or have something in common. You may have heard someone talk about a sense of community. These days you can find this anywhere, and many companies use it as a part of their marketing. We constantly get invitations to join a community, so the word may not mean that much any more.
Many in my country think of words like unity, integration, interaction, identification, and togetherness when they think about community. We are used to thinking of ourselves as one. Other countries have division or disunity, but that doesn’t happen here. Unions like the USA and Britain have a population that can be separated into the haves and have nots. Poverty and inequality doesn’t exist here. It does, but we don’t like to admit it. We are a socialist democracy after all. So why is it so hard to behave?
Here is the thing. We don’t know who will end up on a ventilator. Experts say that people with underlying conditions (such as diabetes, heart and lung disease, cancer, and people with a compromised immune system) are at risk. I wonder how many people there are with an underlying condition they don’t know about. It happens. Issues can slowly develop over many years. You can even have a silent heart attack without knowing about it. I’m not trying to scare anyone, but if you don’t actively try to boost your immune system, the chance of you joining a risk groups increases. It’s that simple.
I’m not easily provoked, but I’ve seen a lot of stupid Norwegians the last couple of weeks. In addition to all the things individuals have done, there’s the local authorities. The three most northern counties make out the region we call Northern-Norway, and they are trying to stop the virus by quarrantining people who have been south of this area. There is even one county trying to quarrantine people who have traveled inside their own county. This part of the country has many inter-municipal services, especially those intended to help children (such as the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, The Educational and Psychological Counseling Service, and The Child Protective Services). So if these employees are forced to stay within their own municipality, how are they going to help someone across the border?
It makes me wonder. What if it was something else, something worse? What if there was a war? Would we be one country? Would we feel any unity? Would we feel that decisons made in Oslo were relevant for us, where we lived? I appreciate the salad bowl as a metaphor for the community, better than a melting pot, or a pizza, because in a salad we get to keep our individuality, at the same time as we help create something new together. What kind of salad are we? I’m not sure it’s a good one. Are you one of those that pick out the black olives and feta cheese because they have a strong flavour you don’t like? Who would you pick out in real life? We do it all the time. Maybe not consciously, but we have attitudes about religions, ethnicity, disability, gender, religion, social status and so on. How much does that influence us?
Community has to be experienced. You can’t just approve or adopt it, and then assume it’s stable for an eternity. It takes commitment and work, and just like hope, it may not feel good at all. As for this crisis, Professor Stephen Powis, National Medical Director of NHS England, said it best: