Community is easier if you live in the city. Easier yet, if you grew up there. The city is where the energy is. It is where the people are. It is where everything is! Individuals are absorbed and immersed in the to-ing and fro-ing of the seething metropolis and all involved are somewhat homogenized by the process.
Generally speaking, any arbitrary slice of the urban population can be found to be working on commonality, cooperation, community and conformity most of the time. They have to. Or there would be chaos.
Many of us so influenced also enjoyed the socially cohesive advantages of having had a somewhat similar upbringing, a ‘mainstream’ education and, of course, being immersed in the everyday business of the urban work-hives. A lot of uniformity/conformity is learned by osmosis and such social familiarity breeds confidence, a kind of social fluency, not to mention, ‘networks’, all of which is required reading for a real city person.
To do well in the city, it helps to be born and raised there. It also helps to dive in and get involved. ‘Go along to get along.’ And those people most familiar and comfortable with the ways of the city have a greater chance, as a rule, to find happiness and even success therein.
In other words: experience in the milieu is valuable.
The same is true in a different kind of way with rural life. To do well in the country it helps to be born and raised there. A lot gets learned just by ‘being there’. Experience. Networks are smaller and stronger but just as valuable And, for a newbie, diving in is really the only way to get into it. A harder slog, perhaps, but doable.
The thing is, the rural population isn’t as identifiable as the city community in the sense of having ‘just being there’. Not anymore. ‘Country living‘ is more ‘new’ or foreign for many people who have been ‘civilized’ even while living out in the small towns. Today, ‘country’ is often just ‘small city’. I know many people who I would have previously described as rural who have no rural skills or orientation whatsoever. They, too, live by their I-phone.
Odd observation: the ‘new’ country people move around more.
City people seemingly move around more than do country people but they move around the city. The city pool is always crowded and much the same. So is the store, the bus, the workplace and the neighbourhood. You can move from four different neighbourhoods in Toronto to six different neighbourhoods in Vancouver and, generally speaking, know your way around pretty quickly. The patterns are the same.
New country people don’t have that kind of sameness, that familiarity, that cultural ‘mass’ to attach to or re-attach to. Or be shackled to. There just isn’t as much sameness for them. Not so much commonality.
Few people currently out here were even born in this province! Fewer still were raised here and even fewer have more than a dozen years ‘under-their-belt’ as real country folk.
In fact, there are only a few that I can positively identify as ‘real’ country folk. You know? Like farming, hunting, logging, canning, gathering and fishing? Those people are rare. Very rare.
And this lack of a long-rooted cultural mass is palpable. If it wasn’t your intention to come for self development almost exclusively, you would find yourself surprisingly more alone. You’d be different and stay different out here and there is no way to change that, nobody to emulate, no one to teach you. No peer group. You are going to be different, more alone, more you.
Get used to it. Country ways are on the endangered list for a reason.
The majority of off-the-gridders are urban transplants – some as long ago as the 70’s (back-to-the-landers) and some as recently as us. But mostly from different urbans. In fact, since we went feral eight years ago, I’d estimate at least a half dozen others have arrived but they have come from different cities, different provinces and from at least two different countries. And all from vastly different walks of life. Their west coast, off-the-grid roots are as shallow as ours. And some of them are clearly different plants!
In many ways, we are a community of non-established, non-conformists who don’t interact much and, when we do, keep it to a minimum. That does not aid in any kind of homogenization. That does not make for much of a community.
Mind you, it doesn’t look quite like that. Not too much, anyway. We’re all pretty friendly. And newbies, by definition, try to learn ‘the ropes’ fast. They have to. And they blend where they can. But there simply isn’t that much ‘networking’, business interactions, meetings and the like that accelerates common language, habits, behaviours and community. Each person remains, in effect, more of an individual. We live and act differently and there just isn’t the cultural force to assimilate us into a ‘common’.
Differences are also more tolerated and expected. It has to be that way. We know we are different from our distant neighbour and we accept it and almost celebrate it. But not quite. If we are celebrating our differences and character, it is a home celebration. Most of the others are deemed just a bit too different or a bit too whacked to be celebrated. But we do accept each other.
And, thank God, we have the space with which to do it.
We may never be anything else. Not very many of us are ‘buddying up’. It is just too big a gap to bridge in most cases and, without the economic motivation of youth and a growing family, there is less incentive to do so. We don’t have to ride the elevator together every morning. We don’t have to deal with a hundred e-mails a day. We don’t have to take a lot of meetings together. And we don’t get a lot of anything by ‘osmosis’ as a result. If we lose ‘newbie-ism’, or ‘foreigness’, it is because we learned ‘off-the-gridding’ on our own and we learned it mostly the hard way – by doing.
Off-the-gridding is really our only strong common thread – that and appreciating our surroundings. If we have a commonality it is a love of nature and a desire to reside in it. And, to be fair, that also forms the community we do have. Is it enough on which to build a strong, healthy, well-balanced community? Honestly? I don’t think so.
Will it be enough if the larger, more homogenized urban community goes sour? Yes. If things go all to hell in a hand-basket, then I think our wagons will circle tighter. We’ll form more of a real community. But probably not until then.
And I am OK with that.