The Rights of the Neighbour

To change the world, we need to rebuild our local communities.

Community is really about companionship, helping one another when we can and taking decisions together where needed. In a real sense it’s like family, hence the well known idea that ideally we should love our neighbour as if they are our own self.

We must find practical ways of helping one another. People’s needs are diverse, but because we have so much in common, wherever we are in the world they are nearly always recognisably human. Because we human beings are sociable, some people on your street will be lonely. Because we are families with different needs and capacities, some may need help with teaching or taking care of their children. Others may need practical things like firewood or help with fixing something in their house. In some places, there will be real physical hunger.

I am not saying that one committed person, or even a handful of people can provide for everyone’s unmet needs, but I am saying that ordinary people can to restore the community fabric. The necessary ingredients (skills, experience, outlook) for most people’s needs to be met will often be contained within the mix of human beings already living in your neighbourhood. So it’s more a question of matchmaking than anything else, identifying needs and finding people who have the capacity and desire to respond to that need, in the spirit of community, peace and harmony. And when such a person is not available or present in the local community, if people in other communities are also working towards the same end, and in a joined up way, chances are the needs can be met by the extended community which this initiative is also calling for. A community of people who aware of these matters, and willing to work together seriously to bring about the changes, will suffice..

So we must find practical ways to help one another, depending on what we find in terms of emotional, physical, spiritual needs. If this is done correctly, not only will it be the right thing to do but also it will inspire others to do the same and make possible the development of new social relationships, local neighbourhood capacities and possibilities.

Even better again, to return to the point about extended community, would be if we managed to join up our local efforts to make a recognisable, social movement.  Again, not only would we be doing the right thing but at the same time we would also be showing the wider world that ‘there is a real alternative’. To make this possible, the initiative could be linked to days when simple, easy to organise social events (picnics, home socials, or other social activities) are put on in more than one neighbourhood nationally or internationally at the same time.

But this comes later. As a first step, it simply needs to be that individuals in more than one place, who like and believe in this idea should start talking to their neighbours, asking who their neighbours know in the community who is in need and looking to find a way, either personally or by way of linking them up with another neighbour, to fulfil that need.

Let’s not doubt that the fabric of each and every local community can be re-woven into its best form yet and that these neighbourhoods can be connected, across the world and a movement based on peace, harmony and the breaking down of boundaries and barriers be cultivated in a way that can actually change the world. For this to happen, good people need to start reaching out in their local neighbourhood, doing what we are called to anyway (as moral beings) which is to look after our neighbour and where there is need, to help them as we would wish to have others do for us. In practical terms, to identify what peope’s needs and capacities are, and so to make practical and supportive human links with other people, regardless of their political or religious outlook.