Steven Poole’s recent book Unspeak: How Words Become Weapons, How Weapons Become a Message, and How That Message Becomes Reality contains an interesting riff on that most overused word “community”. It’s a word that I encountered with increasing frequency while working in corporate-community engagement at Freehills, inevitably began using it myself, then started hearing it so often out of my own and others’ mouths it started to make me nervous.
For those readers for whom “community” is a linguistic tool of your trade, have a read of this Slate review by Jack Shafer, from which I quote below:
“We’re drawn to the ‘semantically promiscuous’ word, Poole writes, because it allows us to simultaneously express our tolerance for a group and our discomfort. For example: the homosexual community and the black community. People rarely refer to the heterosexual community, the white community, or even the Christian community, because in the United States and Britain, they are the ‘default’ positions and carry the ‘privilege of not having to be defined by a limiting identity’. Likewise, a group defined by the majority as transgressive, say, the Ku Klux Klan, would never qualify as a ‘community’ even though it organizes itself with the same conscious effort as the ‘anti-war community’.
What do you think? Is “community” in the eye of the beholder?