The village Poring in Borneo, which is half an hour walk away from the camp, is small. We got to know most of the people and they greet us smilingly. When we went to plant rice with Jonis, the landlord of the place where we were staying, nearly everyone from Poring was there, helping. It is a hard job planting rice, the men walking infront, drilling holes in the earth with sticks and the women and young people (including me) walking behind, up and down the steep hill (we were planting dry rice, not the paddy rice planted in planes or on hill terraces) with their backs bend, feeding the holes with seeds. A family alone couldn’t do this job. It took hours with all of the community participating.
Probably in most old communities it is a tradition that each family helps the neighbours in planting and harvesting their crops. It is fun, everyone working together, having lunch and laughing: social engagement, each one helping the other, is what binds a community.
Nowadays, in our fast changing world, people moving, leaving their traditions, social engagement is not such a normal thing. In our modern culture of possessive individualism the diversity of interest is high and the individual owes little to an estranged society. It is here where commitment and collective identity are lost, where disintegration happens, where decisions are made without the community’s participation, where the flow of information is broken and where collective stupidity takes its toll. Personal disempowerment leads to a loss of community sense and social responsibilities which go hand in hand with a significant loss of individual and communal self-reliance; individuals, communities as well as the whole global community seem incapable of providing for their own needs on a long-term basis, without damaging their resources.
On a short term, we’re creating win-lose situations; that means there is a winner and a loser, the last ones mostly being higher in number. Ignorantly in a long term the situations turn into lose-lose. Criticism is high, engagement little. Words are many, actions are few. We’ve got so many new ways of communication; a word that has lost its meaning.