A common theme that relates to the social problems we are having today is the question of whether people in a community are truly connected and willing to try hard enough to support one another. In the film “The Overnighters,” a pastor attempts to help people get assimilated into his community by providing food, shelter, and guidance in job searching. The “neighbors”, as the pastor calls the rest of the community living in the area, complain that the people who live in the parking lot of the church and are not able to afford permanent homes, are generally criminals who bring danger to the community. “The Problem We All Live With” by This American Life, serves to show how not much has changed since the times of segregation. The fears that surrounded those times still exist in the 21st century in communities with a high concentration of black and white people attending separate schools. The essay “What Are People For” goes to show the difference in opinion between high-ranking city officials and farmers or people living in rural communities. Not fully understanding of how self-sufficient–economically and culturally–rural communities can be, city officials claim that their communities require improvement. “The Work of Local Culture” expands on the specifics of how centralized government has dominated the lives of the people currently living in suburban homes, as well as of those living in more rural settings. The mindset has been changing to that of which parents raise children to move out in search of fulfilling an economic goal with the intention of never coming back to the same place. Local culture is getting erased with the advent of technologies and resources that lower the dependencies between people in the community. People no longer need one another to serve the purposes of living. Because of that, they do not expect their next-door neighbors to be responsible for reaching out to help in personal ways. As a result, people have fewer reasons for attempting to familiarize themselves with each other, when they would have needed to if local economies and sources of entertainment existed and therefore necessitate interaction with one’s neighbors.
In all of these stories, it is getting increasingly clearer and clearer that the issue is definitely with the disconnect in people’s thoughts and what different groups of people see as the issue compared with what is happening in reality. There exist blind spots in differing perspectives that contribute to the social disarray within single communities. For instance, the community in the film “The Overnighters” has never interacted with the “overnighters” on a personal level, so they do not know anything about them beyond having a cloudy impression. It is partly true that some of the people have committed crimes in their past, but it seems to be their defining and only feature. In our modern urban and suburban neighborhoods, people don’t get to know who their own neighbors are and their contributions to the culture and way of life in the town. Everyone hears of crimes happening through third-person sources such as the media, which do more to instigate fear about the existence of danger than to provide concrete evidence that pinpoint the specific causes of singular incidents. I found similar semblance of thought sparked within me when I read “The Work of Local Culture” in particular. Oftentimes, I get tired of the limited options for activities to do to pass the time or to live healthily. The common activities I hear about are staying home, and going to the movies to hang out or the gym to work out. The simplest things, such as spending time with friends on a one-to-one basis, are most difficult to achieve–especially when distance separated me from the friends I made back in school, and I depended on my parents for driving in order to bridge that distance. Since coming to UF, I’ve been in control of my own means of transportation and feel much happier because I’m able to visit specific close friends whenever I choose to. Berry talks about the old days when neighbors used to visit each other after dinnertime to chat and share personal stories, and that idea really resonates with me. From my experiences, I truly understand the intense yearning for human connection between people living as part of the same community, but also the bittersweet knowledge that it’s not there because no one expects to belong in the same circles.
Class Discussion Question:
What actions can be taken to try to familiarize and integrate all members of the community?