The community

What creates a village community?

The roots of the word “Community” come from the Latin.
Cum” meaning together, among each other and “munus”, meaning the gift, or the corresponding verb “munere”, to give.

Hence “community” = to give among each other.

Could it be more obvious? Communities are created by individuals but they are more than the sum of the individuals. The whole is more than the sum of its parts, in which all the combined talents of the residents provide for ingenuity and communal problem-solving skills.

Communities are not automatically created by similar religion, culture, blood or language, but can be created across borders. Today in our culture many people lament the loss of community. To understand how that loss came about, we must understand how community is created. Anthropologists tell us that communities are established through forms of gift-giving. Gift giving was developed as the earliest form of social security. Social ties help people in tough times, particularly in difficult or unpredictable environments. On a remote island the dependency factor is a natural occurrence and so fostering this understanding is of benefit to the entire group.

Gardening Quote Koro

“Assume that you need a box of nails. You can go to the hardware store and get one. There is no expectation by either you or the shop clerk that any future reciprocity is involved. This is one of the main reasons that monetary exchanges are so efficient. Each transaction stands on its own. However, no community has been created either. Now, assume that you go out for another box of nails, and your neighbor is sitting on his porch. When you tell him you are going to buy a box of nails, he responds: “Oh, I just bought six boxes the other day. Here is one; it will save you the trip to the hardware store”. He also refuses your offer to pay.

What has happened?
From a purely material viewpoint, in both cases you end up with your box of nails. But as the anthropologist would point out, in the second case something else has happened as well. When you meet your neighbor again, you will definitely say hello. And if ever on a Sunday he rings the doorbell because he needs some butter, you will most likely share yours. The gift of the box of nails is a community-building transaction. The purchase is not. (Lietaer 2001)

If we are looking at how systems function, a commercial transaction is a closed system, the nails versus the money. In contrast, the gift is an open system. The gift process creates something that the monetary exchange does not. A new thread has been woven into the communal fabric. This gift giving and its profound effects on community creation has been documented by traditional societies all over the world, not just in the Fiji Islands. There are many advantages for us to adopt a similar approach to co-creating the community we are looking for. As visitors and residents we are not allowed to compete within the local labor market in Fiji. An open exchange of goods and services on a non-monetary basis is however permissible, and should therefore be encouraged, whether it will be in the form of an alternative currency or through simple gift exchange among neighbors and villagers. Niche markets that cannot be filled with local labor are allowed to operate and can in turn provide labor for villagers should they need it. Rather than paying anyone with cash, especially villagers, offer to help fix something or participate in a needed project when asked.

The tragedy of the commons – What we want to be aware of.

The tragedy of the commons is a dilemma arising from the situation in which multiple individuals, acting independently and rationally consulting their own self-interest, will ultimately deplete a shared limited resource, even when it is clear that it is not in anyone’s long-term interest for this to happen. On Koro Island, unlike in the article that I use as the reference, the “common access resource” is not a pasture that gets depleted, but the “commons” consists of the tangibles of the ocean, the forest, the birdlife, and the intangibles of the peace and quiet, the friendliness of the islanders and the beauty of the island. We all share in it and need to protect despite the fact that we do not own more than a small piece of real estate each. By irresponsibly using or infringing on the “commons” through pollution, noise or carelessness we infringe on the privilege of every other person to enjoy it. So tread lightly, share, be open-minded and think communally rather than individualistic or “Western”. After all, that what you wanted to leave behind when you came here in the first place.

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