"The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men." attributed to Plato

"Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing." attributed to Edmund Burke

Let's between us make the world a better place.

Friday, 12 December 2008

community post offices and shops

M Scott Peck warned: ‘We cannot make real communities happen, we cannot heal the mess we have made of the world…(without ourselves)… undergoing some kind of spiritual healing.’
In our semi-rural village, population c. 4000 and not far beyond the creeping urban sprawl that is Greater London, we have a thriving general store and post office. This store, together with the flourishing parish church at the bottom of the hill, forms the dynamic core of our community life. It is not Utopian, we have our problems of petty vandalism and graffiti, of speeding through the High Street, and the occasional more serious crime, but on the whole it is a good place to live.
But post offices are under threat as they become uneconomical to run. Emails, Internet banking and on-line shopping have no need for the post office. Even postage can now be bought on the Royal Mail web page and stamps printed directly onto envelope, labels or paper. These threats of closure always bring in their wake much anguished debate and protest. The fact is that local post offices and stores are not simply economic units and profit centres. They offer a place where people can meet and greet, gossip, find help and companionship, as well as buy the occasional stamp and greetings card. They are part of the soul of a healthy village and a community life. The good news is that there is a solution, a solution that many communities have already discovered when faced with closure of their own stores. A growing number of small and local shops and post offices that otherwise faced closure are now run very successfully by and for the people of those communities. What is more, such stores become a vibrant and vital part of the social network of those communities. I know; our store is one of them!

Is there a similar problem in other parts of the world? What threatens communities in the States for example? And are similar solutions found? Do let me know I’d love to hear.


Scott said...

I don't have an answer to all of your questions, but I can tell you that similar things are happening in the United States. Part of it is our own doing. We get busy and stay busy and insulate ourselves against the world. "No man is an island" is a quote you will hear often, but it's not a quote that we strive for. Instead, we strive for our own individuality and independence. I'm not saying that's wrong, but we're afraid to be a community any longer. Political correctness, in my opinion, has helped to destroy community--people are too afraid to interact with other people because they are terrified they might offend someone...or worse, are terrified that they may be offended. There is no public debate in the public square in the United States any longer, it's all politics driven by large political machines. The average American is happy to work, come home, enjoy some down time (work at home on stuff) then go to bed. We've lost community and family and we're much worse for it. What we call "ma and pa" stores are being driven out of business by Wal-Mart and business like them. The very people why decry the influence of wal mart and it's nature of destructiveness are the ones who will shop there because they don't want to spend "that much money" at the 'ma and pa' shops. It's a vicious circle. But, there are some resurgences of community in the States. One I went to not long ago was Lexington, Virginia. There are artists studious and shops there and it seems that the people there are trying to re-establish community. I also saw it in Portland, Maine when there. So yes, we are making strides at reclaiming community, but it's a difficult process, and not everyone wants to be part of a community.

Great post! Please, keep them coming.


Eleanor Stoneham said...

Scott thank you so much for that really informative post. It sounds to be as real a problem in the States as here.Those people in Lexington and Portland should let others know what they are doing and how, to be an inspiration for others. Because Peck was really right on this one. He started his own organisation I recall, (The Foundation for Community Encouragement, or FCE) to encourage community, but it folded some while ago and of course now he has died. Anyone out there from either Lexington or Portland to comment?

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