Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Community spirit in Northern Ireland must be revived

Editor's Viewpoint

The Rotary Club's State of the Nation survey shows that for many people their life is in a pretty poor state. At the heart of this malaise is the lack of community spirit in modern society.

We have all heard parents or grandparents tell of how they never locked their doors and how neighbours went in and out of each other's homes all the time and rallied around in times of need. What little they had, they shared.

Today little of that spirit seems to remain. The huge dislocation of families in Northern Ireland's main cities, either through the Troubles or slum clearance, wiped out whole communities which had grown up together.

Today the result is that one in four of the 16-50-year-olds surveyed admit they do not know the names of their neighbours. How times have changed so dramatically in just a couple of generations.

It seems incredible that people communicate so little nowadays given that never in the history of mankind has there been so many mediums of communication.

Little wonder that 71% of 16-29-year-olds and 63% of 30-44-year-olds feel isolated. The common perception is that it is only elderly people whose families have left home, maybe even gone abroad, who feel lonely. But this survey shows that they are not alone in their solitude.

A phrase which has crept into modern life is the atomised society, a way of describing how communities no longer pull together and that individuals are left to plough their own furrow.

The survey gives a clue as to why this may be. More than 92% of people said they felt bogged down by the stresses and strains of modern life.

Around four in 10 people found it harder to manage finances, more difficult to get on the property ladder and were concerned about the inability to keep a job for life.

There is no doubt that an acquisitive society puts enormous strains on people.

They want to have all the luxuries that life can provide but don't always have the means to acquire them.

Making do - as parents or grandparents did - no longer seems an option in a hugely materialistic world.

How do we rebuild community? Popping in to see a neighbour ends the isolation for both people and makes each feel valued. Seeing the rat race as just that gives a better perspective on life. Talking to people face-to-face is more rewarding than anonymous conversations on social media.

Belfast Telegraph

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