As a regularly touring musician I am fortunate enough to experience both living in a city and living in a small town. I personally spend a lot of time in the mid north coast and the northern rivers areas. These regions have a small city then lots of little towns within 10's of kilometers. Each place has it's own community and own way of life.
Obviously a town with a few thousand people can't sustain some of the things I love about being in a city, but for whatever they lack in that capacity, they gain in an area that is far more valuable. They have close knit community.
I'd like to do a little compare and contrast. I spend a lot of time in Sydney, and I also spend a lot of time in Lismore. When in Sydney I'm guarded and have tunnel vision. I move fast, and I have a "get in and get it done" mentality, partially because that's my work ethic, but also because of the collective hustle and bustle of the strangers around me. It's really easy to feel lonely and invisible.
Comparing this to Lismore, there's not the same frantic pace, because everything is close together. I'm not as guarded, because everyone is friendly - a luxury which is allowed to perpetuate due to the percentage of people who know each other. (Goodness, that's poorly worded, but I hope you get what I mean) One of the huge things for me is pretty much all the musicians (and creatives for that matter) know, or are aware of, each other. It also extends to the lovers of the arts. Word of mouth also travels fast, allowing for some of the coolest community spaces/house creative things that just wouldn't be possible without a tonne of advertising in a city.
It's not like there aren't community spaces in the cities I live in. Three that come to mind are The Rhythm Hut, 107 spaces and The commons, but, the communities they foster are so much smaller, and it's so much harder to find them. In terms of "what's going on" cities are noisy spaces. There are so many things happening all the time. The events in small towns don't have to compete with the noise.
So what can be done about Fostering community in a big city? It's hard to say. In the short term, increased government and mainstream media support is needed (but lets be honest, trying to get that is super hard, because community spaces aren't usually "money" focused, and that's what tends to attract the attention of these entities)
In the long term, community starts during early education. Helping to foster and participate in a close knit community (at least in this modern age of ours) isn't a natural skill. It's taught. It requires kids to be exposed to all types of people, and foster friendships with all ages of humans. It requires regular gatherings where people can interact authentically in a chilled out safe supportive environment. It requires village like social structures so kids learn to be one part of a whole, instead of an individual.
Having only discovered the true meaning and feeling of community in my late teens, I feel like a significant portion of my human development has been delayed. There are definitely social skills I lack because I missed out on this early community. The increasing individualism I'm witnessing in our society scares me, because community is the most valuable resource we have.
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