Houses 003

“Community” is one of those words that rings alarm bells for me.

This morning, the great and the good are going into overdrive about “communities” coming together and working together. There is even, heaven help, us a Secretary of State for Communities.

People love communities. No they don’t. People love the idea of communities. Just look at our favourites TV shows. Corrie and Eastenders – warm-hearted working-class communities full of deeply dysfunctional individuals and murder-rates that would make the Mayor of Montgomery blush.

I recently watched Broadchurch which, we were told , was “all about a community” – a small, rural, seaside community – everybody’s retirement dream – safe and idyllic. Thirty minutes in and it’s about as safe and idyllic as The Prisoner on steroids – why would anybody want to live there?

And then there’s the ultimate community – the family – the one you don’t get to choose. This sort of brings us back to Eastenders where, at the end of the day, “it’s all about famly, innit?” In the real world, of course, most murder, most child abuse and much violence and other forms of misogynistic abuse take place in the family. Maybe ‘Enders isn’t that unrealistic after all.

Worst of all are the substitute “families” – gangs and cults that give their members a false sense of belonging in return for unquestioning obedience to a hierarchical leadership.

Of course, no sane person would voluntarily live in an area with the track record of Coronation Street, Albert Square or Broadchurch; most families are not the Krays; most friendship groups are not gangs and most religious and political groups are not cults. It’s just that some are and they do untold damage to their members and to society at large, as we have seen to chilling effect over the last two weeks.