Remember those days in your good, old hometown when your neighbor meant more than just your “hello, how are you” partner?
When mother realized she needed a few tablespoons of vinegar while in the midst of preparing lunch, she would ask, “Go run to Tiya Lily if we can borrow some drops.”
Tiya Lily Perez was our backyard neighbor who not only shared vinegar, a dose of sugar, salt or other condiments during kitchen emergencies.
She also sent her girls to deliver a bowl of ‘ginat-an nga langka’ (from the jackfruit which grew in abundance in their yard) or chicken adobo, which she prepared extra for us while cooking the meals for her family of seven daughters.
Of course, mother would reciprocate with her ‘laswa’, my favorite ‘lutik’, or her signature ‘tangigue escabeche’ recipe.
I am not sure if the neighborly acts of kindness and care are still practiced considering that the hometown has progressed by leaps and bounds.
Those were golden days of old, indeed, which flashed in the stream of my consciousness when I recently read a New York Times report about certain districts or communities in European centers working to become ‘super neighbors’.
In a Parisian district, the NY Times reported “a grass-roots initiative working to improve ties among neighbors.”
Calling the group the Republic of Super Neighbors, members use technology (WhatsApp) for their interaction as well as hold weekly brunches, after-work drinks and community gatherings.
The group hopes to strengthen their daily interaction by increasing the frequency from the usual five to at least 50 times a day.
The NYT report also cited similar global caring initiatives, like in Barcelona, Spain where more than 500 so-called “superblocks” are initiating community projects, green space and indications of mobility.
In Stockholm, Sweden, the report further said, similar measures have encouraged some people “to spend 400 percent more time outside their homes.”
The trend, the report continued, is promoting a sense of “hyperlocality”, which promotes the notion of awakening the sense of place and community, thereby transforming the urban social landscape.
This development in social interaction apparently is a step back toward realities in grassroot communities, like the old hometown, where relationships were so close, the fraternal ties so well-knit, spawning many facets of human interaction, including the ‘Maritess Culture’.
The NYT report led me to reminisce the masterful explanation by Prof. Felix Regalado, my Sociology 101 instructor at Central Philippine University, as he discussed the concepts of Gemeinschaft and Gesselchaft cultures.
German sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies introduced the two types of organization exactly 150 years ago which social science figurehead Max Weber later popularized.
As explained in Social Science classes, Gemeinschaft, refers to ‘community’ – where “individuals are bound together by common norms, often because of shared physical space and shared beliefs.” Rural neighborhoods, like our meal-sharing ties, sports teams and ethnic tribes belong to this grouping.
In the Gesselschaft, people belong to a modern ‘society’, the association anchored on rational self-interest, which is believed to weaken the traditional bonds of family and local community that Gemeinschaft typifies.
Developments in world economy and international relations brought about by rapid transportation and technology have ushered the concept of ‘globalization’, which promotes the growing interdependence of global economies, cultured and people as a result of cross-border activities.
What then is the impact of globalization to the realities of the Gemeinschaft and Gesselchaft organizations?
The late British historian Eric John Ernest Hobsbawm argued that globalization is turning the world into “an increasingly remote kind of Gesellschaft.”
Consequently, he said, the concept of collective identity politics is seeking what he considers as “a fictitious remaking of the qualities of Gemeinschaft by artificially reforging group bonds and identities.”
The ‘super neighbors’ idea dwells well with what Canadian communication scholar Marshall McLuhan projected six decades ago that interconnectedness would become the order of the day in his “world becoming a global” theory through communication technology access.
I am curious how the current hyperlocality idea will be embraced in European capitals and other urban centers of the world. Perhaps, I will have to ask Raquel, one of the Perez girls, who now resides in an English city not far from London.
One thing is sure, though – that the Gesselschaft-inspired neighborly exchange of cheers, condiments and bowls of soup, meat and vegetable will long be cherished in our hearts and mind – affirming a friendship for life.
He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39) – NWI