This is a slightly modified version of a piece I originally published on a different blog in November 2013.
Recently The Conversation published a piece by Julian Burnside which resonated with me and the work that I do. While Burnside was writing in the context of the Australian response to asylum seekers, much of what he wrote about gets to the heart of what I think is an important contribution of my own work.
Burnside argues an increasing sense of disconnection, felt by an increasing number of people, is a major problem in contemporary Australian life. He writes:
People are disconnected so they are not heard, then they shout louder, and are still not heard, so they shout louder and louder until people become afraid of them and shun them and so the downward spiral continues.
I recently submitted my PhD ‘All give and no take? Suburban life and the possibilities for sharing in Australia’ looking at how middle class Australians understand practices of neighbourly sharing. A key finding of this work is that people really want to share, and in expressing this desire understand sharing to be an act of generous giving.
I’ve written about this valorising of giving over receiving both on The Conversation and over at Shareable. But here I want to write about how important experiences and dreams of disconnection and connection are in shaping attitudes toward neighbourly sharing, and why I think Burnside is right on the money when he argues about the value of taking time to connect, even with those we fear. Incidentally, the recent article This is how you become a white supremacist is a fascinating example of exactly what Burnside is talking about.
Neighbours 1943 - (cc) National Film Board of Canada
While other participants said things like:
When we were little we used to play in the front yard and, you know, everyone knew everyone and that sort of thing. Now it’s all kind of closed door.
I don’t know, streets aren’t how they used to be. When I grew up it was likely Ramsay Street Reference to long running Australian television drama Neighbours and now… you don’t really get that.
We tend to live in our own worlds in a modern society and just don’t care anymore about other people that we don’t have a personal relationship with.
Harris, J. (2002). The Corespondance Method as Data-gathering Technique in Qualitative Enquiry. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 1(4).
Kelly, J. F., Breadon, P., Davis, C., Hunter, A., Mares, P., Mullerworth, D., & Weidman, B. (2012). Social Cities. Melbourne: Grattan Institute.
Rautio, P. (2009). Finding the Place of Everyday Beauty: Correspondence as a Method of Data Collection. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 8(2).