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Character and Community: A Vanishing Breed

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
July 30, 1998


Recently I been thinking about what makes up a community, and wether or not people would know one if they saw one. The question is, do I know what one is. I know it takes a village to raise a child and since there are no longer any villages in America, it is no wonder our children can no longer think for themselves and carry guns to school. Webster's New World Dictionary was no help, having adapted to the current misconceptions surrounding the idea of community. "all the people living in a particular district, city, etc."

Next I went to the Oxford English Dictionary. "Community:The quality of appertaining to or being held by all in common; joint or common ownership, tenure, liability, etc." This seems a step in the right direction except, of course for the ownership bit. The whole concept of ownership  was the nail in the coffin of indigenous America. Another area in which our culture is found lacking is that of our relationship to liability. In our lawsuit hungry existence we refuse to take responsibility for our own actions.

This is not to say that all lawsuits are wrong, on the contrary. There is a big difference between suing a multinational corporation that is dumping toxic waste into your local river and a suing someone because you were clumsy enough to spill hot coffee in your lap. If we truly understood community, all of us would work together towards a common goal, and business interests would never place personal profit over environmental health.

Take for example the continued rush to build in coastal North County. So busy trying to lure more people and the resulting tax dollars to the area, local government has totally lost sight of the people who already live here. Although traffic is a continuing nightmare major projects are passed by planning commissions along the coast. The Oceanside City Council is orchestrating a land grab of public land for the Manchester Resort, The City of Carlsbad will lift it's skirts for any developer who would wink in it's direction, and Encinitas City Council considers open space as a threat to prosperity.

Limited by available space, Del Mar has it's own problems. Residents there are battling over wether or not trees are detrimental to property values. In my opinion, Solana Beach is the only city that is encouraging people to work together, and the success of the Cedros Design Center is proof of that. Yet even Solana Beach has it's problems. Case in point is the monthly drumming circle at San Dieguito Regional Park, it seems not everyone in the tribe has room for drumming, and those few individuals are trying to shut down this peaceful gathering. It is odd that in an region where everyone is looking out for themselves, and no further, uniformity is the current trend and originality is something to be avoided at all costs.

Speaking of conformity has anyone else noticed that all North County cities are beginning to look the same and that the only thing marking their borders is the lagoons. Currently Leucadia is the only coastal community that has retained any sense of character, and that is a constant battle. If the greedy boys and girls at City Hall and the Chamber of Commerce had their way they would bulldoze the west side of Highway 101 and the east side of Vulcan Avenue for the sole purpose of cloning the monster known as New Encinitas. You all know what I'm talking about. El Camino Real has got to be the best example of lack of planning and it's resultant commercial chaos.

I'm sorry but community is not a collection of individuals isolated behind tinted windows and cell phones. Community is not a majority of people being lied to by elected officials intent only on furthering their own agenda which usually has little to do with the people the pretend to represent. Community, ladies and gentlemen is about people working together for the common good. Native Americans tribes existed for centuries without the hollow comfort of property rights, gates to keep neighbors out, or consumer meccas like Home Depot and Walmart. Can you imagine, whole cultures existed without all the garbage we can't seem to live without.

So folks I suggest you do what we do here at the Scenic House. First, light a bonfire in your backyard, invite all your friends over, and drum. Recreate a rhythm that was stolen from your ancestors centuries ago by the agents of progress. Community will not be found sitting behind the wheel of your car while waiting for the light to change. In fact if you go looking for community it is already lost.

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