3.9k Share this

This time two years ago, as the country went into lockdown, the neighbourhood WhatsApp group came into its own. It often just spanned a couple of streets – but the shock of the moment and the surge of civic spirit delivered at least one adult in any 40m radius, prepared to do the legwork of tracking down every phone. And it would be stupid to the point of deliberate amnesia to pretend that it didn’t, at the time, seem like something genuinely beautiful was happening – solidarity, care, mutual aid, respectful watchfulness, a forest of collective responsibility springing up overnight, where previously there had only been the odd tendril of “do you have my parcel?”, and “did you hear that last night – do you think it was a fox or a murder?”

My group fell apart over low-traffic neighbourhoods. That’s not quite right; it would be more accurate to say it split irretrievably, divided by the most profound ideological differences, but stayed together on the tacit understanding that LTNs would never be spoken of again, except when they were, and the fight would be more brutal every time. It was a lot like the Labour party.

In more Tory areas, they mainly fell out over cats. So, it turned out that there was an upside to the era when nobody knew anyone else’s phone number: you might suspect that your cat had gone to live at number 42, but would be unlikely to confront them over it. And if you did, it would only be in the mildest possible terms, certainly without the audience of the entire rest of the street, and these conventions were a vital protection for civility because – newsflash – your cat doesn’t care where you think it lives.

Teenagers were another flashpoint. There is a very clear social dividing line, which I’m sure could serve as a useful tool of psephological analysis, between people who think of adolescents as large children, warranting care and protection, and people who think they are waging a deliberate war of provocation just by wearing a jumper, the threat-level rising to imminent if they put the hood up (even when it’s raining). A friend’s neighbourhood group disintegrated when some teens were observed smoking weed; the emergency services were called and the operator got the wrong end of the stick, summoning an ambulance instead of the police. A bitter row ensued over the teens’ punishment.

One person wanted them to go and apologise to the paramedics. Another said, “You want them to atone for wasting paramedics’ time by wasting more of their time?”, and a third said, “the time-waster here is the person who called 999.” Social attitudes, on the matter of soft drugs, are quite divergent, though such a total disintegration is pretty rare. Normally, after a storm, the group stays together but everyone goes silent, except for the three people who always need a cardboard box, and the one person who always has one. There’s surely a market for some kind of cardboard box Tinder.

While we thought we were doing something quite simple and blitz-spirited – meeting a moment of timeless challenge with new tools and fresh selves – in fact, what we were doing was incredibly complicated. We were trying to take our meet-world selves – where we are generally emollient, guarded, always looking for the subtlest clues to an acquaintance’s worldview and pre-emptively avoiding saying the opposite – and merging them with our virtual-world selves, where we are absolutely full of views, and will spend hours or at least minutes crafting them into their strongest possible expression. It’s enough to start a war between your own two selves, let alone you and your neighbour, who’s trying to lard some casual snobbery into a conversation about dogs (the time-honoured route is “I’ll never understand why those young men need to have dogs like that”).

Yet it hasn’t been a failure: that early promise of a new Eden. When the chips were down, we cared about each other. It just hit a hump in the road. The management cliche about groups – form, storm, norm, perform – is as true of neighbours as it is of an underperforming sales team. We’re currently in the “storm” phase. All it takes, now, is for a load of us to all need a cardboard box.

Source: This post first appeared on The Guardian

3.9k Share this
You May Also Like
How do children get hepatitis? Mysterious liver disease could have links to stomach bug, COVID, researchers say

How do children get hepatitis? Mysterious liver disease could have links to stomach bug, COVID, researchers say

NEW YORK — Health officials remain perplexed by mysterious cases of severe…

F1 George Russell Illness And Health Update -What Happened To Him? Career Earnings & Net Worth

F1 George Russell Illness And Health Update – George Russell is a…

Iris Law flashes her washboard abs in a chic black corset top and skirt co-ord in Cannes

Iris Law and Sharon Stone turned heads as they arrived at the screening…

IAN LADYMAN: Erik ten Hag is at Manchester United to take a wrecking ball to all built in error

Under a grey Mancunian sky, Erik ten Hag became the sixth man…

Is Helen Sharpe Leaving New Amsterdam? Know What Happened To Freema Agyeman

Who Are Abraham Lucas Parents Kelly And Julie? Family Info Revealed Juan…

4 Roadblocks Standing Between You And Your Dream Job — and How to Get Around Them

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own. As time, life and…

Loris Karius’ Liverpool career was all-but ended by Real Madrid in 2018 Champions League final

It would be rather poignant for Loris Karius to bring the curtain…

Michael Keaton inspired Andie MacDowell to take more chances

18 May 2022 Andie MacDowell “learned a lot about taking chances” from…