All Communities Are Terrible Communities
This entry is part of a five-part series on “terrible communities”: 1. All Communities are Terrible Communities. 2. Terrible Outcomes of Terrible Communities. 3. A Less Foolish Power Literacy. 4. Terrible People in Terrible Communities. 5. An Antidote to Terrible Communities. Appendix. I Am Not Writing to the World: A Guide to Creating "Theory Sketches.”
Less Foolish is not a community. It’s a Substack. The Stoa is not a community. It’s a Zoom account with recorded sessions posted on a YouTube channel. There is a “sense of community” surrounding them. There is also a “community of practice” around the ongoing practices associated with them, such as Collective Journalling. However, I do not use “community” to describe them. I will only use the word community with those I commune with.
The term community is lazily used, overused, and abused. Anytime people interact regularly online, a community magically seems to appear...
If you have regular Zoom events, *poof* a community!
If you have a Discord or Slack group, *poof* a community!
If you enable comments on a Substack, *poof* a community!
Many people trying to make money online tag the word community onto whatever their hustle is. They use the word to invoke a sense of community. Hearing the word feels nice. If it had a smell, it would smell like flowers. If it had a taste, it would taste like homemade butter tarts. If it had a personality, it would be Belle blissfully singing at the beginning of Beauty and the Beast.
People instrumentalize the word, creating a felt-sense verisimilitude of community. That’s all, and that is not a community. The corporate world is particularly guilty of instrumentalizing the word, and when they do, Corporate Memphis images come to mind—the art form of choice for modern corporations, conveying generic, productive, and docile people being together.
When I see these uninspired Corporate Memphis images, a phrase comes to mind: terrible communities.
In their “Theses on the Terrible Community,” Tiqqun, an ultra-left French collective, argues that the terrible community is “the only community one can find” and “the only community compatible with this world.” They believe this is true in leftist communities as well, who rebel against the current state of the world:
The family, the school, work, prison — these are the classical faces of this contemporary form of hell, but they are the least interesting because they belong to a bygone depiction of commodity evolution, and are at present merely surviving on. There are some terrible communities, however, that fight against the existing state of things, and that are simultaneously quite attractive and much better than “this world.” And at the same time their way of approximating truth — and thus joy — distances them more than anything else from freedom.
Saying all communities are terrible is harsh and disrespectful to all the “communities” where love, support, and good work exist. Still, there is something about this premise I find freeing. Often something feels off when I find myself in a setting where a community is supposed to be. While I do find enjoyment and experience social nourishment when gathering with good people, something is missing from many gatherings, and subtle loneliness permeates my body.
This loneliness becomes more pronounced around those making a living in environments that the Corporate Memphis images depict. The personas are thick in these spaces, and status anxiety is palpable in the “social field,” the invisible dimension of social interactions felt between bodies. What’s actually happening in social fields cannot be spoken about because most people cannot express it.
Instead, they settle for being misunderstood and “unseen,” with passive-aggressive politeness, petite bullshit, and good times as coping mechanisms to mask the underlying emotional pain. Nothing real changes, just more practice at being fake. Many social fields are dominated by sneaky fuckers, unconscious gaslighters, and conversational narcissists.1 It’s terrible.
Communities can be good. However, to change them, they must first risk becoming more terrible.
In the next entry, I will discuss three terrible outcomes of consciously trying to change terrible communities…
I previously discussed two of these outcomes in a presentation at The Stoa:
If you’d like to taste a non-terrible community of practice, Collective Journalling is available to paid subscribers of Less Foolish. The practice description is below, and you can access the RSVP link behind the paywall.
What is Collective Journalling? This communal practice happens via Zoom and is 90 mins, with check-ins in the chat at the beginning and an opportunity to connect with fellow journalers in breakout rooms at the end. You do not have to stay the whole time. If you are in an antisocial mood, you do not have to interact with anyone, yet you can still enjoy the coffee shop-esque communal vibe. The session concludes with an optional sharing of a passage in the chat. Most of the time is spent in silence together, individually inquiring about what matters most. A lovely group of people has formed around this practice. The practice occurs on weekdays @ 8 AM ET.
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