The Neighborhood Revolution

The following is not meant to be prescriptive, but rather a suggestion of possibilities that may inspire in the reader practical possibilities of their own.

Starting around July 2020, for reasons yet unknown, a trend began in urban neighborhoods around the world of neighborhoods coming together to form block and street associations and of neighbors getting together in ways they never had before.

In most cases they were begun by one or two people in each neighborhood who for whatever reason took it upon themselves to knock on doors and collect contact information, and start a conversation. But however it was begun in each case, it was just a spark; because everyone was ready for something just like that. And that’s how it happened that in the span of a few months in the Fall of 2020 that thousands and thousands of tightly-knit neighborhood associations came into being in nearly every major city on Earth.

And whatever the specific catalyst in each case, there was something similar that happened in almost all of them after they got started – namely, that residents began to feel that their neighborhood itself had a life of its own, and could be much much more than just a collection of individuals. And through block parties, group dinners, and feelings of warmth and camaraderie between neighbors, these associations came to be something that nearly everyone enjoyed, and that many found they could depend on.

For many it was enlivening and exciting, and just fun. And for others it was practically helpful as previously stressful situations regarding childcare, transportation, and other things could now be dealt with easily in community, and so much of life that had been occupied with these basics could now be given over to chatting with neighbors and relaxing and getting ahead in other ways. And so, for both the practical and the aesthetic reasons, the “neighborhood” came to be seen as something that you couldn’t imagine living without.

Naturally then, by around Christmas of 2020, the experience of living in community came to be a nearly ubiquitous topic of discussion on social media, with conventional media not far behind. And with this self-reflective awareness, the phenomenon continued to develop in new ways. For instance, groups of neighborhoods found they could come together to do things that one neighborhood alone couldn’t. Things like building a sports field, or sometimes dealing with larger problems that might be beyond the ability of any given neighborhood to deal with on their own. All manner of creative developments quickly ensued and a virtuous circle was created where each new innovation became a topic of discussion on social media, with lots of discussion about best practices and sharing of experiences, and these conversations led to still further innovation and experimentation. And through this iterative process, it was like a new science being developed that everyone participating was creating together in real time. Some people found their specialty in certain niches of community organization, like gardening, or family interventions, or children’s activities, while others too a more academic approach and focused on outreach with other communities and organized conferences. And as the whole process became more and more complex, there was also a dawning awareness that no one had to even know how the whole system worked, but that it just did.

No story is that simple though, and it wasn’t all roses…

Because, of course there was push-back from the systems that recognized this phenomenon as a threat, and there were completely predictable campaigns of disinformation characterizing the neighborhood assemblies as a Communist plot. Also predictably, the mysterious arch-villain George Soros was rumored to be behind it all. And there were of course all the usual horror stories circulated in certain media about incidents of violence and other forms of malfeasance that naturally take place among any group of humans that are blamed on community organizations. All in all, the counter-propaganda took on a bit of traction, among just those you would have thought to go for that kind of thing, but for the most part, really, the first wave of counter-propaganda was surprisingly (and blessedly!) ineffective, as it was simply out of phase with the actual experience of anyone participating in a community organization, even including those that would have tended to believe such propaganda when applied to abstracted phenomenon outside their daily experience.

No one was naive about that being the end of the reaction from on high, as the systems of domination and exploitation that feel threatened by the neighborhood movement have a life of their own too, but for the first few months at least, those systems were caught flat-footed, and their feeble attempts at sowing discord only served to educate and strengthen that which they sought to smother.

Around the time then that these initial disinformation campaigns could be observed to have emerged and to have mostly boomeranged, it became widely acknowledged that something had fundamentally changed in the overall balance of power in human society, and many began to sense a very real possibility of something genuinely new even on a global level. And this yet new self-reflective moment, right around early Spring of 2021 was the beginning of an exciting but somewhat confusing period of growth for the still nameless movement that was happening everywhere on earth. Because what happened next was a process not unlike what had happened in many other revolutionary processes. That is, a time of great excitement, and of grandiose visions, and of vigorous and at times extremely heated debate about the right way forward.

This parallel was not lost on many people, and comparisons were drawn to the times of the Russian Revolution, and the Paris Communes, and even the Spanish Civil War (even though nothing like an actual war is taking place) and there was thus also a sober call from many to avoid remaking the mistakes of the past, where inflamed passions and impatience for utopia led to chaos and lost opportunity. It was truly a great and tumultuous time, and one that will be written about colorfully in the histories yet to be written.

Through it all though, perhaps miraculously, or perhaps inevitably, something new emerged clear and intact.

And just now, in the fall of 2021, and as the dust is settling on the many competing conferences, and schools of thought, and ad hoc confederations and rivalries that have come and gone in the last year that seems like forever, a new consensus about human society has indeed materialized as if out of the woodwork, and some solid fundamentals of anew system of humankind as a whole are now obvious, even down to many of the practical details.

And so, like the internet, which shortly after its introduction no one could imagine living without, there now simply is a globally interconnected and organized ‘everybody’ of all of humankind that no one can imagine having lived without.

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