September 26, 2008

Community spirit

In common with most mammals and birds, we humans generally prefer being part of a pack.
Groups provide safety, companionship, and economy of effort, with individual members contributing to increase the well-being of all. All such groups have internal conflicts, but with a common goal and competent leadership, the overall community is not threatened by temporary disruptions or difficulties.
In the absence of mutual support and direction, however, the group can easily fragment into smaller factions which have to compete for the same resources.

At this point, astute and/or regular readers (usually one and the same, of course) may assume that I am about to launch into yet another analysis of the often self-defeating management policies at ODP/DMOZ, which relies for its success on a vast and diverse community of volunteers.
No, surprisingly enough this is the last mention of ODP in this post!

One of the ways in which groups can increase cohesion and participation is through non-essential, enjoyable interaction where the goal is not survival but increasing trust and bonding within the community. This is the basis for all those corporate/team-building activities which often make such entertaining documentaries.
I have never been lucky enough to go on a work-sponsored weekend of wilderness camping, abseiling or SCUBA diving, but I have taken part in many less commercial group events, and they were certainly great fun.

Last year I posted about participating in a mass sporting event for charity, and for the last few years I have taken part in the annual community walk down a very scenic abandoned railway line.

This year I added another group event to my calendar: the annual Trek the Trail, an historical walk through native bushland in the steps of early settlers and engineers.
Unfortunately it was not a sunny spring day, but several thousand of us braved an icy wind and constant rain to walk the 7 km down to Mundaring Weir. Local artists displayed craft and sculptures along the way, and volunteer groups were on hand to help with road crossings and provide impromptu entertainment.
Historical markers and descriptions of the wildflowers made it educational as well as entertaining, and there were all sorts of activities for children. It was wonderful to see so many families taking part, despite the weather, and I shall certainly be attending next year.

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