Saturday, 25 November 2006

Island life: blogs and incomers

Disclaimer. I am a "serial incomer".

The BBC run a blogging service called Island Blogging. It's a little different from conventional blogs, in that the BBC website hosts the service, and they also administer it. So, they decide which postings and comments stay up, and which are removed. In many respects, it's more like a forum than a blog (or collection of blogs).

The topics in it range from the serious to the not serious, to the downright silly. One of the more serious posts is by a resident of Sanday; it's worth reading the thread and the comments (though will take a good 30 minutes):

Ah, deja vue. An incomer writes something, and someone - anonymously - flies in with comments about incomers taking over, making changes, making it more difficult for locals to stay as house prices go up. Other people retort, pointing out that without incomers the islands would die; the locals benefit from selling off houses at greater prices; the incomers are bringing in money to the local economy and doing stuff.

And here's the thing. I've heard it all before. These arguments aren't specific to Sanday. Nor the northern islands. Nor the Hebridean islands. Nor Berneray. Nor rural places on the mainland (I became bored by hearing these arguments in Lochwinnoch, where we lived before here). Nor even in the small rural farming village I grew up in nearly four decades ago.

Some observations and thoughts:

  1. People use the word "community" too much. "The community need this", or "the community thinks that". Sometimes, what they mean is "This would be good, and I'm right so the community does need it". Bottom line is that a community is a bunch of individual people living in roughly the same place. They cannot or do not all hold identical views.

  2. There will always be critical people. And the most critical and vocal ones I've found, time and time again, are the ones who do bugger all for their "community". The one's who are actually doing the stuff (whatever it is) are usually the quiet ones who prefer getting on with stuff, rather than boring everyone else to death with self-important opinions.

  3. Some of the quiet ones are a bit too quiet. For example, there are many good people in Berneray who do stuff, but hold their opinions, for a variety of reasons. It's a pity; there possibly needs to be ways (democratic ballots? better use of the net?) for the majority of residents, who are sensible and thoughtful, to confidently express their opinions and have their - equal - say.

  4. On a related point, I've got zero patience for people who try and "control" the media by shouting the most. No one individual speaks for me, for Berneray, or for any island. I have no time for people who say things such as "I speak for Berneray when...", nor for people (basically "book-burning fascists") who want reasonable stuff censored or removed from publications (print or online) because it doesn't fit with their point of view. Diddums.

  5. It doesn't matter what you do - or don't do - someone will criticise. Example: here in Berneray, there are tentative council plans for a major development. Support it, and you could be accused of "moving here and changing things". Oppose it, and you could be accused of being a "Nimby". Have no opinion, and you could be accused of "not participating in the community". But here's the thing - in these three cases, it'll probably be the same person who does the accusing. So you might as well ignore him/her/it and just do your thing.

People who have lived somewhere for 20 minutes or 20 generations are in many many ways the same. They all pay council tax (or should do) and thus all subsidise, and use, local services. They all (okay, nearly all) have two arms, legs, a head, and are complex-based life forms. They all breathe oxygen, eat, poo and will one day die. They all get an electric bill on the same day; you could hear the identical sharp intakes of both "incomer" and "local" breath as bills were opened in various households earlier this week...

In every rural or isolated community I've lived in, the same pattern presents itself. Some "locals" are positive and helpful, protecting things that need to be and improving things that need to be. Some "incomers" are also positive and helpful, protecting things that need to be and improving things that need to be. Some "locals" are negative, quick to criticise others (both "locals" and "incomers") but slow to help or "do", as opposed to "talk". And some "incomers" are negative, quick to criticise others (both "locals" and "incomers") but slow to help or "do", as opposed to "talk".

Thankfully, not all of the threads on Island Blogging get as personal and negative as the Sanday one. One of the things that shines through is the Hebridean humour, which is an interesting blend of dryness, self-mockery and in-jokes.

End of.

1 comment:

  1. one of the quiet ones21 January 2007 at 06:47

    Spot on on all fronts