I was up in the Highlands a couple of weeks ago. It looks a bit like this
Whilst we were up there, we listened to two lochs radio, a community radio station (britain's smallest) broadcasting out of Gairloch. You can listen to it through the website. And you should. The music is eclectic with a heavy Gaelic lean, and - weirdly - a propensity for country.
The best thing about two lochs radio is that it's local. We were staying in Aird House on the other side of the loch, and word reached the station. Amongst reminders of the ceilidh at the community hall that night, and announcements for parents of the local school, a message to all of us staying at the house drifted across the water. Clearly not everyone listens to the station, but enough people listen to warrant it, and use it to stay in touch. They even have listeners who've left Scottish shores emailing in with requests. Why? In the first place, it has it's practical incarnation - the announcements, the advertising. But much more, it's about belonging. Residents of Gairloch get what they want and what they need from the station. It works. And the ability to be directly plugged into something appeals to the most basic human instinct. It's why a small agency is more fun than a large corporation. It's why Twitter is successful. And it's why two lochs radio is great.
All that positive community thinking made me think of this brilliant article written by Brian Eno.
I once knew a wonderful commune—40 or so people—which conducted its affairs according to strict anarchist principles. All issues were thrashed out over the muesli, and things ran pretty well. Later I got to know a similarly sized commune which operated from almost the opposite philosophy: there was an authoritarian boss, and there were underlings. Oddly enough, it too ran pretty well. All issues were also thrashed out over the muesli.I surmised that world peace might be down to the right breakfast choices, but now I think the key was scale. Those groups were small enough for everybody to know everybody else, so what really kept them in order was not the particular set of principles they espoused, but the ever-operating human instincts for honour and shame—for reputation. Honour and shame, not law, are the real constraints among people who know each other. So long as there is a tangible community—where everyone knows everyone else —people tend to behave better.
That segued nicely into the (now old) news that Brixton is launching it's own pound. Nice idea. Hope it works.
And maybe all this is why I'm moving back to a village.