Do you agree or disagree that identifying with abstract communities without personal ties, with at least some members, can provide a sense of belonging or concern with the general welfare of given abstract community? Based on your own experiences, are there astract communities that you identify with that my include or go beyond your actual social relations?
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As with much in community identity, there are many areas of complexity that need to be explored. For every example of affirming the notion that abstract communities without personal ties can provide a sense of belonging, there is another one to reject that true acceptance can only happen in a real community setting. Seeing that the answer is geared towards individual experience, totality in an answer is going to be impossible.
There is much to be said about abstract communities helping to enhance the sense of connection to something larger. In his definition of nationalism, Benedict Anderson affirms the idea that national identity is abstract and "imagined." Yet, such an abstraction helps to formulate the essence of belonging and concern with the general welfare:
...it [Nationalism] is imagined as a community, because, regardless of the actual inequality and exploitation that may prevail in each, the nation is always conceived as a deep, horizontal comradeship. Ultimately it is this fraternity that makes it possible, over the past two centuries, for so many millions of people, not so much to kill, as willingly to die for such limited imaginings.
Anderson sees national identity as imagined and abstract because " the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion." This can be seen in recent American History. In the days following the attacks of September 11, Americans bonded with this abstraction. The spontaneous display of "God Bless America" or "The Star- Spangled Banner" or the immediate association with those who work for the fire and police departments were all examples of how abstract communities can provide a sense of belonging. These are examples that would affirm such an idea.
Interestingly enough, recent surveys about religious identity also serve to affirm the idea that abstract communities can provide a sense of belonging or concern with the general welfare of given abstract community. Nearly one in every five Americans identify themselves as "spiritual, but not religious:" "Substantial portions of the unaffiliated – particularly among those who describe their religion as 'nothing in particular' – say they believe in God or a universal spirit." Such an idea can affirm how abstract communities provide a sense of belonging. Even if the abstraction is itself an abstraction, people can forge bonds. Individuals who see themselves as "nothing in particular" still seek alliances with something larger than themselves, and thus develop bonds of belonging or concern with the general welfare. The role of spiritual identity in the lives of individuals helps to affirm the idea that abstract communities can construct personalized ties with others. Even if the presence of those ties are not actual, the abstract notion of a community can help to develop identities in which individuals see more than themselves.
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