My father always told me to aspire to be "an asset to the community" when I grew up.
Whenever a businessman in our town contributed any money to a "community project" he was pictured on the front of the local newspaper captioned as a "pillar of the community".
When French footballer Eric Cantona launched, studs-first, with a two-footed kung-fu kick into a football fan hurling abuse at him he was faced with a ban and "community service".
My dictionary tells me a community is:
a unified body of individuals:
as A: the people with common interests living in a particular area broadly : the area itself
B: an interacting population of various kinds of individuals (as species) in a common location
C: a group of people with a common characteristic or interest living together within a larger society.
Then somewhere along the rickety road to growing up, I came across the term, "international community".
Essentially, the whole world, unified, acting together and aiming to achieve the same thing. Isn't it nice to be a part of such an over-arching, wide-ranging unified endeavour?
But we've had a nemesis in recent weeks. An arch-foe. Someone who has defied us all.
Assuming the role of villain
Voice of America reported that "The international community is increasing pressure on incumbent Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo to cede power after the UN Security Council voted Monday to extend the mandate of its 10,000-member peacekeeping force, despite Gbagbo's demand that they leave".
His name, suitably pronounced by members of the community to assume the role of villain as well - "BAG-BOWW". It's a surprise Hollywood hasn't joined the chorus yet. I expect a movie trailer in due course: "This summer....how low can Gbagbo go?" Or - "This summer, ONE MAN, will defy the INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY - Gbagbo refuses to go. No go Gbagbo, coming soon to a theatre near you."
And it's not just Gbagbo we need to think about fellow community members.
From the BBC: "Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wikileaks' actions undermined US foreign policy efforts and amounted to 'an attack on the international community, the alliances and partnerships, the conventions and negotiations that safeguard global security and advance economic prosperity'."
Be warned, we're under attack - but don't forget about Iran.
From Reuters: "State Department spokesman PJ Crowley said the new US move against the Revolutionary Guards was a response to efforts by Iran to circumvent the existing sanctions. Iran says its nuclear program is purely for peaceful purposes. 'This is part of the ongoing game of cat and mouse, if you will, between Iran and the international community,' Crowley said."
Granted: games and recreation are integral to the wellbeing of any decent community. But sometimes, games can lead to confusion, as Haaretz notes:
"The meeting that concluded on Tuesday in Geneva between the big powers, Germany and Iran brought up a feeling of deja vu. If anyone still harboured any doubts, the meeting removed them - Iran's leaders are acting as they have for years. They create a virtual reality, an appearance of negotiations, but they use the cloak of diplomacy to confuse the international community and gain time to develop their nuclear project in secret."
Gbagbo defies us, we are under attack from WikiLeaks and Iran's cat-and-mouse games are weapons of mass confusion. It's apparent that our survival probably depends on whether we are a safe, gated community or not. I suspect we are - because nobody invited the Non-Aligned Movement to join our community.
From Wikipedia: "The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) is an intergovernmental organisation of states considering themselves not aligned formally with or against any major power bloc. As of 2010, the organization has 118 members and 18 observer countries."
These pesky countries seem to have created a community of their own, which includes an India with a billion-strong population. Furthermore - they support Iran's uranium enrichment program. But let's not get bogged down in the details. We have our community, they have theirs. Good fences make good neighbours.
You'll notice too that when Laurent Gbagbo was a legitimate leader in our eyes, he headed the GOVERNMENT of the country.
Now - it's a REGIME.
Yes, say it out loud, roll the R, elongate the G as a "zzzhh" sound. For the community, summon as much deep linguistic disgust as you can to give this word its true value. "Rrreh-Zzheeem."
Iran has a regime as well. So does North Korea. Saddam Hussein had a regime. Now Iraq has a government, presumably since they joined the international community. Or since we joined them with our soldiers we had to go to them they couldn’t come to us - "community outreach" you might say.
Since our community cameras captured Alexander Lukashenko's policemen in Belarus beating up opposition members, his country is becoming a regime, after once being a government. The baton does indeed activate the slippery slope to regime-hood. They tend to beat up opposition members in Egypt as well, anytime there's an election. There, President Hosni Mubarak, in charge for three decades, aims to better his almost 100 per cent support at each poll. But he still has a government, not a regime. He's a "pillar of the community." But he's also the symbolic head of the Non-aligned movement. Is he cheating on our community? More weapons of mass confusion, it must certainly be the Iranians causing it.
Location, location, location
Recently The Washington Post reported that "Iran's supreme leader on Friday blamed the West for a deadly suicide bombing at a mosque this week, saying the country's enemies were trying to divide Muslims and halt its nuclear activities".
Now, is our community in the West or isn't it? "Location location location", say the real estate gurus. Is our community geographical?
Barack Obama is from the West. But so is Evo Morales and Hugo Chavez.
Maybe "The West" is based on a definition of the capitalist countries vs the others?
I'm from South Africa, which is capitalist and secular. Am I a part of the west or east? Or just the South? We really need a community guidance centre to help with all these terms. More weapons of mass confusion. Iranians!!!
Iran's Supreme Leader also enjoys reminding us of the attacks on the "Muslim world" by The West. Is the Muslim world a separate entity? If it is would Muslims be allowed to build a mosque within the international community, or would they have to call it an Islamic cultural centre?
Which reminds me of the leader of the "free world", and presumably our community leader, Barack Obama's Cairo speech - addressed to the "Muslim world". Unfortunately the 145 million or so Bangladeshis didn't really get a mention. Nor did the over 20 million Chinese Muslims. Nor did the millions of muslims in the Muslim-majority countries of Kazakhstan or Kyrgyzstan or Uzbekistan. Perhaps they drink too much alcohol and wear their Islam too lightly in Central Asia, to warrant a mention. Nor did the millions of Senegalese or Guinean or Malian muslims in their Muslim-majority countries.
But to be fair, "Muslim world" provides brevity, clarity (and since we’re already in confusion over Iran's cat-and-mouse games) and it saves us from calling it President Obama's speech addressed to "anyone who we have attacked or have supported an attack on, anyone we may attack, or is upset that we attacked once upon a time, or anyone that has sympathies with the terrorists who attacked us - or if you have oil".
So, are you a member of the international community?