There’s this feeling that neighbourhoods are getting less friendly; that the places and communities we inhabit are not as safe as they were in our childhood. But how can we be sure? There’s no doubt that we need to secure our homes and take account of our own safety but are communities less safe and secure than they used to be? Whatever you think about those questions, I think you will agree that we need good neighbours.
In my childhood, I recall staying out late, not really telling my parents where I might be or what time I would be home and not really giving much thought about my own safety. These days, if youngsters exercised the same degree of freedom that I experienced we would probably worry about them or be critical of those responsible for them.
We do get to see disturbing accounts of violence and hear tragic stories on an almost daily basis, it’s the hearing about them that makes us feel unsafe. It may be that criminal’s are getting smarter as technology improvements try to keep us safer in a cat and mouse game of catch-up. But does this mean that our communities are less safe than in previous generations? Stephen Pinker has written a book recently that argues that the world is actually safer now than it ever has been! He argues that.
Thanks to the spread of government, literacy, trade, and cosmopolitanism, we increasingly control our impulses, empathize with others, bargain rather than plunder, debunk toxic ideologies, and deploy our powers of reason to reduce the temptations of violence.
Maybe, he’s right.
So if we feel less safe because we are more safety conscious things would be even harder to bear if we were less neighbourly. There’s no comparison between the small village I lived in and the busy town where my current home is. It’s not so easy to be neighbourly; we’re all so busy, things are very competitive and it’s unusual for the adults who care for children to work. Quite different to an era where many people were employed locally, our world was more labour-intensive and people were at home more. I’m hopeful that people are not actually less friendly, helpful or neighbourly and that these things may just be a little less obvious.