Sitting on the dock of the bay


According to the BBC, people in the UK lack community and are thus lonely. You might well ask how the BBC, in conjunction with the University of Sheffield, arrived at these conclusions; well here it is:

The study ranks places using a formula based on the proportion of people in an area who are single, those who live alone, the numbers in private rented accommodation and those who have lived there for less than a year.

BBC Home Editor, Mark Easton, has this to say about the statistics:

My reading is that communities are less well-rooted than they were. And without a strong foundation of people and families who are committed to their neighbourhood, community life suffers.

It is of course quite possible that communities have suffered from the increase in single people living alone for short periods in rented accommodation, but this research does not show this. Instead it just shows that there has been an increase in single people living alone for short periods in rented accommodation. Going on, as the BBC does, to discuss the nature and value of communities actually leads to more questions than answers. After all, what is the value of a community of married, cohabiting homeowners, if they living in the midst of high crime and violence?

The BBC and the University of Sheffield have stretched the statistics beyond even the analysis community, suggesting that what is being measured is loneliness. To present community and loneliness as antonyms is profoundly wrong. Even if these statistics suggested that communities were being eroded (which they clearly don’t), to suggest that without community we are lonely needs more than supposition. Also, loneliness is not in fact being measured, only the status of someone living alone. These are of course very different things. Many take pleasure in the regular withdrawal from the oppression of the group, while others might invite their friends and family over for a beer.