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By Zygmunt Bauman

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The idea of community has been recovered from the cold storage where modernity bent on boundless humanity confined it, and restored to a genuine or imaginary past glory. It is on the community that many hopes bereaved by bankrupt or discredited institutions now focus. What had been once rejected as a constraint is now hailed as the ‘enabling capacity’. What was once seen as an obstacle on the road to full humanity, is now praised as its necessary condition. Humanity, we are told, comes in many forms and shapes, and thanks to communities, traditions and cultures, the inherited forms of life are here to see to it that this is the case.

Under closer scrutiny, the alleged medicine looks suspiciously like the disease. It is all too easy to expose other people’s hopes as not firmly enough founded, and their solutions as not realistic enough. It is much more difficult to propose one’s own warrants for hope and one’s own solutions that would be immune to similar charges. This is not because of the shortage of imagination or good will, but because the present human condition itself is shot through with ambivalence, and any diagnosis seems to point to two opposite directions simultaneously, towards developments whose compatibility is far from evident.

Thus in order to know what we are, to understand ourselves, we must fathom and consciously embrace that tradition; and in order to be ourselves, to keep our identity intact and waterproof, we must support that tradition with all our heart. In fact, we owe it our complete loyalty; and we ought to offer its demands an unquestionable priority whenever loyalty calls in that society of multiple loyalties clash. The argument, as it were, reverses the true order of things. Traditions do not ‘exist’ by themselves and independently of what we think and do; they are daily re-invented by our dedication, our selective memory and selective seeing, our way of behaving ‘as if’ they defined our conduct.

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