I think community is a big deal. Recently, we had a mentor day at our school where the state veterinary medical association brought 80 veterinarians to meet with us as a reminder that the community is one of the greatest parts of the profession and a strong force against any struggles that come. We have written previously about how community is needed to solve the problems facing veterinary medicine. I also love when students at other schools share what they are doing in order to build community at their school while addressing mental health. But I recently came across a quotation about community that got me worried:
Community becomes totalitarian when its only purpose is to foster a sense of belonging in order to overcome the fragility of the lone individual.
This quote is from a book called Resident Aliens. The authors say that, rather than community being something you seek to create, it is the natural byproduct of a concerted effort by a group of people towards one purpose or goal. You don’t have to do anything special to make community. Instead, it develops naturally in the course of other activities.
The questions this raises for me is that while starting a group to try to build community is great, does that really fulfill your goal? To put it in the language of veterinary students (also Batman villians), is it like a dog chasing a car that would not know what to do if it caught it? Or maybe it is more like a dog chasing its tail, spinning in circles but never really catching it.
Going back to the peacock, there is a lot I don’t know. It is easy to be critical, but much harder to offer solutions. Certainly, doing something to tackle mental health in veterinary medicine is better than doing nothing. I think we are already on the right track. Perhaps this alternate viewpoint is needed to take something that is already good and direct it to create a deeper, more authentic veterinary community.