I see the village community as a functional structure which strengthens the possibility for families to be prosperous in a self-reliant way. In that sense, the community is for the family. The family is a functional structure which strengthens the possibility for each person to discover what is right living, in the warmth of relationship. In that sense, the family is for the person.
In this way, the functional order is in favour of each person being free and finding fulfilment. This is the purpose of society; the combined expression of a people is to serve the person so he can understand life and be complete. With this functional purpose, a village community unfolds a structure which strengthens the possibility for each person to grow and flower in a fertile social soil.
Whether such a dispensation, in its completeness, has been achieved, I do not know. But it is certainly true that in India, traditionally, we have had largely self-sufficient village communities which together constituted society. They had come up organically and had been maintained with some diligence. And now, for the last two hundred years or so, the force of modern society has been breaking them apart, first slowly, but now with great speed.
Living in rural Garhwal for the last four years, I see that the village community being dismantled today are only the structural remains; it appears that the functional purpose has been long lost, if at all it was ever fully realised. The structure has continued a while longer as a momentum of habit - so what we see crumbling today may not be tradition per se, but the inertia of tradition. Even so, I am of the view that a good thing is being pulled down, and I would say we ought to question why we are doing this.
The reason is that this structure is in harmony with its environment, it does not dominate; it is not aggresive with nature, plant and animal life can thrive with it; it is self-reliant, many essential things are fulfilled within the community; it is not dirtied by market, exchange and distribution of goods is regulated by distance; and it is not destructive with its science. So I would say that such a structure should be useful to us always. Not as a thing of the past, to be preserved like an exhibit in a museum, of interest only to the careers of academics. I am saying that if we have the intent to understand the wheel of traditional community, then we need not re-invent the structure, it is there. We can take it, build upon it, and re-discover its functional purpose.
Such structures are there in rural India even today. They are being broken apart by the force of modernity, but it is our wisdom which will decide the future. If we understand and if we want, we could maintain, and strengthen, and improve the community structure by understanding its real function, and enjoy the harmony that it makes possible. We can live in it, enrich it, live from it, and be enriched. Peace and harmony are not measurable by instruments, they are not quantified, and so have been brushed aside by modern civilization. The village community cannot be invented in a library, or a laboratory, or a factory. It cannot be understood from these places. This structure holds the breath of a civilization, it is borne (given birth to) by tradition. It is an autonomous community structure which has evolved through human communities which have accepted the need of the soul, peace and happiness, as the basis for a design of society.
In the functional structure of village communities, the person is at the centre, he has to discover what is right living, and the community, society, exists for him, so that the person can have the joy of this discovery. Such structures have existed, maybe even partially, in Indian and other civilizations. We may call this a human-centric society; the objective at its core is spiritual growth and development, for which plant and material resources may be used.
That is now being dismantled systematically, globally, after the coming of modern industry; here, the person is a servant of society, to be fit in slots as needed by it, to be uprooted and migrated as needed, to be paid wages for labour, and to be schooled to be obedient and follow rules, no questions asked; especially foundational questions. This is so in all the modern, materialistic models, capitalism, socialism, communism, and exemplified in democracy. A set of man-made rules and regulations is at the core - which is society - and the purpose of the human being is to fit into and exist for this core. The objective here is material growth and development, for which humans will be used.
One has to question why.