Yesterday, I gave a seminar in Amsterdam. Treating myself to dinner afterwards, I was just in time to attend the Remembrance Day ceremony at the National Monument on Dam Square. During Remembrance Day, all over the country, we honour the dead of WWII, but increasingly, as time passes, also of other conflicts all over the world. It is a prelude to Liberation Day on May 5. From the official website:
The Netherlands has its own way of commemorating the Second World War and celebrating the country's liberation from five years of occupation. Unlike most countries, the Netherlands sets aside two days to mark these events. The first is a day of solemn commemoration; the second a day of public rejoicing with the young at the centre of attention. After a day of looking back at the past, the nation turns its hopes to the future. On 4 and 5 May the Netherlands affirms its pledge to provide a haven for all its citizens.
The national ceremony in Amsterdam was a sober, and a very moving one. Thousands of people had gathered at the national liberation monument. At two minutes to eight, the Queen laid a wreath at the foot of the monument. After the Last Post had been played, at eight o'clock, there were two minutes of complete silence. Very powerful silence. Imagine that bustling Dam Square, with all these people saying nothing, and thereby saying so much at the same time. Next, the national anthem was played, the Prime Minister, and many other representatives of formal and civil society laid their wreaths, there were speeches, more music and the usual stuff. That silence, embedded in a simple but very symbolic ritual, created an incredible, palpable sense of community.
Now let's look at virtual communities. Where are their rituals? What is the role of rituals? When are they necessary: at start-up or some other lifecycle stage, during or after conflict, at regular intervals? What shape do or could these rituals take? How do they link with the usual stuff of moderating, facilitating, and motivating community members? Much more attention should be paid to these ephemeral, yet so important reflective parts of healthy, evolving communities...