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Monday, March 18, 2019

I Alone


Silverfiddle Rant!

Is the US experiencing an Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation?

"If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am not for others, what am I?" -- Rabbi Hillel

In Everyman's Talmud, Abraham Cohen sums up the role of the individual in society:
  
"Man was not intended to live alone but as a member of society. He is a unit in the body of humanity, and that fact creates many duties for him with respect to his relationship with his fellow-men. His life is not his own to do with as he pleases. His conduct affects his neighbours as their conduct affects him."

Communism, socialism and all forms of coerced collectivism are a grotesque extremist mockery of this timeless wisdom. 

"Rugged Individualism" stands at the other extreme, routinely espoused by bloviators living in a house serviced by public utilities, who enjoy the freedom to relieve themselves in sanitary conditions that whisk away their excreta, who drive down public roads and who can get their packaged foods offered by grocery stores thanks to all the others around them who form a collective market for the safe delivery and economic purveyance of such goods.

Cult of Me

A non-ideological variant of Rugged Individualism is the virulent Cult of Self propagated through social media and stoked by popular culture.  We're all stars now, living the lifestyles of the rich and beautiful. This is a fa├žade that hides insecurity, existential despair and a sense of disconnected emptiness.  

We live in a cartoon world, so I will avoid cartoon solutions.  Ancient wisdom says cohesive families and communities, bound by shared tradition and mores is the healthiest model, and I agree with that.  But I also left home at seventeen and have returned only to visit.


Ours is a mobile society that moves and adjusts based on the economy, jobs, boom and bust...  We move away from our communities and families, so old people are left to die in isolation, no opportunity to convey their wisdom to their children and grandchildren, who are instead condemned to get their "wisdom" from society's disordered artists, minstrels, and twisted storytellers.

What's wrong with kids today?  Answer: Parents.  Parenting is the most important job on the planet, but we get no training, and by the time we are experts, our children are grown.  But it has always been so.  What's different for us now, is that dislocated parents have lost their coaches.  The grandparents live in another state.  Strength and energy belong to youth; the old are the keepers of wisdom an knowledge.  A healthy family and society benefits from cross-generational cooperation to advance themselves and teach the children while they're at it.

It really does take a village to raise a child, but the disintegration of our communities is well-documented, and again, I blame our mobile society.  It's hard to form a community of diverse people who are all from somewhere else.  Human beings just aren't wired that way.

Pharma may ease the pain temporarily, but we are social creatures not meant to suffer in isolation.  Having a robust family and community around you centers you in something larger than yourself that yet does not overwhelm you, and a good support structure buffers you against the inevitable vagaries of life and also enhances celebration of the good things.

I don't have a pretty bow to tie up the loose ends of this ramble. This is a complex, multi-faceted topic. Sometimes even family and community cannot assuage one's "boredom and a sense of uselessness and inadequacy." 

Maybe it is as simple as this: The further we get from the soil, the further away we are from God and one another.

What say you?

Links:
Yuval Levin - The American Context of Civil Society
Can We Rebuild Community in an Age of Individualism
The Fallacy in the Culture Wars
Have We Reached the Limit of Individualism?

38 comments:

  1. " The further we get from the soil, the further away we are from God and one another."
    I believe that the farther we get from God, the further we get from each other.
    The framers gave us a constitution based on the concept of inalienable rights given us by a Creator.
    Remove the Creator, remove the inalienableness of the rights.
    Remove the those, remove the constitution.
    Remove that and you've removed the compact that binds us.
    And that's just on a social and political level.
    There are behavioral constraints that the Judeo-Christian God brings to society: Love you neighbor as yourself, etc.that are being lost as we lose our connection to Him.

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    1. I've seen Christ's cross used to explain our duty to God (the vertical beam), and our duty to others (the horizontal beam).

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    1. Do you realize your intellectual astringency can come off as lye soap on an open wound?

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    2. I prefer it to the "gentle persuasion" that turns tankers at sea.

      "Engine Room: CRASH ASTERN!"

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    3. We're 15 feet from the pier and our 20+ knot travelling 220,000 ton tanker of global capitalism still has "pilots" ordering up more steam to the turbines.

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    4. ...as we ponder why the sailors watching from the rails are self-medicating.

      Give them their own commands, so that we're not all strapped to the deck chairs, panicking. Make every proletarian scream for his own command, not a state-socialist "bigger tanker".

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    5. They are self-medicating because they're trying to overcome 3 billion years worth of "will to power" genetic programming.

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    6. ...it's the same reason why Native Americans drank themselves into oblivion as they sat in their Interior Department subsidized housing in the middle of the reservation. Bigger state-subsidies doesn't help. Lives NEED "meaning" and "purpose" other than that given to them by the State.

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    7. ..and I apologize to you and AoW if I ruined this thread. I suppose that the lookouts on the bow of the Titanic got a bit excited when they spotted the berg as well.

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    8. Man needs "individualism" and "Community". But genetics makes him demand a herm at the gate to his home.

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    9. The "soil" we need to "get back to" is genetically imprinted upon all of us. And the further we get away from it, the harder we "fall".

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  3. ...for man is NOT a pack animal. He's a horde animal.

    In a world which disavows "domination" and "hierarchy", the horde animal withers and unless he can find an outlet for it, dies.

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    1. Homosexuality flourishes in a world with fewer and fewer opportunities for "alpha" status. Just ask Donald Trump.

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  8. Silver said... "I don't have a pretty bow to tie up the loose ends of this ramble. This is a complex, multi-faceted topic."

    Ain't that the truth?

    I've often struggled between the two poles of individualism and community, both strongly represented in the Bible, trying to understand better where, as a follower of Christ, he would want me. And it seems even on those few days I think I've figured it out, I'm often wrong.

    I'm not sure we'll ever solve it, but if we approach each other civilly, maybe we can figure out a way to live civilly in some sort of community.

    Or at least I can hope.

    Nice post Silver... thoughtful.

    Thanks...

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    1. That should read... ...if we approach each other with humility, maybe we can figure out a way to live civilly in some sort of community.

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  10. FYI: I do plan to participate in this thread as soon as I have a break in my schedule AND get this damn cold under control.

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  11. Time to separate the drug and alcohol issues. We have been down the road of drink. If we are not up to stopping the abuse...which we are not....we tried an amendment..then let up on the drug stuff as well.

    I for one am weary of this drum beat that blames Doctors for giving pain medicine to chronic pain folks... because they MIGHT get addicted. Get off the horse. Let people have relief from a life of pain and able to enjoy lifel

    Stop the drugs on the border... stop the dealers, but for gosh sake, let the Docs be docs and shut up about it,

    A new study published in JAMA Psychiatry (September 2017)

    The study's authors characterize the findings as a serious and overlooked public health crisis, noting that alcoholism is a significant driver of mortality from a cornucopia of ailments: “fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, stroke, liver cirrhosis, several types of cancer and infections, pancreatitis, type 2 diabetes, and various injuries.”Indeed, the study's findings are bolstered by the fact that deaths from a number of these conditions, particularly alcohol-related cirrhosis and hypertension, have risen concurrently over the study period. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 88,000 people a year die of alcohol-related causes, more than twice the annual death toll of opiate overdose.

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  12. Bunkerville,
    Up votes for that comment!

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  13. They saw a man upon the stair.
    They wished he was not really there,
    But still they see him everyday,
    And how they wish he'd go away!
    The man they wish they did not see,
    Alas! Alack! was only me.
    I wonder if I went away
    Would any wish me back someday?


    ~ Frederich Meingeist

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  14. SF typed:

    We move away from our communities and families, so old people are left to die in isolation, no opportunity to convey their wisdom to their children and grandchildren...

    This breakup of extended families is a major source of today's loneliness and disconnection.

    Another factor contributing to aloneness is the social media. It seems the more that we are connected via screens, the more alone we are.

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  16. Well said, Silverfiddle; AOW's lucky to have you write for here.

    "Maybe it is as simple as this: The further we get from the soil, the further away we are from God and one another." A friend the other day said (actually I don't think she'd mind me quoting her here, I just remembered she's an AOW reader) Baysider, said 'something wonderful and satisfying about working in the dirt with my hands...' and I totally agreed with her. It's rather magical...something almost Godly about it..........and we're getting farther and farther, physically and metaphorically. Scary times. Instead of dirt in our hand, we're holding technology...with dirt in your hands, you can meditate, think...ponder. With tech in our hands, we rarely have QUIET and that's important. No wonder so many need drugs, booze, or even suicide.

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