The age of loneliness is killing us, George Monbiot

Ruth's article on addiction had a link to this article. It makes important, timely points. 

"What do we call this time? It’s not the information age: the collapse of popular education movements left a void filled by marketing and conspiracy theories. Like the stone age, iron age and space age, the digital age says plenty about our artefacts but little about society. The anthropocene, in which humans exert a major impact on the biosphere, fails to distinguish this century from the previous 20. What clear social change marks out our time from those that precede it? To me it’s obvious. This is the Age of Loneliness.

"We were social creatures from the start, mammalian bees, who depended entirely on each other. The hominins of east Africa could not have survived one night alone. We are shaped, to a greater extent than almost any other species, by contact with others. The age we are entering, in which we exist apart, is unlike any that has gone before."

"loneliness has become an epidemic among young adults. Now we learn that it is just as great an affliction of older people. A study by Independent Age shows that severe loneliness in England blights the lives of 700,000 men and 1.1m women over 50, and is rising with astonishing speed. 

"Social isolation is as potent a cause of early death as smoking 15 cigarettes a day; loneliness, research suggests, is twice as deadly as obesity. Dementia, high blood pressure, alcoholism and accidents – all these, like depression, paranoia, anxiety and suicide, become more prevalent when connections are cut. We cannot cope alone.

"The war of every man against every man – competition and individualism, in other words – is the religion of our time, justified by a mythology of lone rangers, sole traders, self-starters, self-made men and women, going it alone."

"British children no longer aspire to be train drivers or nurses – more than a fifth say they “just want to be rich”: wealth and fame are the sole ambitions of 40% of those surveyed. "

"We have changed our language to reflect this shift. ... even the charities fighting loneliness use it to describe the bipedal entities formerly known as human beings."

"Research by economists at the University of Milan suggests that television helps to drive competitive aspiration. It strongly reinforces the income-happiness paradox: the fact that, as national incomes rise, happiness does not rise with them."

"So what’s the point? What do we gain from this war of all against all? Competition drives growth, but growth no longer makes us wealthier."

"The top 1% own 48% of global wealth, but even they aren’t happy. A survey by Boston College of people with an average net worth of $78m found that they too were assailed by anxiety, dissatisfaction and loneliness."

"... we are entering a post-social condition our ancestors would have believed impossible. Our lives are becoming nasty, brutish and long."

"For this, we have ripped the natural world apart, degraded our conditions of life, surrendered our freedoms and prospects of contentment to a compulsive, atomising, joyless hedonism, in which, having consumed all else, we start to prey upon ourselves. For this, we have destroyed the essence of humanity: our connectedness.}

(Emphasis mine)

OK, we have clear pictures of the problem and now, what is the remedy? 

How do we reconnect with our families and communities, how do we look at our lifestyle and see what gives us a sense of belonging and what builds a sense of being part of a far great exitance, right here on Earth? In the process of making these connections, will we be wise enough and humble when we see poverty, hunger, ignorance, disease?

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“We have bigger houses but smaller families;
more conveniences, but less time;
We have more degrees, but less sense;
more knowledge, but less judgment;
more experts, but more problems;
more medicines, but less healthiness;
We’ve been all the way to the moon and back,
but have trouble crossing the street to meet
the new neighbor.
We’ve built more computers to hold more
information to produce more copies than ever,
but have less communications;
We have become long on quantity,
but short on quality.
These times are times of fast foods;
but slow digestion;
Tall man but short character;
Steep profits but shallow relationships.
It is time when there is much in the window,
but nothing in the room.

--authorship unknown
from Sacred Economics”


― Charles Eisenstein, Sacred Economics: Money, Gift, and Society in the Age of Transition


http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/269650.Charles_Eisenstein

Interesting focus, Joan. But there's another aspect to this.

We are shaped, to a greater extent than almost any other species, by contact with others. The age we are entering, in which we exist apart, is unlike any that has gone before.

We're exchanging direct physical connection for e-connection. AN is an example of a global community. You and I do not exist apart.

While e-connection doesn't alleviate loneliness, it does broaden our horizons far more than physical interaction with friends, family, and immediate neighbors.

Compulsive "atomising, joyless hedonism" isn't obligatory. Consider AN. True, division of our discourse into forums and groups, blogs, discussions and replies is atomizing. Some discussions likely count as joyless, but not joyless hedonism. Perhaps we're at our most hedonistic in Atheist Ailurophiles.

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