February 23, 2017


America is afflicted with a deleterious disease: Loneliness (Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, February 21, 2017, The Week)

Over time, I've grown to believe that the root cause of all these maladies lies in a simple word: loneliness.

For decades, loneliness has quietly been on the rise in America. Traditionally, America was known as a society of "joiners": not only churches, but lodges and fraternal organizations, civic society groups, PTAs, kids' baseball teams, Boy Scouts, fraternities and sororities, you name it. This was a uniquely American thing. There is a French word for "entrepreneur," but there is no French word that captures the quintessentially American concept of "community" -- as in "this is a great community" or "he's a leader in the community." Famously, this feature of American life is what most stunned Alexis de Tocqueville when he visited American shores in the 19th century.

Americans are more divorced than ever, and less churched than ever. The sociologist Robert Putnam chronicled the new American loneliness in his book Bowling Alone, which shows the declining trends of membership in all social organizations, from labor unions to PTAs to fraternal organizations to volunteering with the Boy Scouts and the Red Cross. Putnam mostly blames technology and its atomization forces -- and the book was written nearly two decades ago, a positive dark age compared to today's attention-sucking technologies.

A 2014 study by the National Science Foundation found that one in four Americans (one in four!) said they have no one with whom they can talk about their personal troubles or triumphs; the number doubles to more than half of Americans if immediate family is not counted. 

This is just one unfortunate side effect of how many hours Americans spend at work and in their cars.  

Posted by at February 23, 2017 6:07 AM