Eleanor Rigby revisited

July 12, 2006 by barbara

by barbara

A disturbing trend noted by social scientists in recent years has been America's declining stock of social capital, which can be defined as all the different formal and informal ways people and groups connect with each other."

Check out Lonely America: the high cost of low social capital, borrowed from Daily Kos.

I've heard it said that garage door openers and air conditioners are the single biggest contributors to increasing isolation in this country. In mid-July in Minnesota, it certainly looks that way.

Each afternoon beginning at 5:00 or so, a succession of humongous vehicles, each containing one human, lumbers up our street, and each one turns into its private driveway en route to its private garage. The door slides down behind them, and their people disappear into cool houses with semi-closed mini-blinds on every window. The only deviation to this routine is when someone drives first to their mailbox, backs up and then makes the ascent to privacy.

I used to be the queen of home-baked cookies and convivial chitchat when someone new moved into the neighborhood. Every so often, I think about resurrecting that behavior, starting, perhaps, with the new neighbors behind us. They moved in about three years ago. I could pick up some Krispy Kremes on the way home some day.

Clearly, the Kos author refers to something more profound and far-reaching than gated homes in ungated communities. He suggests that what is happening is the erosion of civil society, manifested by declining friendships and a diminishing sense of community. That's heavy.

So now what? Well, it's a systemic problem (if a problem it be). There is nothing'"nothing at all'"in our current political environment that encourages us to live life large and in communion with others. Point of fact, we are living in an era of government-sanctioned eavesdropping, fear-mongering, civil liberties erosion and the uneasy sense that at any moment, our nation could wage war on Labrador or Mexico. (I finally cracked the code: They're taking on evil empires more or less alphabetically.)

To be continued. I'm too tired tonight to think about what all of this might mean. Please feel free to interpret me to myself.

"Ah, look at all the lonely people . . . "

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