Sunday 26 October 2014

The age of loneliness

Admittedly, I could say that every week. And I strongly urge anyone to read every one of his Guardian columns. But this one strikes very close for me. He describes something that was a major (the major) factor in naming this blog Anachronicles. There are several ways in which I feel out of synch with my time, although I have already mentioned that I sometime question how much other times really were (or will be) different, and how much comes from biased perception.

But I have always reckoned that much of it is genuine. And it is confirmed by data, as he shows. He calls our epoch the Age of Loneliness, which is appropriate, although I reckon that it is also an age of individualism (and he does cover that too). This feeling must be magnified by living in the UK: it appears to be pretty much the capital of the lonely/individualistic world.

Maybe there is a kind of paradox that I should feel so strongly about that when I guess quite a few people over the years would have considered me some kind of loner –it’s true that I am not a natural herd follower and that I would often not feel like joining in some “group fun” that did not look like fun to me. But I know that I was feeling estranged from distinctly superficial interactions, not from interactions per se. Far from a total loner, I have come to realise that pretty much all of my aspirations are about human contacts. 

It’s true that I have too many times been hit by unbelievably individualistic, selfish and outrageous behaviour while myself acting as such a team-player that I was giving no more priority to my interests than to those of the person about to wrong me, which probably makes me even more sensitive to the defects of our age. But even ignoring those extreme events, individualism is everywhere. In the office, many people go straight to their desks without saying hello to anyone, and give every impression of avoiding eye contact all day long with anyone trying to maintain that modicum of civility; many people theorise that it’s completely fair play to defend your interest at all costs, even if it means maintaining the most iniquitous situation, and indeed express their expectation that anyone should and will do so; Tories famously theorised that there is no such thing as society.

Yet, and again Monbiot confirms my impressions with data, this simply creates misery. We would be much happier with much less, if only we remembered the skill of sharing it.

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