Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Conforming to Society vs. Solitary Independence

It's a trade-off.

America has always had both strains:

  • The original colonists, who traveled together, shared a common heritage and religious beliefs, and who ultimately settled in villages in New England - still the most conformist part of the country. Later immigrants traveled to America, and settled in communities with others who shared their language and culture, if not their hometown.
  • Those who traveled alone, or with a small family group. Those who were deported for crimes (or psuedo-crimes), and who occupied the lowest place on the social rung. Many of these, as soon as they could, hit the trail to find either the isolation of the forest/mountains, or who journeyed to the frontier to make their place in a newly settled community.
Man is both a social animal, and an independent organism. Many men could exist perfectly happy separate from other people for months, or even years, at a time. Many did.

Women, on the other hand, have much stronger need for connections to people beyond the family. I'm sure at least part of that is socialization before becoming an adult, but some very well might be genetic.

As women go, I'm an outlier. I'm perfectly happy by myself for extended time periods. Over the last few weeks, while my husband was undergoing medical treatment out of town, I seldom turned on the TV. I don't generally listen to radio or music of any kind, so I've been known to go for days without realizing that my hearing aids are not in.

I've been like this since childhood - my very sociable and chatty mother used to look at me as though I were a cuckoo bird nestling. I preferred my own company, although I had friends, and a brother who spent time with me.

That is simply NOT the norm anymore.

From 2 years old or so, if not sooner, most American children are 'socialized' in child care or nursery school. They are seldom given time alone, time to think, or quiet time. Even during nap time, many child care centers play 'relaxing music' throughout that resting period. Actual silence is rare.

I wouldn't be surprised if at least a part of the rise of autism diagnoses is the response of a natural introvert to the cacophony that surrounds him. Could the repetitive behaviors be a way of shutting out a loud and intrusive world?

1 comment:

Glenda T Goode said...

I am like the OP in that I prefer to live and be alone. This is not an expression of a life long belief though, and I came to this later in life.

I tend to think that when we are vulnerable we naturally seek company with others even if there is no apparent peril. As we age, our lives evolve into a families and with families come groups both within and within our immediate associations.

Life in the pre-modern age (before 1960) almost demanded a nuclear family in order to have the necessary credentials to mingle in and participate in society. As the notion of female independence gained strength the single parent family was born. As uncommon as it was in the 50's to see a non widowed woman raising a family on her own, it is almost equally rare these days to find a woman in a marriage with children without having been divorced or single at some time. Society has evolved into a myriad of programs and benefits all aimed and supporting single mothers and their families. This is a feature of our 'new' society.

Societal customs aside, need dictates lifestyle. Our needs are diverse and some of us are better at meeting our unique preferences than others. As my children are long out of the house and married, I have found that after all the years of hectic schedules and responsibilities I enjoy the solitude and quiet that living alone and not in town provides. My needs are met without any outside assistance and as a result I am able to live alone.

I do think that my mindset has never been compromised by the society and its attempts to institute a socialist state. I am afraid that many, and too many at that, have been coerced into believing that a government run society was needed to meet the needs of the people. I have never fallen into that trap.

Real freedom evolves from self reliance and the mindset that accepting unneeded help is categorically wrong. I just cannot imagine a life without it.