Saturday, September 8, 2018

“We’re All Disconnected”

     If you’re old enough, you might remember the days of telephone monopolies. The various companies that offered phone service were all part of the “nationwide Bell System,” and had carved the nation into zones where only one Bell subsidiary was permitted to offer service. That ended with telecom deregulation, more than thirty years ago, but the memories linger – especially of how BLEEP!ing costly it was to call someone outside one’s own area code.

     New York Telephone, the Bell subsidiary in my area, is survived today by Verizon. Verizon still has some clout other companies don’t have, but it no longer has a regional monopoly. Back when it was NYTel, one of its ads featured the stirring phrase “We’re All Connected:” by implication, through NYTel’s telephone services.

     Relax, Gentle Reader; this won’t be a piece about telecommunications. I just wanted to share that memory with you as a counterpoint to the title of this piece.

     Today, Dr. Helen Smith has a brief piece about loneliness:

     If a person has negative thoughts about being lonely, then it can be a health concern, but if they are happy being alone or content, it is not. Half of all Americans are now unmarried and I wonder how this plays into loneliness.

     Ignore the poor grammar. The above is the meat of the loneliness problem: If you’re alone, are you unhappy about it? If so, you have a problem. How did it come about?

     No one is born alone. So far at least, we’re all born from mothers. If we omit consideration of the wretches who abandon their children at birth, that means we start life in company. Perhaps there’s a father available too, though that’s getting to be a problematic thing all by itself. He who has siblings has even more company...though let it be admitted that not all siblings are the sort of company we’d choose for ourselves.

     He who is involuntarily alone must first lose the company of his family. How does it happen?

  • Death;
  • Separation or divorce;
  • The “family diaspora;”
  • Deliberate disavowal of or by one’s family members.

     Except for death, those developments can be combated, though the outcome is not guaranteed. The maturing child can also compensate for those forces by acquiring friends. But friends, too, can be lost: through physical or emotional separation, the development of serious incompatibilities, and the extra tensions that arise from marriage and choice of occupation.

     A friend one can retain lifelong is a treasure. Few Americans manage to do so – perhaps fewer today than ever before in our history.

     Time was, the companion one could most confidently rely on retaining was one’s spouse. But mating among Americans has become extremely problematic, in large part because of the plague of willful offense-taking.

     Solitude is my lifestyle. I spend virtually my entire waking day alone. It’s not burdensome to me; I became accustomed to it long ago as the proper course for a thinker and writer. But then, I have a wife whose company I can enjoy at least an hour or two per day.

     Consider the plight of the unmarried American man. How shall he acquire a wife? The traditional methods have all fallen into disuse. Those that have arisen in their wake are anything but reliable. And then there’s the sociopolitical toxin called feminism.

     In a culture in which the sexes are seen not as complements to one another but as competitors for money, status, and power, even tentative gestures toward the development of a romance and a marital bond can be viewed as attempts at a “hostile takeover.” Moreover, the Left’s militant-feminist adjunct has worked tirelessly to promote and intensify the conviction among women that men are “the enemy.” That conviction is wholly compatible with the vision of the sexes as competitors over commercial and political achievements.

     While there are other causal factors involved in the decline of marriage rates and the dwindling resilience of existing marriages, this one deserves particular attention. At a time when other sorts of friendship and companionship are badly threatened, the reduction of marital prospects is especially significant.

     Many Americans, especially the older ones among us, would spend their lives entirely alone if not for their spouses. Those parted from their mates relatively early in life have many sad tales to tell.

     Human nature has provided us with natural connections. We have the capacity to forge other sorts of bonds, but those that arise from love and family are paramount. He who lacks such bonds is in greater danger of protracted miserable loneliness than anyone else. A great deal more could be said about this subject – a lot of it has been said eloquently by Dr. Jordan Peterson – but I’ll allow it to rest here for the nonce.

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