Alone amongst millionsPosted: January 19, 2009
The question is posed if in today’s media saturated world are we better off than say 50 years ago?
I responded on Mr. Monk’s site but would like to respond here as well with my story.
When I was a boy in the 50’s and 60’s we of course had television but it was in no way the center of our lives. Nor was radio.
What we had were neighbors, friends and relatives.
What we had was a true sense of community.
A typical Summer evening was spent with all of the adults gathered on the front porch and in the yard of my grandparent’s home. Nothing was organized people just showed up.
The adults would talk. They would talk sometimes about world or national events but mostly the conversations were about local subjects.
The high school football team, crop and livestock prices, local politics, church, people who had died were sick or were born.
The talk was of people and events that they knew and affected the daily life of each one.
Even thought there was a television set in the house it was never turned on during these times. The adults found it noisy and distracting and the children had better things to do.
Important things like catching fireflies, seeing the new calf, playing kick the can or thousand other things that kids can do when their imaginations are given free reign.
The adults gathered there all raised me and my brothers and my cousins and my friends. I had the accumulated wisdom of not just my parents and grandparents (a time machine back into the 1800’s when they were born) but the extended family and their friends. Mrs. Clinton was certainly right about a village but I think she did not mean what I mean.
This all seemed to have started in the early 60’s when President Kennedy was assasinated and we were glued to the tube for days at a time. Then the media circus of the Beatles. Vietnam was brought into our homes in living color.
However, the whole tenor seemed to change with Watergate. No longer did journalists seek to just get the facts and report the story it became more about the “gotcha” factor.
So is the world better?
Today we hardly know our relatives much less our neighbors. I read an article in the newspaper this morning (there’s a shocker) about a man whose neighbors had lost their home in foreclosure and he never knew until they were packed up and gone. he didn’t really know these people at all but wished he could have at least given them someone to talk to.
Today we live in virtual isolation in these 3 bedroom prisons of our own doing. We sit in our homes and offices quaking in fear from the latest panic foisted on us by the media.
It’s not even the media’s fault. Oh, of course they are to blame for giving in to our worst inclinations (my how the world could use Edward R. Murrow) but we have asked, pleaded for the shallow blather that we get. And I’m not even discussing what passes for entertainment I’m talking about the “news”.
There are those lonely voices crying out such as Wendell Berry and Rod Dreher but their voices are lost in the clamour.
I don’t think we can go back. We can try but we are a nation and world of self imposed agoraphobics.
The loss cannot be measured. When we lost our community we lost part of what being human is. Perhaps we are on the cusp of a new humanity but it looks very much like the world of “THX1138” or “Brave New World” and I don’t really want to be a part of it. I guess it’s good that I’m on the downhill side of my 50’s.