The Isolation Crisis

Picture of Emilie Durkheim

One of the great ironies of the 2010’s decade was that the media got much dirtier while the reality got much cleaner. The media doesn’t reflect the reality in the least. While True Crime is very popular, truthfully crime is going down. While porn is more hardcore than ever, sex and strip clubs are losing popularity by leaps and bounds. Drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and everything else is also losing popularity. I’m happy that strip clubs are going out of style, I consider them misogynistic cesspits. I certainly like the fact that crime is decreasing. And I disdain drug use. Yet, the broader point is that the media presents a reality that is more hedonistic and sensational than is actually happening. That’s always been true to a degree but never to this extreme degree. In a culture that seems to be ever more afraid, lonely, and wanting for affection, the pop culture seems to be showing a culture stuck in the 1990’s, albeit a darker version of the 1990’s.

            For all of the media addressing various social issues, there are almost no major artists addressing the significant human issues that are plaguing society. The Japanese phenomena of Herbivore People and Hikikomori are creeping westward, in both genders. People have forgotten how to be human with one another. If you actually look around, it’s not the world of rap songs, it’s a social desert of sober, virginal, people with no friends, almost all of which have major anxiety and depressive conditions. Being Asperger’s, I certainly belong, to a significant degree, to that group, but this is not about me and I am approaching the issue as a social scientist as I am double social science major.

            I am a socialist and sit on the progressive side of identity politics but I am aware that Durkheim’s suicide studies and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs including social inclusion and affection are as scientifically true today as they have been in the past and so long as human psychology doesn’t change, unless these issues are addressed then people are going to remain miserable. While the zeitgeist issues of identity politics may be important, when it actually comes to human suffering or welfare, they are not the most important. Nowhere either in politics or in art are these issues talked about. They need to be included in debates and institutions both public and private need to consider them.

            The world we should seek to build is not one with the old hedonistic pleasures regaining popularity. The world of the 1990’s where sex was cheap and drugs were pervasive was less lonely and more human but that is not the fullness of the human spirit we should wish to recapture. We need to reverse the social infrastructure of the Robert Moses school of thought and build infrastructure according to the Jane Jacobs school where the balkanization caused by all the physical landscape, the Rawlsian polity, and the internet will be replaced by an interconnected, mutualistic, community of love, complete with the artistic, economic, and social items that such communities are famous for.

            It is surprising that there is such a large classification of human suffering and affliction which shows up strikingly in statistics and almost nowhere in the public discourse. If it isn’t addressed, there are more issues than merely human suffering caused directly by them. It’s that type of social alienation that leads to dark and scary stuff like the alt-right. Far-right groups emerge, partially, from collections of people who want a community to accept them and don’t have one until they find the absolute worst type that will. Much like the economic machinations that led to the demise of manufacturing being too abstract for Middle-America, the sociological science leading to their emotional despair is likewise too complex for them to comprehend so they turn to scapegoats. Those scapegoats being minorities, other genders, and so forth.

            While the symptoms of the social and psychological crisis may be addressed on a case-by-case basis, we might be able to counteract the far-right, unless the root causes are addressed then the crisis will continue to shoot off symptoms and it is probably only time before those symptoms erupt in dark ways that are more acute than have even been in the previous few years. There are a number of creative solutions to the problems, especially in the field of urban design and planning, but unless those solutions enter the public consciousness then they’ll never become widespread and thus be unable to address the suffering and the secondary maladies arising from it. However, merely through adding the loneliness epidemic to the public discourse we may be able to reverse some of it. Currently, when strangers see each other, it doesn’t immediately hit the that the other side is probably lonely.

            In the end, through art or politics, we need to find a way to include the issues of alienation,isolation, and the solutions to those ills in the public discourse. For the sake of liberalism and out of the empathy for our siblings in the human family,we need to design ever more creative remedies to an issue that the public sphere has not traditionally intervened in.

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