Pursuit of Loneliness – American Culture at the Breaking Point

Author:  Philip Slater

Differences between Men & Women:
· “Vulnerability and spontaneity are still taboo for men….”
· “Women have been encouraged to express all feelings except anger.”
· “Men’s bodies are good for doing, poor for experiencing.”
· ”Women dissolve in tears instead of raging in anger, while men get angry when their feelings are hurt and they feel like crying.”

Three desires our society can’t fulfil:
1. Community – living in trust, cooperation, & friendship.
2. Engagement – involved in the social & physical environment.
3. Dependence – share responsibility for the control of our lives.

· Society’s purpose is to make its residents feel safe – provide belonging.
· Society frustrates us while it satisfies some of our needs.

Why we cannot live in “community”:
1. “Near the competitive extreme”
2. Executives desire trust & fraternity, but
    a. competition is lonely
    b. competition brings short term satisfaction
3. We chide the happy-go-lucky as “frivolous & irresponsible”
4. We’re in a “jungle of competing egos trying to create a place.”
5. We’re small because we’re unconnected, without our place, so we try to connect with big things – warehouse stores, big corporations, global efforts, etc.  We’re getting grandiose.
6. Our economy is “built on economic vanity…the quality of life in America is so unsatisfying…it must eventually collapse…illusions can no longer be maintained.”
7. We’re always dealing with strangers – in almost every transaction.  We prefer it this way.
8. We have our own everything… cars, self-service shopping, do it yourself, etc.
9. Family members have their own everything… rooms, TV, car, phone.
10. Our behaviour is calculated… to impress, to control, to protect ourselves, to avoid confrontation.  Nothing comes from the heart.
11. Competitive societies are concerned with status… not cooperation.

Why we can’t become more involved:
1. “We are, as a people, perturbed by our inability to anticipate the consequences of our acts, but we still wait optimistically for some magic telegram, informing us that the tangled skein of misery and self-deception into which we have woven ourselves has vanished in the night.”
2. “Social problems are resolved by gesture”, not actions.
3. North America was “disproportionately populated with a certain kind of person…people who were not personally successful in confronting the social conditions in their mother country, but fled in the hop of a better life.”  How many people do you know who are still running?
4. Toilet assumption: if we can’t see it, its gone.  No matter what it is: difficulty, things, people, obstacles.  Out of sight – out of mind.  Flush it.  What happens when it backs up?  What will we do then?
5. “Our world is only a mirror, and our efforts mere shadowboxing – yet shadowboxing in which we frequently manage to hurt ourselves.”
6. When our fantasy becomes real, we lose interest.  Throw it away and move on to the next thing.

Why we can’t become more dependent (i.e. share the burden):
1. We’re conditioned to be independent.  Children are rewarded for this behaviour.
2. We consume… the consequences are individual – not collective as in cooperative societies.
3. “For internalised controls to develop in the child, love and discipline must emanate from the same source.  When this happens, it isn’t merely a question of avoiding the punisher: the child wishes to anticipate the displeasure of the loving parent, wants to be like the parent, and hence absorbs the values and attitudes of the parent.”  Please, not placate.
4. Society will not hold you back from harming yourself.
5. Early childhood encourages sharing, consideration, thoughtfulness.  As an adult we forget this.
6. “One of the major goals of technology is to ‘free’ us from relating to, depending on, submitting to, or controlling others.”  The more successful we are at this, the more disconnected, the more independent we are.