Isolation- An Unfortunate Side Effect of Modernity

An unfortunate side effect of our modern existence is the pure isolation we feel from one another- from our neighbors, from our community, from our loved ones- even from our own selves. As I watch the Occupations happening around the country- and the world- I’m reminded of the disconnect we often feel with those around us.

A woman takes a smoke break on the streets of Eugene, O.R.

How did this isolation occur?  When did we move away from the core aspects of community and engaged citizenry to the individualistic motivations of a person or a company striving to improve the bottom line- at the cost of anyone who might stand in the way?

Did we achieve this isolation by accident or was it a structured design to keep us all distracted and isolated from one another in an attempt to push through a more powerful agenda by our governments? Have we allowed ourselves to be removed from the lives of others because we fear what collective action might create or because we feel the need to protect ourselves from all the dangerous elements that live beyond our homes and our neighborhoods?

All over the place, from the popular culture to the propaganda system, there is constant pressure to make people feel that they are helpless, that the only role they can have is to ratify decisions and to consume.       ~ Noam Chomsky

Social media has allowed us to collectively find like-minded people and communities to help alleviate this isolation- and now we see how this collaboration can manifest itself in collective action.

The Revolutions of our past were begun in pubs and churches- the places where people gathered and communed. The places where people furthered their ideas and their goals for a brighter and more enlightened society. The community gathering locations of our pasts- which, by design, are difficult to find in modern times- are the places where people connected and united in a common goal of searching for freedom and independence.

Freedom from tyranny. Freedom from oppression. Freedom to live as one saw fit, to build, to grow and to create.

Our forefathers had the sight and vision to recognize that some things- some basic human rights- are worth fighting for. But they found the connection and the common ground to move forward because they chose not to isolate themselves from their fellow neighbor or community.

I look at the modern society we live within and my heart breaks a little. I’ve spent so many years traveling about, seeking out community gathering spots around the world, that I’ve had the opportunity to see community in action on many levels. My heart breaks because there are truly very few community gathering locations- also known as “Third Places”- that allow people to speak freely and further ideas to better their communities and their futures.

Paris is filled with Third Places (as is most of Europe). Could contribute to their active engagement with revolution and the actions of their governments.

If we had been paying attention to one another and truly listening to the pain and struggle our neighbors were experiencing- with love and compassion instead of fear and judgement- might our country be in a different place at this moment?

If we had paid attention to our government and came together to stand against the blatant removal of our democratic rights, might we not be staring down the double barrel of a defunct government and economy- both on the brink of collapse?

If we had been paying attention over the past decade or so, might we have noticed the consolidation of our media, the selling of our political elections to the highest corporate bidder and the outsourcing of all our manufacturing jobs?

If we had been listening to the cries of the minority, might we have taken the actions necessary to preserve such an amazing country for our children and their children?

Yet, we retreat into our homes at night, watch the distractions delivered to us on the television and hope that someone, somewhere, is actually doing something to fix these problems. We judge the people taking to the streets in protest or we simply ignore the reality that we are part of the 99%, that we are effected by the actions of the Wall Street and government elite and that we can take action against it.

I say we, because I am just as guilty as the next person. While I’m pretty active in following the news, both alternative and corporate, and I pay close attention to the happenings in our world and the source of the angst I see around me, I am just as guilty as the next. I have yet to occupy anything. I retreat into a comfortable, quiet home in the evening and I spend my days working to make a living in this economy. I am part of the 99%, yet I’m not standing up for what I see is right, nor am I participating in a physical community to build something to help counter-balance the isolation I’m writing about.

Maybe this is a self-indictment, maybe this is my call to action, maybe this is the time in my life where I use this platform I’ve built to begin to truly look at the issues I spend so much time studying. If I’m to truly help rectify the ills I see everywhere I turn, should I not use this platform to do so.

This blog has been quiet the past few months as I wrestle with these realities and my role in the world. In shifting gears to a more settled and rooted existence, I’m faced with the reality of taking the past few years of nomadic minimalism and making them fit within my re-entering of the professional media world. Its a delicate balance of maintaining identity and embracing the antithesis of what I mentioned above- yet still play the professional game on a level that I see relevant to justify the effort.

And in doing so, I will be looking to engage in community. I will be looking to actively participate in the face of what is to come for our society.

We are faced with two choices at the precipice we stand before. We can either retreat and amplify our isolation- living in fear of what is to come as our society continues its slow (or rapid) decay.

Or we can choose to participate.

We can ride the waves of turmoil and unrest as our society redefines itself and aligns it’s priorities closer to the hearts of it’s people and not the Corporation, holding tightly to the collective community and building a better reality with the help of the people we hold dear- and the strangers we have yet to meet.

Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves are its only safe depositories.

~ Thomas Jefferson


  1. says

    Spading the soul, right? I’ve done the same. I think, for me, in this geographical wilderness in a time of “unprecedented growth” and hospitals that look like purgatory (or worse), I come to realize the immensity of my powerlessness. But here’s the irony: in my powerlessness, I get some inspiration. And that little inkling, that kindling, that stirring of the soul toward the “cloud of unknowing”–>there I find some small elixir to share. We are the depositories! Yes. The oligarchy has been unmasked, it’s a freer time, yes? You name the demon, and then set about to find your place of influence, the positive deviance, the pocket of magnificence. This swells my soul and stills my frustration. Great post.