Reading time: 3:15 | My life, my liberty and my pursuit of happiness have never been more of a topic than today. Why is that?
Society is seen by many as a problematic and sickening surrounding one doesn’t snug in comfortably anymore. Life has become precarious in many ways, from workplace to neighbourhood, and can be challenging like never before. How well you’re off is playing a defining role more than ever. We see that clearly with the handling of the Coronavirus pandemic. People tend to be more willing to follow the pandemic rules in affluent city areas than in rural areas and less well-off city boroughs. Liberty is the last resort of self-esteem — people can bear only so much.
But even affluent people feel the rapid pace of technological advancements often more as a menace than welcome addition. All of that is the poisoned icing on a long-going development: the fragmentation of families causing the disappearance of essential family bonds.
Friendships have replaced these traditional bonds. But the meaning of the term friendship has been hollowed out by the time until we’re calling people we’ve never seen in real life our friends. Knowing their face by a photograph and have read some lines written by them on social media seems to be enough of a criterion. This race to bottom in social relationships is caused by sheer despair.
People are longing for the past, for long-gone values, are wading in nostalgia. The German saying gestern war alles besser (yesterday everything was better) has more meaning than ever which is one reason for the success of populist movements, the religious right and the far-right. The gap between rural people and city dwellers widens by the day.
But we were wrong by a far shot if we addressed these issues only to country folks. The truth is, city people are affected too, if not even more — only they don’t bathe in reactionary movements. There’s no whitewashing for the hip, liberal city dwellers — on the contrary.
While, in their despair, rural people seek social cohesion by fostering traditional social arrangements and often fail, as the Fentanyl pandemic in the USA terribly shows, tend liberal city dwellers to swap tested values for purchasable beliefs and fetishes.
In city areas, social bonds are so fragmented and weak that the only person to get some hold from is oneself. The market knows all that, of course, and sells us yoga (belief), iPhones (fetish) and many more things that ought to give us some stability in the stormy weathers of today. But the only thing that grows is the insecure feeling of being superior to others and the desire to elevate your self-worth through othering (e.g. the dumb country redneck) and buying even more fetishes. All that is hardly better than the wide-spread White grievance in the countryside with its dangerous xenophobia and bigotry.
Although we all know that an iPhone isn’t an usPhone that doesn’t give us any social bonding, we desperately need the next model. We do know that yoga is good for one’s health but doesn’t substitute a functioning system of values such as family and real friendships. Still, we invest fortunes in coaches and dubious promises sold on the internet. We do know that social media doesn’t give us peace of mind in any kind compared to proven real-life relationships. But we are badly hooked and believe otherwise.
If we like to know how bad our illness is, we could list people we want to invite to our birthday party. Fetishes oneself with more gadgets and more social media posts won’t fill up our party location. There’s no paradise in the Me, but maybe in the We. It’s time to figure out what this could be, that We.
For a starter, some political and social engagement could be worthwhile. Activities like playing in a band or an amateur theatre, going hiking or sailing with others, playing soccer or tennis, and, of course, doing yoga in a group, is a proven medicine to mitigate the fragmentation of relations and to re-bond society.
That way, we will bring down screen time. We’ll have more money for social activities by bypassing the next flashy iPhone or any other similar device for that matter. Our daily time of toxic social media will go down to a healthy dose. And our pursuit of happiness will finally be successful.