Our culture’s hyper-individualism is harming us all
By Bette Dewing
Weddings—ah, but what’s needed is a great revival of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s wedding message to Diana and Charles; it applies to our culture’s hyper-individualism too:
“Any marriage which is turned in upon itself, in which the bride and groom gaze obsessively at one another, goes sour after a time. A marriage which really works is one which works for others: marriage has both a private and a public face and a public importance. If we solved all our economic problems and failed to build loving families, it would profit us nothing, because the family is the place where the future is created good and full of love—or deformed.”
Put that last line to music and play it again and again! Family and friendship love songs and themes are what the world needs most. Lust and violence and the “can’t live without you” kind have got to go. Tipper Gore, take note! There’s pounds of prevention for every kind of human dilemma and woe.
Failing to build loving families—well, reportedly a family estrangement kept the groom’s only uncle from being invited. But who knew until now? The “not knowing,” in general, prevents intervention, mediation, yes, even in major social policy-makers’ lives. And for the rest of us, secrets, silence, about whatever’s wrong in the family, and the work, school, civic, faith or other significant place, erodes the overall health of life—and societies.
In the extreme, secrets and silence can lead to a distraught mother taking the life of her four children before killing herself. A New York Times’ full page story did not much stress this financially-strapped 30-year-old Staten Island mother’s “going it alone” situation, or ask enough about nearby family or faith group connections. There was no mention of the children’s father in Jamaica. So much is untold—untold suffering.
Surely the First Family and The Clintons read this story. But we hear nothing about Chelsea’s grandmother, or even the First Granddaughters’ primary caregiver. The latter grandmother may now be vacationing in her Chicago hometown and attending the south side church of Father Michael Pflager, whose 1995 sermon made national news. He called the 700-plus heat-related Chicago deaths “a man-made disaster caused by a society that has become disconnected, where people don’t look after each other… and many living alone, usually the old, are made to feel a burden to society so they don’t ask for help.” New York University sociologist, Dr. Eric Klinenberg’s book, Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago, says it’s “every city.” And not only cities.
Middle and upscale income co-ops and condos are not immune to disconnects. And why, in this extreme summer, are the Times and other mediums’ daily “heat and photo stories” so disconnected to New Yorkers living in stifling, often isolated conditions, and for whom even a short walk can endanger?
It’s not only the old; a Daily News piece reports the heat-related death of a 22-year-old man and a 46-year-old woman on a 93-degree Sunday when the Fire Department received more than 36,000 heat-related emergency calls. A 70-year-old man “with health problems” died on another day.
But who knows how many suffer, sicken and die, because it’s just not a hot topic?
And the hot topic obsession, in general, is a big part of a major unchallenged social disconnect. That belongs in the wedding talk too—and heard big time in the pulpits, which profess the “love one another” creed. And bring back The Waltons!
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