Texas Liberal

All People Matter

Lonely Society

A report in the June issue of the American Sociological Review says many Americans have few or no family or friends with whom they can discuss important personal issues.   

The report cites a number of reasons for this state of affairs. People are working long hours and have less time for relationships. Since women have entered the workplace in great numbers they have less time for social networking.  

Other factors cited were an increase in commute times and time spent watching TV and, as I’m doing right now, sitting in front of a computer.  

I’m sure all this is all true. An article published in American Sociological Review no doubt passed a rigorous process of academic review and conformation.   

But I think some reasons were left out. 

Maybe people would have richer social lives if they did not invest so much energy in hating other people.  Political attacks against immigrants and gays are all the rage in some circles. Pushing people away is not a good way to have friends.  

People of all colors might have richer social lives if they not assert the worst about people who are different. Living in Houston, I’ve heard black people criticize Vietnamese people and Chinese people criticize black people. Everybody has a gripe about everybody else. 

Perhaps working hours could be cut back if people who already have everything they need in life would scale down their material ambitions. 

Maybe working hours could be cut back if people stopped voting for candidates who support profits for the few instead of decent lives for the many.  

People are free to vote for gay-baiting estate tax repealing right-wingers.  But these acts have consequences and an impoverished social life may be one of them.    

It’s possible many of these right-wingers know just what they are doing and value their hatreds more than the more hopeful aspects of life.   

The political liberal is well-equipped to work past some of the barriers modern life throws up against a healthy social life. He or she is able to embrace a broad definition of family, community and personal fulfillment.  

It’s easier to have close and trusted friends when you are accepting of many different types of people. It’s easer to have friends when you apply some imagination and effort to your relationships. Good friends can often be found by simply working hard at existing relationships and never giving up on a relationship even if you have lost touch for a time.  

Many people are crabby and bitter. I’m not going to be one of them. To the extent I’m able, and sometimes I fail, I work to extend my liberal and open political views to my personal relationships.

July 25, 2006 - Posted by | Best Posts 2006, Good People, Lousy People, Politics


  1. I moved into my house 3 years ago. Since then I have talked to the neighbor on one side when her cat died in my driveway. She and her husband aren’t housebound, just unfriendly. The same could be said about most of my neighbors. Even though I live in and area than has a good ethic and age mix, we just don’t talk at all.

    My coworkers don’t mingle outside of work related events. We all go to lunch together, but once 5 o’clock gets here all bets are off.

    It wasn’t like this when I was growing up. Then everybody knew each other, even if we weren’t friends. The world hasn’t changed that much, but the people sure have.

    Comment by liz | July 25, 2006

  2. Have you ever thought that maybe Liberals have caused more of this ethnic strife than conservatives?

    Maybe constantly labeling everyone as part of some group… rather than just Americans. You know, African American, Mexican American, Asian American…. and each group gets catered to by the democratic party in hopes of getting the groups vote. Maybe if we were all just Americans again, people would stop distrusting each other.

    Comment by justinmundie | July 26, 2006

  3. Well, you’ve listed many of the same reasons that I had thought of and then some. And, of course, I guess by the title of your blog I should have expected that you would lay the blame at the feet of the “gay-baiting estate tax repealing right-wingers”. I see something of a paradox in that though, you of course extol the virtues of the “liberal” and decry the “hateful” attitude of the right wingnut, but in doing so, don’t you in some way promote your very own “isolation”? I can’t imagine that you would want to spend much time in the company of anyone you thought to be one of these right wingnut types. I am just a sojourner here, having no vested interest in the “outcome” and as such enjoy spending time in the presence of both camps and I can assure you that I’ve observed just as much blatant racial animosity from those expousing “liberal” viewpoints as I ever have from the opposite camp. It’s so blatant and yet subtle at the same time in that, for example, non-white liberals simply assume that whites are evil racist Neo cons unless told differently. Americans are so racist that I’ve come to equate the term “American” with “Racist” and so much so I find myself taking becoming increasingly anti-American.

    That being said, there are at least two reasons I’ve considered underestimated in this phenomenon, 1) the high mobility of the general population which works against any sense of community or ties thereto and 2) the growing lack of shared values, i.e., this population is a conglomerate of cultures without any shared values, which is thrown together in pursuit of the almighty dollar. That phenomenon coupled with the “fair housing” laws mitigates against the formation of communities of shared cultural values such that people, having no effective means of chosing or vetting their neighbors, come to trust no one in their neighborhood, nor do they seek to associate with “neighbors” but rather end up associating loosly through other institutions such as church, school, work etc. only to discover that ties can’t be closely maintained because of vast commuting distances and the constant “churning” of the population as a whole, being a population ever on the move.

    One of the results of this is the spectacle we see during Hurricane emergencies, everyone runs for the hills, including those living 60 miles or more from the coast and on high ground. Why? As much as the discomfort, they fear the inevitable looting sure to follow such a disaster. That’s a relatively new situation; no one expect those on Galveston thought much of evacuating during the storms of the 1950’s and 1960’s.
    This new response and the Katrina example speaks volumes about the population; one important point it underscores in my mind is that consciously and/or sub-conciously, this is increasingly a population that doesn’t share the “we’re all in this together” point of view, but rather, shares a common view that “we would rather not be altogether with the rest of you people in anything”. And so, you devolve into a situation of constant, quiet confrontation I would call the “American Cultural Cold War”.

    Good Luck with it, but hope there’s never any real threat because if there were one, “the center will not hold!”

    Comment by ed | July 26, 2006

  4. Maybe people would have richer social lives if they did not invest so much energy in hating other people. Political attacks against immigrants and gays are all the rage in some circles.

    Maybe. Then again, maybe people would be capable of richer social lives if they didn’t simply assume things about people who have political views with which they disagree.

    Most people who criticize the current immigration policy or who defend the traditional definition of marriage are NOT haters of other people, or interested in attacking other people. Rather, they have a view of society and politics with which you apparently disagree.

    We’d all be wise not to make political disagreement so personal. I think that’s the point of your post, so I think you’ll concede that you shouldn’t be exempt from that good advice yourself.

    Comment by kevin whited | July 26, 2006

  5. Well said!!! I do wish this society was for the good of all, but unfortunately we don’t live in that society. As for the ‘center’ people, if you don’t say NO to fascism or saying YES. I don’t mean the hitler type fascism, I mean the bungling and idiotic cronies that are running this country, like the mussolini type fascism of WW2. When this country gets fed up with getting shafted at the gas pump and gets tired of the hate-mongering policies of the right, then we’ll have change.

    Comment by Tony | July 26, 2006

  6. Or is there a possibility that the conservatives are pushing a culture of fear that has scared us to the point of paranoia?

    Comment by liz | July 26, 2006

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