Silence, disorder, isolation, and humanity

Posted on January 16, 2011

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Sitting in the train station waiting room. The people here are quiet, they read or listen to music. Each in their own bubble. It makes me think of the tension between the private/personal sphere – that protects the individuals’ right to be without being bothered by others actions, and the noise and disruption required by social interaction and community feeling.

It is certainly pleasant to feel/assume no one will invade your space, interrupt your thoughts and activity. However for spontaneous discussions/ social interactions this privacy barrier must be breached, bringing disorder to parallel, compartmentized lives while also enriching them.

In fact, we become so isolated that we are often ill-prepared when someone unexpectedly does engage us (this is exploited by con-men), and makes us feel uncomfortable and ill equipped when confronted by people asking for charity.

Sometimes the need for isolation is near pathological. For instance there are neighborhoods where you are not allowed to hang your washing outside. Is this “scruffy” ? Things which offend do so for a reason. Are other people’s clothes so offensive to see? To me it seems the real root is the desire to hide away life. What is called scruffiness is the evidence of human activity, of our neighbours. Such policies aim to make our neighbours invisible, to complete our own isolation.

This, if true, reveals a dehumanizing trend. A desire to reduce contact with other people to ones which are sterile, orderly, predictable, safe. Perhaps we allow select people to be part of our “group”, but not without careful discrimination. In the case people refuse to be a part of a diverse and spontaneous community, dealing with differences of opinion and views maturely and tolerantly.

Instead silence descends between us. This is dangerous politically. Political debate becomes atrophied (down to the infamous 140character Tweet). Any serious discussion is apporpriated and controlled by a small politicized minority. This same minority, disconnected from the majority of people under its influence, fails to engage them or represent them. The minority in government cannot respond or correctly govern the people. Even worse, they may attack individuals or groups within the population, while the rest fail to act to protect their estranged and dehumanized brethren.

Posted in: Musings