Saturday, February 15, 2014

Valentine's Day and the Crisis of Loneliness

Well today was Valentine's Day and for the first time in eight years I have nothing to say about it.

Firstly because I said all I wanted to say last year. 

And secondly because I don't want to rub my happiness, or another pinky thing, in the faces of the lonely.

Not when there are so many, and loneliness is such a growing crisis. 

In the West, we live faster, higher in the air, farther from our workplaces, and more singly than at any time in the past. Social scientists will be struggling to understand the consequences of these transformations for decades to come, but one thing is clear: Loneliness is our baggage, a huge and largely unacknowledged cultural failing.

In Vancouver, residents recently listed social isolation as their most pressing concern. More Canadians than ever live alone, and almost one-quarter describe themselves as lonely.

It is the great irony of our age that we have never been better connected, or more adrift.

Not when I see it all the time at work, not when I feel so helpless to do anything about it, and it's such a silent KILLER...

The issue isn’t just social, it’s a public-health crisis in waiting. If you suffer from chronic loneliness, you run the risk of illness, and premature death. 

“Loneliness has been linked to depression, anxiety, interpersonal hostility, increased vulnerability to health problems, and even to suicide.”

A study last year from the University of California at San Francisco showed a clear link between loneliness and serious heart problems and early death in the elderly. Seniors in the study who identified themselves as lonely had a 59-per-cent greater chance of health problems, and a 45-per-cent greater chance of early death.

Not when it afflicts all ages, and what appears to be a solution can be part of the problem.

Talk to enough lonely people and you’ll find they have one thing in common: They look at Facebook and Twitter the way a hungry child looks through a window at a family feast and wonders, “Why is everyone having a good time except for me?”

But this is true:

“One of the things we’ve seen is a movement away from a concern for others,” he says in a phone interview. “Economics basically says you should be concerned about your own short-term interests. There’s more division in society, more segmentation; there’s less identity with a national or global persona, but rather on the family or the individual. People aren’t as loyal to their employers, and employers are certainly not as loyal to their workers.”

Mass loneliness is the product of a capitalist system, or of governments like the Con regime, that would seek to turn us into a collection of individuals instead of a human collective. So they can more easily exploit us and render us helpless.

So if we want to change this desperate situation what we need to do is change the world. Because it is a political problem, and any political formation that doesn't address this crisis will never get my vote.

And in the meantime, this should be a consolation.

“There are a lot of people walking around who feel that they don’t fit in, they don’t belong. That sense of disconnection is really common. But when you realize that you’re like everyone else, not only in your dreams and passions but also in your pain and sadness, there’s incredible comfort in that.”

And this is what I tell the lonely, whether they're young or old, or straight or gay, or whatever.

Don't surrender to loneliness, there are always ways to break its deadly grip.

And always time for a new beginning. Even when you least expect it.

As this old bicycle found out...

Of course, I don't want to suggest that sometimes love doesn't hurt eh?

As I found out this evening when Seb rushed home and gave me a huge hug, only to remember too late that I have two badly bruised ribs. After falling off MY bicycle the other day.

But all the lonely need and deserve to be hugged like that. Look out for them wherever you are. 

And if you are lonely yourself, make tomorrow your new beginning....

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1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this post. Loved the bicycle story. It is all the more hard in this harsh winter, as people feeling down (at least here) can't so easily go for a bicycle ride, a jog, or a brisk walk. We are all shuffling like 95-year-olds, and actual 95-year-olds aren't setting foot outside, and many haven't for weeks.

    Another unfortunate point is that lonely people are very vulnerable to scams, even if they are educated and "know better". Love rats only interested in (often very modest) assets or a Canadian passport, but also the scammers that prey on elderly and other isolated people, whether online or phone scammers or crooked "financial advisers" like Vincent Lacroix and Earl Jones here, or Bernard Madoff on a much larger scale.

    And people who have been defrauded or scammed lose far more than their material assets.