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  • Wednesday, August 30, 2006


    A Culture of One

    Once again I'm reminded that consumer culture in the US inevitably forces us to deconstruct communities and families. While some people celebrate this militant individualism as perfectly embodying the American spirit of self-reliance, I see this as a tactic or force which leaves us bereft of solid connections with other people. We are constantly trying to deliberately recreate community through chosen associations: Church groups, hobby groups, political groups, social groups, etc. These are the families of today, the tribal structures intended to give us connection to the larger society.

    Collective membership is both harder and easier than ever before but the real world results are less than ideal. When you can walk away or leave a group if things get difficult on an interpersonal level or when achieving goals requires more sacrifice than is convenient, you have a different expectation of such groups. You become a little less committed, a little less determined to see the project through thick and thin.

    This is what I call the culture of one. I don't mean it in a good way.

    In this vacuum of deep connection, we are left to try to feed the empty space with the frizzy cotton candy of popular culture. Even the nuclear family, considered by the political and religious right the sine qua non of larger culture, is transformed into strangers passing on their way to different events, probably spending the majority of their time together asleep under the same roof.

    A blog is a good example of this culture of one. While I like meeting new people and interacting on the web, it is a very disconnected and alienating form for interacting with other people. While I do meet new people who I want to know better, it is still a removed and distanced experience, lacking in essential in-person qualities. It is an intellectual experience, different from the sensorium of direct physical interaction.

    A culture of one is inherently nihilistic and selfish, caring less for other people than oneself. I will venture out on a limb and say this is bad thing. What do you think?

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