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Lonely House

Nov 14, 2008

Lonely house, lonely me;
Funny, with so many neighbors
How lonely it can be.
Lonely street, lonely town
Funny, you can be so lonely
With all those folks around.

We are becoming a lonely nation. The number of Americans who said they have no close confidants tripled between 1985 and 2004. The US Census estimates that 30 percent more Americans will live alone in 2010 than did so in 1980.1 There are almost twice as many single-parent households today than there were in 1970, with only about two-thirds of 73 million children living in a household with two married parents.2

Hannah Arendt had a theory that totalitarian governments wanted their subjects to be lonely. Isolating the populace was a political maneuver, fostering in them an inability to act because there is no one to act with.3 Fear, of course, isolates people as well, and the fear card has been played with a vengeance for the past eight years.

The automobile has taken us away from each other, and if we know our neighbors’ names we rarely know much more about them. Grandma is in the nursing home, the kids are upstairs at their computers, and Dad just fell asleep in front of the TV. Consumerism, generally practiced alone with earbuds intact, has replaced the ice cream social, tag, and a host of other opportunities to mingle with our fellows.

The Internet is supposed to change everything, but has it? Facebook and MySpace strike us as intensely, excruciatingly lonely endeavors, with millions of mostly young voices crying for attention in the void of cyberspace. Political organizing—MoveOn.org’s four million members being the prime example—has resulted only in daily email monologues from the organizers, isolating us the more by their incessant din and appeals for money.

This state of affairs is of great moment to us at All Together Now. Our theme, after all, is in our name. Our species’ gregariousness is a survival mechanism; we dominate life on this planet through our ability to communicate and cooperate. As our inclinations to do either begin to fade, or are inhibited through the machinations of the few, the stability of our species and our planet is endangered. Obama, like Bush before him, has promised to bring us together. Such a promise, even if kept this time around, is not enough. Only we can bring ourselves together—back together. As we struggle to do so, ATN will be here to cheer us on, to mark our triumphs, and to facilitate the process in whatever ways we can.

I guess there must be something I don't comprehend;
Sparrows have companions, even stray dogs find a friend.
The night for me is not romantic;
Unhook the stars and take them down.
I'm lonely in this lonely house
In this lonely town.4

1 Lonely Together, Caleb Crain, from The National, October 30, 2008
2 Single-Parent Households Showed Little Variation Since 1994, Census Bureau Reports
3 Hannah Arendt: Prophet for Our Time, by James M. Campbell (All footnotes accessed November 6, 2008)
4 Lonely House, lyrics by Elmer Rice, music by Kurt Weill, from Street Scene. The link will take you to one of many YouTube performances, this one by tenor John Longmuir.
tags: ATN | Working Together | Human Nature

Copyright © 2008 All Together Now.

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