Friday, October 23, 2015

Isolation Of The Modern Life

Our modern society is getting increasingly atomised. When you read old books from 1930s and 1940s, you see that the big families were still very much in fashion and I don't necessarily mean those which had 19 children, though they no doubt, existed. Most people still had something between 2 and 4, partly due to higher childhood mortality, but they counted their extended family as family if you know what I mean.

From stories like Agatha Christie's we know that people kept track of all their cousins and nephews and nieces. If you had no children of your own, you would be even more invested in their well-being and often they would inherit after you. Unmarried sisters would stay in the family and do housekeeping for their single brothers, orphaned nieces would go live with their aunts and wealthy relatives saw it as their duty to support those of the family who were less fortunate.

None of it happens today. Nowadays you are on your own. You hardly ever see your cousins. If you have no children of your own, you are expected to adopt from 10 000 km away, instead of giving anything to your nephews or nieces, or paying their education or whatever. Widowed parents don't move in with their married daughters.  Church community hardly ever exists, especially in the case of megachurches. Most of your neighbours work the whole day, that is, if they even speak your language.

Modern urbanised lifestyle totally destroys any sense of community people had. It turns us into anonymous consumers whose life is determined solely by the stuff they buy and the vacations they take. Children are trained early in the consumer lifestyle. In the times past they were taught that they had a duty to their family, especially to their parents. Now the parents have a duty to them which chiefly consists out of buying the newest gadgets since mothers are encouraged to go back to work as soon as possible.

Homemakers feel even more isolated since the workplaces often organise socialising events so that people can connect to each other like having a drink after you working day is over or going somewhere all together. The only socialising encouraged noawadays is socialising in an institution. I still remember a government official saying several years ago that housewives were shut from participating "in society".

You see, in old books "society" is described as private parties people (especially wealthy people) had in their homes. Nowadays society is the office and the schoolhouse and the daycare. That's where "life" happens. Home is just a place to change your clothes and take a nap. You aren't supposed to spend much time there, especially when you are young.

How did things go so far? Well, part of it is deliberate planning and part of it is due to the changing mindset of people themselves. Welfare state took upon itself a lot of functions reserved for the family and feminism encouraged every woman to go to work and, of course, it was mostly women organising dinner parties and keeping track of the cousins and the nephews.  The funniest thing of it all is that after the liberal governments spent years building various care facilities to free the families from their traditional duties to their elderly, they are now cutting the expenses and closing nursing homes left and right, saying that it's "a family task". Yet "the family" as it was doesn't exists any more.

Liberalism also prevents healthy family formation by encouraging young women to spend their most attractive (and fertile) years studying, climbing the career ladder and partying instead of searching for a suitable husband. Their parents, who used to play a significant role in the process, often have no input at all, and are also hardly interested. The worst part of it is that even if you disagree with the whole thing, even if you try to teach your children differently, the world will still do its best to tear the families apart.

I know it all sounds quite depressing but yet there is a light in the end of the tunnel: this liberal society is not only government officials or liberal journalists or career women or whatever, it's also you and me and the neighbour lady. You can fight the atomisation by showing more interest in your fellow human beings, investing some time in cultivating friendships, visiting your family more often etc etc. Don't wait for the society to change, just do it.

 Fight against the temptation to shut yourself in your own little bubble, connect with others, especially with those like-minded. Offer them your support. Be pro-active, not reactive. Remember that your ancestors had it often more difficult than you do and yet they fought and they survived and they built the most amazing civilisation in the history of the world - the Western civilisation. Be proud that you are a part of it.


  1. Very interesting post! I mostly agree with your perspective about the family nowadays. Yes, extended families are stronger and help us consolidate better exchanges with one another. Yes, the urbanized lifestyle isolates the bubble family you have mentioned, nobody cares if you have money or food in the pantry. But I must give a chance to adoptive families, I have strong reasons to consider adoption a noble deed because loving a nephew or a niece is very nice but it is very unlikely to regard them as a real child of your own, because not every nephew or niece that needs help is orphaned, most of the family members have at least one parent, I know such a family and the relatives really support the partly orphaned girl, but it is not parental help.. Most of the infertile couples NEED to offer parental love and care, not just sharing family sentiments and food, care and education or their goods and one's house, I can understand how it feels to be unable to procreate and the need for becoming a real parent, that's why I admire people ready to adopt. But indeed, I don't agree with international adoptions, why shouldn't orphans be adopted in the same country with the adoptive parents? It's a matter of culture, civilization and having crucial things in common with the adopted child. It is very true what you said about the bubble. I sometimes have the same feeling that we must become somehow stronger and more coagulated if we want some results with our values about homemaking and family issues. But we have no governmental support, laws are against our dreams and goals. I have an example, a mother of a toddler turned back to work this year because the law in my country offers her half a salary over her income in order to convince her to give up maternal leave or care and start working earlier than 2 years. This is not fair, because many mothers here in Romania have husbands with very low incomes and they feel pressured to take a job and choose more money over staying at home the legal period of 2 years at least. I' m not talking about staying at home forever in this case. I just wanted to show why homemaking is so difficult to apply in some parts of the world if there is no governmental support. Developed countries may have better rules but feminism has been affecting them on other points, not exactly poverty and low incomes like in my country, but mentalities that work against the real needs of the family itself. Your blog is a good source of reflection topics.

  2. I agree with you about domestic vs international adoption. I knew a family over here where the parents were helping their son financially to enable his wife to stay home with their two kids. They were Turkish. Dutch parents would offer babysitting services so that the wife could fulfill her duty to economy. Once again, it's not always about money, it's about mindset.

  3. What an interesting blog! We have disconnected; first women went back to work and then technology. So many people are addicted to their smart phones and have not become smarter in the process. We have also become addicted to "things". Now our landfills are full. Families are being destroyed by "individualism".

  4. I read an article yesterday where a Spanish man said that in Spain family was all important as opposed to the rights of the individual. That's how it more or less used to be everywhere. Nowadays we treat people and relationships as disposable. And yet, in times of trouble who is there for you outside your family and may be, a couple of friends?

  5. I agree with you on many points. When I was young, family members interacted and socialized with each other more. I remember my parents hosting big Sunday dinners with many aunts, uncles, and cousins present. However, I also see, in today's society, many families still getting together, and friends with young children celebrating birthdays and attending special school events, etc. These may not be the ideal social events, but at least they are interacting and are not isolating themselves and their own families from others. It's a different society now. I doubt it things will ever return to the "old ways." One more thing...I don't know of any senior citizens who are alone who would want to live with their married children. Most of us want to be independent and have our own places, modest and humble though they may be. I know I do. I much prefer being by myself than living with my daughters.

  6. About senior citizens, I think it also depends on the relationship between the parents and children, the type of the house they have, the health of both parties etc etc. Some people prefer to keep the distance while others want more interaction.

  7. KABOOM!!! Way to go Sanne! Very well said :)

  8. Housewife from FinlandOctober 26, 2015 at 6:16 AM

    I mostly agree. And I wish I could have large, close family etc. And actually I see my parents and sister and her family much more than many ladies I know see theirs. But I have realized that to protect myself I must start seeing them as little as possible. I have never been "good enough" to my family and after I made the decision to stay at home -well, let's just say that they did not take it very well. I am a pariah in my own family.

    When it comes to one's nephew's and niece's: they are not only my sister's children. They are also her "spouse" (they are not even married) children. And that shows. I have absolutely no interest whatsoever to invest in HIS children. Especially since I have never seen children who behave so badly. And if I try to correct those kids in any way, my sister's "spouse" starts yelling at me. I mean really yelling.

    So sometimes it is very, very good thing that nowadays it is so easy to sever relations with your family. I have done that with my cousins and aunts already; I see no point in interacting with people who treat me like I was just playing comic side part in their movie.

    Back in the old days it was easier, since people shared the same values. And good manners still existed, even among family members. So it was easier to interact with all those people.

  9. Interesting. In the times past the family would cut you off or at least, show their disapproval, if you had a child out of wedlock, or lived together unmarried or was planning to marry a guy not able to provide a living so that you would have to work. Nowadays it's because you choose to become a homemaker.

  10. Hear, hear!

    We can subvert the dominant paradigm!

    Culture war can be, and ought to be, waged back!