July 19th, 2006

ozarque figure

Emotional weather; part thirteen...

I'm afraid I may have worn out the welcome for this particular discussion, and I want you to know that I don't intend to go on with it endlessly. I have just one more of your points that I'd like to have a bit more input on, and then I'll let it rest, with my thanks to all of you for your participation.

The loose end, for me, is what seems to me to be a consensus that much of the negative emotional weather (or epidemic, if you prefer) comes from the absence of a support network. Whether that missing network is perceived as a family, or as a community -- with varying definitions of both terms -- it seems to me that we're in agreement that getting along without one is no longer possible in today's United States. We're caught in a cultural myth that worships the Individual Striking Out Alone To Conquer A Frontier -- a myth that worked for a while, and might work again if we were actively engaged in exploring and settling outer space -- but that is simply dysfunctional in the environment and society we're living in right now. There were positive comments from some of you who have found ways to set up and maintain a support network; it made me wonder whether perhaps there's a way to nest the traditional individualistic myth in a larger one that defines the New Family (or New Community) as the New Frontier.

nancylebov commented:
"The old system of tight family ties wasn't just destroyed by evil capitalists--there were some real reasons why people didn't like it. It wasn't good for people to be trapped in abusive families and marriages. At this point, we're seeing the cost of people being separated from their families, many of which aren't that bad, but does anyone have thoughts about what a system with enough looseness *and* enough support for good lives would look like?"
And voxwoman commented:
"There was a sociology blog I read recently (I don't have the link, sorry) that was about 'the institution of marriage' and indicated our current society does not foster the traditional family anymore and instead favors a more mobile work force that can relocate to where the jobs are. ... Since this is a different model for family and interpersonal relationships than what has gone before (and has only been present for at most 40 years), we are still in the transition phase, trying to work out how this is supposed to go.

I find that having a strong network of friends has helped me through many issues over the course of my life - and that network exists in "meatspace" as well as "cyberspace" - and some of my electronic correspondence relationships are as long-lasting and strong (or even stronger) than the bonds I feel with people in my community.

Another problem (that I see with my parents) is outliving your friends and spouses. That is very frightening, and to counteract that (for myself at least), I do try to cultivate relationships with people who are both younger and older than I am. I am the touchstone for my elderly friends as they lose their contemporaries to the ravages of time, and my younger friends are and will be my touchstone if I am 'fortunate' enough to outlive my contemporaries."

Which makes me think of some questions.

Like... Do we have a model, even a tentative one, for a "family/community" that would work? That would, as nancylebov says, have both enough looseness and enough support? [I don't think "Little House On The Prairie" is it, but a large portion of our population is hungry for precisely that, because they don't perceive a workable alternative anywhere and nobody has presented any such alternative. I don't think "Star Trek" or "Star Wars" fill that slot either -- and to me, "Battlestar Galactica" looks horrifyingly like the mess we have on Earth just moved into space without any sort of progress having been made.] Are we able to write/compose new myths and fairy tales and parables that could show us, and show our children, what a good and workable "family/community" would be like? Including what it would be like for the oldest and frailest among us?

Like... Is it possible for an Internet "family/community" to serve this purpose and provide us with the new models and myths and fairy tales and parables? The beloved friend or kinsperson on the other side of the world can't bring you hot soup when you're in bed with the flu.... does that sort of limitation invalidate the whole idea of the virtual family/community, or do we have good workarounds available?

Over to you...