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   I think it is uncontroversial to say that we are hardwired to be social animals.  Yet, why do we design our cities and spaces to make interaction and social contact less affable and easy to access?

 

“Urban loneliness is a virtual pandemic. Even though there have never been as many cities across the world as there are right now with such high populations, urban loneliness carries with it huge social, medical and financial consequences. Why are cities the new capitals of isolation? 

“Ideas contributor Tom Jokinen believes the design of urban centres may actually be the cause of urban isolation. Yet they may also contain the ingredients for a more integrated social landscape. 

It’s hard to believe that anyone could be lonely in the city, surrounded by millions of people. But urban loneliness is real, and it’s at the centre of a health epidemic.

According to Dr. Vivek Murthy, former United States Surgeon General under President Obama, loneliness can lead to increased risks for heart disease, anxiety, depression and dementia: in stark terms it is the same as smoking fifteen cigarettes a day.”

 

“Yet the idea of solitude and isolation is central to the culture of the city. Think of the paintings of Edward Hopper depicting nighthawks at the diner. His realist paintings are actually about something more abstract: what it’s like to be alone in a city of millions. Eye contact is never made in a Hopper painting — and the people in his paintings look like the last survivors of some urban catastrophe — one that’s been a long time coming.

In 1920, only 5 per cent of Americans lived alone. By 2016, that number was 27 per cent, and most of the growth of solo living has been in the cities.

A study by the Engaged City Task Force in Vancouver asked people to report the biggest problem facing that city. The result was surprising: they might have said homelessness, or the opioid epidemic. But the number one problem in Vancouver according to residents was urban loneliness.”

 

Who I see suffering the most from loneliness is the elderly.  As we grow older our world shrinks.  Mobility goes down and correspondingly contact with the outside world also declines.  Friends begin to die off as disease and accidents of life take their toll.  The golden years are rarely golden for many senior citizens.  What contact is available from the outside world comes through the television (and sometimes the radio).  The lonely context the elderly inhabit is a recipe for poor physical and mental health outcomes.

“What is it about cities that makes us so lonely? Just look up. The urban environment, with its tall glass towers of one-bedroom and studio condos is built for loneliness, it’s designed to cut people off from each other.

But things may be changing: new ideas like co-housing, where families live together, mean the city itself could become less forbidding. But is it enough to face down an epidemic?”

Not changing fast enough. These solutions need to have been started decades ago.  Our society is now paying the price for not designing our cities around the idea that we need social contact for our mental and physical health.  The quotes are from the preface to an radio broadcast on CBC called Ideas.  The show on loneliness is quite interesting, I recommend going to page and giving it a listen.

 

This is an interesting way to think about household dynamics and how we approach the problems, conflicts, and solutions we encounter in everyday living.

 

 

“Imagine the household model as a system of pulleys and ropes. Those ropes are tightened (creating tension) or loosened (creating slack) based on material inputs, changes in life direction or needs, and other factors. If you get hung up on the specificity of pulleys, then just think of the household as an abstract system of interrelated slacks and tensions. The goal isn’t to accumulate slack and avoid tension; it’s to find a balance between surplus and utilisation for the whole system. We’ve learned that a household that can hold itself in balance and is prepared to sustain periods of imbalance is a healthy household. What you want to do is hold this balance and make the flows of resources something you can control.

One element of household design is managing the flows. Everyone possesses a hierarchy of slacks and tensions, and we bring those into our households. We can venture this maxim: Households run best when they are organised around the hierarchy of slacks and tensions of people in the household. No household looks the same as any other because each values things differently, but every household runs better when everyone in it shares the same sense of what’s important. In our case, we currently need a lot of slack in order to care for children, which requires more time and emotional energy, and we agree about working a bit less than full-time to get it.

When our older son turned 18 months and finally started sleeping through the night, Misty asked Michael when he would be ready to think about a second child. We can’t, he said. It would take all the remaining slack out of our system, and then some. No functioning system can operate without slack (in other words, at full tension) for very long. That’s one way to describe actual poverty: grinding stresses and the absence of any surpluses. That’s why it damages people, marriages, dreams. But the tension created by having a child is partly a function of how old they are. A needy infant makes you sleepless and fretty for weeks, stretched to the breaking point – until your baby smiles at you. As they grow up, the system gets more slack: the end of diapers and car seats, self-feeding, full-time school, independent playdates and sleepovers. One day you wake up and find that the rope has been let out in small enough increments that you didn’t notice along the way, but now there’s discernible looseness.

This piece from Aeon Magazine written by Misty-Mclaughlin and Michael Erard has a definite middle class sensibility and expectations around it, but I think it may be a useful heuristic model to think about.

I’m fairly new on Twitter but have already had the displeasure of witnessing the fury of faux-progressive backlash against feminism and feminists attempting to speak their mind in public places… in Canada.  Canada??  The easy going, live and let live notions we like to believe in the more sensible regions of Canada seem to dissipate in our larger cities.  Queer rights activists and trans activists have mounted a vigorous assault not on the arguments of gender critical feminists, but rather their character, the venues that host said feminists, and a rather hyperbolic set of straw assertions/mantras that serve as conversational dead ends/thought terminating cliches.

This is not the left that I grew up with, nor do I intend to ever associate with.  These individuals seem to believe that their individualistic solutions to systemic social problems will somehow win the day.  Not gonna happen.

The comparison between the regressive left and religious is worthy of examination.  James Bloodworth makes the comparison in his essay on Unherd.

“But politics as religion invariably comes with a cost. There is, naturally, a constant hunt for heretics. Public denunciations followed by ‘cancellations’ are de rigueur. Rigid adherence to doctrine is celebrated, while those who err are pompously told that they are on the “wrong side of history”. Political spats focus on the moral character of a person rather than the content of their arguments. Public arguments in which, as Swift phrases it, “identity leftists spend a great deal of time expending venom… at fellow leftists with whom they have some minor disagreements” are ubiquitous on Twitter and other social media.

All of this takes the Left further into the echo chamber, away from the people it is supposed to represent. Attitudes which are held by the vast majority of Britons — that there should be some upper limit on immigration, that sex differences exist, that gender isn’t entirely a social construct — are enough to get a person ‘cancelled’ by today’s hobbyist Left. Moreover, the slippery equation of words — or even thoughts — with violence creates a censorious climate where activists feel justified in hounding people from public life completely.”

See the transactivists haranguing women and trying to disrupt two public (in Toronto and Vancouver respectively) gatherings that featured Meghan Murphy and other feminist speakers was solid proof for me of the parallel.

 

This is the talk that the transactivists don’t want you hear. They protested, they shouted, they tried to intimidate the Library and women organizing the event. Share this widely folks, do not let the woke totalitarians win.

Mark Blythe seems to have a very good grasp of the current political and economic situations we now face.  If you want a no bullshit update to the state of the world, watch this.

 

Some of the claims put forth in the controversial book The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societal Almost Always Do Better are being verified in the United States; rising inequality is shortening the lifespan of its population.  on writing on Counterpunch illustrates the effects of inequality in the US.

“The inequality of life expectancy,” as economist Gabriel Zucman puts it, “is exploding in the U.S.”

The new GAO numbers ought to surprise no one. Over recent decades, a steady stream of studies have shown consistent links between rising inequality and shorter lifespans.

The trends we see in the United States reflect similar dynamics worldwide, wherever income and wealth are concentrating. The more unequal a society becomes, the less healthy the society.

On the other hand, the nations with the narrowest gaps between rich and poor turn out to have the longest lifespans.

And the people living shorter lives don’t just include poorer people. Middle-income people in deeply unequal societies live shorter lives than middle-income people in more equal societies.

What can explain how inequality makes this deadly impact? We don’t know for sure. But many epidemiologists — scientists who study the health of populations — point to the greater levels of stress in deeply unequal societies. That stress wears down our immune systems and leaves us more vulnerable to a wide variety of medical maladies.”

   I’ve been hearing more about ‘Cancel Culture’ and recently found this article by Meghan Murphy giving her ideas on what Cancel Culture is and how it is affecting the popular discourse.

It would seem that the built in distance within Social Media has given rise to some deleterious effects that are working their way through the larger culture outside of social media.  The willingness to engage with others that do hold your opinions is diminishing and while the tendency to punitively ostracize others is on the rise.  The overall effect is to coarsen discourse and make communicating ideas much more difficult.

 

“Cancel culture” is a sort of addiction: the addict — outraged members of the public demanding someone’s humiliation and “cancellation” — gets a high, but only temporarily, and the desire creeps back once again and must be fed.

Yet this type of public ostracism is not exactly like other addictions — food, drugs, pornography, shopping or gambling – which involve private behaviours, albeit connected to social problems. Most addictions are about an individual escaping from some kind of pain or trying to fill an endless hole inside of them. Cancel culture is very much about public behaviour — a display of anger, power and virtue — as well as the self-loathing and emptiness in all addictions.

No healthy, secure person invests that much time and energy into destroying other people’s lives. No happy, fulfilled human enjoys seeing others – strangers – ruined, ostracised and vilified. Unless we are purely targeting violent, evil or dangerous individuals… but, of course, this is almost never the case. We target comedians, politicians, writers, friends, fellow activists, co-workers and former comrades. In a terrified frenzy, we look for any excuse — a verbal blunder, a politically incorrect opinion, a tacky 20-year-old Aladdin costume…

While Justin Trudeau — the wokest of leaders — may well be many things, I don’t believe he is a racist. No one does. While black or brownface is indeed racist, Trudeau’s poor costume choices two decades ago do not reflect who he is today: a boring, phony, political coward.

Plenty of things that seemed acceptable or funny 20 years ago are not today. And people change. I mean, 20 years ago, I was wearing a white pleather mini skirt and a mesh animal print tank top, reciting every lyric to “I’m a player”. And I just cannot wait for someone to dredge up all of our old Halloween costumes. (I must have co-opted dominatrix culture at least three years in a row. All you Pocahontases better have your CVs ready.

The worst thing about cancel culture is not even its attacks on others – it’s that the whole thing is a lie. I don’t believe that anyone thought, deep down, that they were better than Justine Sacco who infamously lost her job for a tweet. They just didn’t make the mistake of trying to be funny on Twitter, in a culture that would prefer not to take a joke.

I don’t believe that anyone thinks Kevin Hart is a homophobe, or that Al Franken is a dangerous predator. And I definitely don’t believe they think Sarah Silverman is a racist.

Cancel culture doesn’t actually want accountability. It doesn’t want an apology. It doesn’t want a conversation. It doesn’t even want the world to be safe from truly dangerous people or ideas. What it wants is to feel that boot on someone else’s neck – perhaps in order to avoid the boot itself.

What is the purpose, after all, of demanding an apology, only to say the apology isn’t good enough? (And the apology is never good enough.) What is the point of saying you want accountability, when no redemption is available? Do we want change or do we want flagellation?

The truth is that many people get off on sadistic, herd-like practices that thrive on platforms like Twitter. Who can be the angriest, the most righteous, and the most devout in their hatred of the Wrong? Who would Never Do Such A Thing, never mind think it?

I don’t think racist or homophobic comments are harmless, but I do think that we prefer punishment over change. And if we truly wanted people to understand other’s hurt and to change their behaviour, we wouldn’t write them off for life.”

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