When I think about underlying commonalities that may link and help to explain certain actions and attitudes within American society, I focus on two particular areas. First, the lack of communal solidarity and its necessary concomitant, the elevation of individual interests above a community’s. Second, something that will be encouraged by the first, or make it more likely and acceptable: the attitude of disrespect for other lives, the readiness to see others (plants, human/nonhuman animals, ecosystems and landscapes) as mostly resources, as objects for use, without intrinsic value, for the purpose of accomplishing something like making greater profits. What causes this? Where does it start? I don’t expect a simple answer to the question. Somehow cultural forces (whose sources are surely even more mysterious) moved things in a direction where the greater good was subsumed by the lesser goods of individual interests. I picture that choices were made pushing society in this direction and that in combination with a particularly high valuation of material (consumer, commercial) goods (stuff, as it’s called) relations between people and between people and Nature lost “spirit,” lost the kind of connectedness that implies care and respect for the good of the other. As I follow my mental picture further, I imagine that the relational climate that comes with this leads to degrees of isolation and emptiness, and to substitution of work and consumer-ing for the kinds of relations that enrich and connect.


Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

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