The Misery of Loneliness
TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 15 Mar 2021
8 Mar 2021 – One common feature of modern life in many urbanised regions in different countries is a feeling of isolation and loneliness. It is not easy to pinpoint the principal causes but there is little doubt that the conditions that are prevalent in modern societies leads to this isolation. This is usually more marked in urban societies — in rural regions working together in groups in agriculture or in animal husbandry, does not usually lead to this feeling of isolation.
In many industrialised and economically rich countries, conditions are conducive for this modern scourge that not leads to loneliness but also to suicides. There have been reports that Japan has created a Ministry of Loneliness since the number of suicides has increased in the country. Apart from other factors, the COVID pandemic has worsened the situation since many people have been asked to work from home — be it in corporate houses, administrative or academic institutions.
Will the Ministry of Loneliness be able to tackle the Misery of Loneliness?
Not only working class people, students are feeling isolated. There is online teaching where a student may see other students on the screen but this is not the same as attending classes together in a school or college. How it affects teaching-learning is a different issue with even examinations being held in this mode, but socially it leads to increasing isolation. Then considering the question of sports or other physical activities, how can they be played online? I have sometimes seen a student playing with a ball or a badminton racquet all by himself in or around his home.
Japan has created this ministry recently to tackle increasing number of suicides. The UK had created this position in 2018 with a similar responsibility. I may mention my personal observations of these two countries several years ago. When I was traveling by Metro in Osaka, I used to feel a little surprised to see Japanese commuters sitting together but not exchanging any words or communicating with each other in any manner. This was so different from my own experience in India.
In UK, there used to be some homes where women would be running a small post office or providing some common items of everyday use in their own homes. A proposal had then been made to close these mini post offices and shops. However there were protests against this proposal by several women, because they felt that when they went to these minis, they not only bought some items but also exchanged a few words about their families or other common issues. I don’t know if these minis have now been closed down. However, the concerns about loneliness and resulting suicides have not diminished in that country or elsewhere.
Today, most people have these small hand-held smart phones or Mobile phones with which one can send messages, pictures and even transmit money. One can read latest news on this instrument. Almost every year new features of these gadgets are being introduced by the manufacturing companies. All to the good. But what is the consequence? They add to loneliness. Even at home of many urban centres, one sometimes communicates with one’s children by calling their numbers even when they are at home. Is it desirable? Probably not but it has resulted from the changing scenario of society.
However, one positive feature of this gadget is that it is able to dispel isolation considerably not only by making calls but by sending what’s app messages. Most people get dozens if not hundreds of messages regularly from their acquaintances or from various organisations such as insurance companies, banks or FB or Twitter handles or wherever. Not only people get information from various sources, it also helps them to spend free time by erasing these messages.
One should sincerely thank these smart phones.
On a personal note I keep busy by contributing some material for TMS hoping that the Editor finds it reasonable to post it.
How will society be transforming itself in the future? Don’t ask me — ask these smart phones.
Dr Ravi P Bhatia is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment, an educationist, Gandhian scholar and peace researcher. Retired professor, Delhi University. His new book, A Garland of Ideas—Gandhian, Religious, Educational, Environmental was published recently in Delhi. email@example.com
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 15 Mar 2021.
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