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Feb 21, 2008

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codepoke

This has been valuable, even if I don't know what to make of it all. There's no fun in not guessing at a meaning, though, so here's my perspective (based upon my thoroughly applicable background as a diesel mechanic.)

I'm reasonably blithe about our country, but not about our culture. Crime is down and money is up. Both of those are evident on the surface. Your data confirm them, but a quick glance at our driveways and stock market tell the whole story.

Internationally, we are well enough off, too. We're keeping the lid on the barbarians and finding ways to franchise the whole world. Trade looks funky, but competition is driving us in all the right directions. Politically, on average everyone seems to hate us about to the right degree.

The only thing that scares me is the lack of interconnection between neighbors. We don't help each other on the freeway like we used to, because we don't have to. When someone's broken down, you know they've already called AAA so why stop to be sent away? There's countless ways our capitalism has allowed the creative business to interpose itself between neighbors.

As we grow less reliant on each other, we grow less trusting of each other. When was the last time you allowed even your mere convenience to rely upon your neighbor? But if we allow ourselves to depend on our neighbor, we give them a chance to succeed. And if our neighbor succeeds for us we learn to trust him. When we never give him a chance we teach ourselves suspicion.

It was easy to believe all the [insert racial profile here] people were dumb back when we didn't know any of them. It was meeting them that broke down the barriers. But now we don't know anyone, so it's easy to believe everyone is dumb. Or in the light of your series: dangerous, criminal, poor, etc.

The recent survey saying happiness is directly related to number and quality of relationships in our lives is the one I believe applies here.

Michael W. Kruse

Thanks codepoke. Great stuff. Lack of relationships generates anxiety about others.

Before the upheaval of the 1960s and 1970s, I think there was a tendency to see social institutions and other folks as partners in raising our children and living our lives. Now they are the enemy we have to protect our children and ourselves from. We feel the burden more squarely placed upon our own isolated efforts and that makes us fearful. I think this fits with your comments about isolation.

codepoke

Literally true, Michael. I read about the Hungarian revolution in '56 (Michener's story, Bridge at Andau) and he really dug deep into how the families had to decide when to tell their children the truth about a number of things. We are not there, but the feeling is starting among us evangelicals, and that's one isolating feeling.

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