Re: Are communities that wonderful?
Here again, I think McKibben is offering very little that is new. David Reisman published The Lonely Crowd
more than 50 years ago. I recall lots of articles and books about the angst and loneliness of American psyches, especially young American psyches, throughout the 1960s and into the 70s.
I think a large part of the unhappiness of middle America is not so much because of loneliness or isolation but because so many people are working so hard to accomplish very little. I agree with McKibben that one of the things that's needed is a recognition that life needs to be about more than the pursuit of more stuff, but I also think many people came to that realization long ago.
On the subject of communities, I think McKibben is too wedded to the idea of the traditional small town or village model and fails to understand that with the sort of global communication and interaction that exists today communities can exist in a variety of ways that were not possible even 20 years ago. I think there is tremendous flexibility and potential in how we may define communities and some of the new style communities may offer potential for growth that simply didn't exist in the older models.
For example, BookTalk is a kind of intellectual community. We can communicate, exchange ideas, argue, joke and so on with people far outside our neighborhoods, even outside the nations in which those neighborhoods are located. It's an enriching experience, one that simply was not possible when I was a young adult.
So, while I agree we need communities, I have to reject an approach like McKibben's that seems too formulaic. Small towns can be wonderful. So can big cities and all sorts of living arrangments between those two. There's a very good reason why so many of the young people raised in small towns can't wait to leave. There's also a good reason why many of them like to return to such places in their later years. There isn't any one model that's going to serve the interests of human beings. We need the mix.
And I really have to say that I've been on this planet for nearly 66 years and, all things considered, my life is far more satisfying than ever before. That doesn't mean I live in a perfect world. It does mean that, in my own experience at least, McKibben's description of the loneliness and isolation of modern Americans does not seem to be true. Not for me. Not for most of the people I know.
Lastly, his description of hyper-individualism leaves me wondering as well. I think American society as a whole is better described as having a herd mentality than exhibiting the kind of hyper-individualism he describes.
"Godlessness is not about denying the existence of nonsensical beings. It is the starting point for living life without them."
Godless in America by George A. Ricker