There’s a Simon and Garfunkel song that bodes the lyrics:
I’ve built walls,
A fortress deep and mighty,
That none may penetrate.
I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain.
It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain.
I am a rock,
I am an island.
This, unfortunately, is woven in the fabric of our national identity. No longer does it take a village to raise a child, as a matter of fact, we’re more likely to house ire for our neighbors for “interfering” in the rearing of our children. Why is that? When did it become absolutely necessary to be an island. To be self sufficient? To not need? Perhaps from our economic foundation. Capitalism. Karl Marx writes,“Capitalist production, therefore, develops technology, and the combining together of various processes into a social whole, only by sapping the original sources of all wealth – the soil and the labourer. …the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property. We Communists have been reproached with the desire of abolishing the right of personally acquiring property as the fruit of a man’s own labour, which property is alleged to be the groundwork of all personal freedom, activity and independence. Hard-won, self-acquired, self-earned property! Do you mean the property of petty artisan and of the small peasant, a form of property that preceded the bourgeois form? There is no need to abolish that; the development of industry has to a great extent already destroyed it, and is still destroying it daily…” Now I’m not saying that we need to be communists, but I’m saying there’s something of note there. In this necessity to enterprise, and industrialize we have drained the natural resource of community. A man who has to sell/buy/barter for goods will eventually see that someone, besides him, makes a profit because of him. Rather than think that in the greater whole of our society perhaps this balances out, The American thinks, how can I marginalize that profit? Well if you can produce the product or service yourself then you’ve cut the need to collaborate. You’ve increased your individualization, strengthened your enterprise, and perhaps become a peninsula on your way to an island.
What is the problem with this? Well we, humans, are not meant to be alone. We are social creatures by nature and interaction is innate. Pair the two thoughts. As a man/woman, I must be social, yet…as an American, its more beneficial to be an island. What we’re left with is selective socialization and widespread distrust. Look at our political system. Democrats vs. Republicans. Rather than admit that each party has valid points, we have found some utility in selective socialization. Socializing, with those who either give us most comfort, or most benefit. The two may or may not be mutual. (Aside: comfort would be socializing with those who are like you, as far as race/gender/SES/etc, benefit would be socializing with a group for some reward, be it monetary/social status/intrinsic). Both parties are guilty of it. Each of us is guilty of it. We have friends who are like us, and we volunteer with the underprivileged for community service hours for scholarships/personal satisfaction/organizational requirement. Everyone is out for gain. Take also, the distrust. As we have been hard-wired as Americans to be islands, it is only in us to think that everyone else is also out to become an island. What then, does person X want (in the long run) when he/she chooses to socialize with me?
Look, for example, at the origin of the word “friend.” It derives from the German word frend which means to love. However, look at the modern Merriam and Websters definition, “a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard. a person who gives assistance; patron; supporter: a member of the same nation, party, etc.” We have attached our ideals to a word more pure in nature. A friend is someone who gives? Why must they give? Is giving a mark of love? What must they give? If a friend gives something you are in surplus of, do you need that friend? Then look back at the lyrics… friendship means pain, and I don’t need that. Pain can distract in my goal of becoming self sufficient. An entrepreneur who relies on solely himself. Is it this that may be the Achellies heel of America?
Our desperate need to be self-reliant, whole without others, the privacy that we value so much keeps us from connecting…truly connecting to not only the inhabitants of the world, but the world itself. We cannot save another man, nor nature, if it comes at the cost of self sacrifice. I can give you what I have to spare, but not before I fill the needs of my island. Why? Because we might not get it back? Interesting thought for a nation built on “Christian” ideals. In God we trust… but in self do we invest. Perhaps that is the problem. In our quest for individualization, this privacy, the right to bear arms, watch porn, and marry inside the gender box, we have cut off all regard for the greater good. Whatever that is. We don’t talk to our neighbors, hell, we don’t even talk to our friends for fear of being socially persecuted, thought of as weak, and regarded as insufficient. If we are truly the best, why are we so desperate to prove ourselves?