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Saturday, 9 October 2004

Something To Think About

Well the donkeys finally made it back from town with a couple of Guardian Weeklys, (weeklies??), out of date of course. There is an interesting article in one of them by Martin Jacques, which you may or may not have read, entitled 'The Death of Intimacy'. I was never very good at précis (what is the plural of that word???) so apologies if it doesn't make sense, but here are some extracts:

"The very idea of what it means to be human is being eroded. The reason we no longer feel as happy as we once did is that the intimacy on which our sense of well-being rests - a product of our closest, most intimate relationships - is in decline. There is the relentless spread of the market into every part of society. The marketisation of everything has made society, and each of us, more competitive. The logic of the market has now become universal, the criterion we use not just about our job or when shopping, but about our innermost selves and our most intimate relationships. The credo of self, entwined with the gospel of the market, has hijacked the fabric of our lives. We live in an ego-market society.

The central site of intimacy is the family, as expressed in the relationships between partners, and between parents and children. Intimacy is a function of time and permanence. It rests on mutuality and unconditionality. It is rooted in trust. As such, it is the antithesis of the values engendered by the market.

There is an increasingly powerful tendency to judge love and sex by the criteria of the consumer society - in other words, novelty, variety and disposability. Sex has been accorded a status, as measured by the incidences of articles in newspapers, not to mention the avalanche of online porn, that elevates it above all other considerations. Unsurprisingly, love - which belongs in the realm of the soul and the spirit rather than the body - becomes more elusive.

So what is to be done, I hear the policy wonks say. Nothing much I guess. But the observation is no less important for that. What, after all, could be more important than our humanity? Perhaps if enough people realise what has happened, what is happening, we might claw back a little of ourselves, of what we have lost."

I find this an incredibly sad article, and for the most part that it rings true. In the same paper is an article about an elderly Italian gentleman who advertises himself as an available adoptive grandfather because he is so lonely. While just the other day we gave a grandfather here a lift in to town. He was incredibly old and extremely frail, his bones little more than matchsticks. He was accompanied by no less than four of his grandsons who were tending him with selfless love and affection. Perhaps this is an unfair comparison - people here have no jobs to go to so they have the time to look after their elders. But really, what are we in the West doing??