Third Age: Community lost? We are losing trust - The Explorer: Columns

Third Age: Community lost? We are losing trust

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Posted: Wednesday, July 23, 2014 4:00 am | Updated: 8:59 am, Wed Jul 23, 2014.

We are losing our sense of community and trust in one another. The latest Pew Research confirms it. Political polarization is even greater now than during the turbulent 1960’s.

Harvard professor Robert D. Putnam writes, “Americans today are significantly less engaged with their communities than was true a generation ago.” And with that, he concludes there’s a decline in what he calls “social trust”: believing in one another.

Alexis de Tocqueville, the French historian and political thinker, best described American democracy in the mid 1800’s.  It was a time when we were getting together for commercial, religious, moral and practical objectives. “Americans, he wrote, are forever forming, civic groups for all sorts of reasons essential in a democracy.”

What’s happened to us? 

Civil War, two World Wars, A Depression, a Cold War, A Korean War, Vietnam, Desert Storm, 9-11, Afghanistan, Iraq, A Great Recession and...

Television.  The average American spends more that 40-percent of his/her time watching television. Professor Putnam tells us television discourages “social trust and group membership.”

Putnam laments, “Heavy TV watchers are unusually skeptical about the benevolence of other people.”

Television,  all too often, paints a cynical picture of our culture and human nature.

And the technological revolution is separating us to an even greater degree.  We hide behind our computer screens and pads.  We Twitter and ext our relationships with others. We carry our life around in a smart phone and never miss a chance to check on an email we may have missed. We comment anonymously on opinion blogs, cynically, perhaps unknowingly widening the gap of mistrust between us. 

One more thought from professor Putnam: “heavy readers of newspapers are avid joiners, whereas heavy viewers are more likely to be loners.”  

And when I write in this space about living better as you live longer, I and others, give great weight to connecting and committing - refocusing on family, friends, companions...and community.

The authors of the book “Younger Next Year” agree: “If we don’t exercise our social skills - if we let ourselves become cut off and increasingly solitary as we age - we will become ill and die.

I strongly urge the watchers and the readers to be aware that the America of joiners is withering away, and so will we all if we don’t do something about it.

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