Is our society suffering from cultural depression? Many would argue that in western societies, we are overly reliant on consumerism. On the whole we live comfortable lives dulled and de-sensitised by the fact that everything we could want is readily available on our doorstep. We are removed from the production process that puts a copious array of food on our table and have perhaps as a result lost some of our gratitude, awe and wonder. Our belief and reliance on “progress” has increased our expectations that life should be satisfying, providing us with everything we desire, resulting in mass disappointment. Because however much glossy magazines and air brushed posters try to sell you their form of happiness, I would suggest that we all need to find our own deeper meaning and relevance for life.
As our working lives have developed, often leading to long commutes and endless hours behind a desk, communities too have become more fragmented. There is no longer the sense of us all needing to pull together with our neighbourhood in order to survive. Indeed, many of us probably do not even know our neighbours and probably infrequently speak. Working is inevitable, in order to pay the bills, but the nature of employment is so different now, I think that we need to actively pursue hobbies and activities which restore our connections with other people and with the world as a whole.
The increase of technology has both opened up the world but has also diminished personal face to face interactions . You can be in constant contact online, but still feelings of isolation and rejection may surface even more frequently, if the messaging stops for a short period of time. Video games and movies can further tempt and encourage people to spend more time inside, alone and insular. Obviously there are a lot of benefits provided for us by innovative technology and jobs that help the community, but we forget human nature and what it is that makes us human, at our peril. As we move further away from an appreciation of nature and the realisation that we depend on all the earth’s resources for our own survival, our futures look more bleak.
When it feels as if everything in the world has been discovered and understood, what is there left? This has been absorbing philosophers for centuries and even more recently, politicians. You don’t have to look back that far to remember the concept of the ‘Big Society’ and the drive to revitalise community spirit. But I think people are starting to feel this for themselves. Many are dispondent with the current state of affairs and our grasping materialism. So, you see the formation of groups such as ‘freecycle’, streetbanks, the free exchange of skills and trades within communities and more community based projects based on the principles of freeconomy. This to me is what really matters. Connecting with others in a meaningful and productive way to enhance our lives and that of the planet.