Monday, March 17, 2014

Again, it gets personal (starting on Facebook)

Sunday morning, after a late night out, I found a request in Facebook to connect with a birthday app.  I followed it through, and it seemed to take me to an online dating app.  I finally got around that, but it struck me again, that there seems to be a lot of pressure to date and pair off with others my own age.  I hear these in television ads, like “Christian Mingles” on CNN.

Is it that important to “have” a relationship?  I always feel that the most important thing is to “do your homework” , but that gets chancy.  I want to be as successful on my own as possible, but, like it or not, I am dependent on others and vulnerable to events I cannot control. 
And for many people, vulnerability has led to dependence, and to other personality issues that, in an individualistic society, makes them seem less liked.
At church yesterday (this was Trinity Presbyterian in Arlington) there was a call for volunteers for shifts for Meals on Wheels.  There was a comment that what is needed is not just for people to write checks but to attend to people in need personally. 
I’ve talked about this before.  I’ve gotten emails for Food and Friends, where I volunteered in the 90s under a different climate, “can we count on you this time” for their campaigns.
And where I go out, people will approach on the street.  Yes, it’s impossible to tell which pandhandlers are scammers and which are truly needy, and no one has time to talk to them.  But they are becoming more desperate as well as aggressive.  A guy outside Landmark Theater last Saturday looked like a ghost. And there was no time, the show was about to start.
And I’ve mentioned before that some groups want to make volunteering into a power bureaucracy. 
Yet, this is “about me” (sorry, Rick Warren), not about others.   There is a round robin of circular reasoning here.  If you find interacting with people in need rewarding – if you feel fulfilled that you did something for them and that they actually needed you [that is, not everyone is as capable as Clark Kent], you’re more little to settle into a relationship – marriage (maybe even same-sex marriage) and more able to take on dependents, which could not always be a matter of choice after some distant family or nearer community crisis.  Natural disasters (or even terror) could become great social equalizers.  But you have to enter into the process somewhere.  You have to be willing to buy the idea that the human future after you matters more than just “you” do.  Otherwise, who would read your books or listen to your music? 
There’s a certain “Paradox of Choice” here (rather like the mathematical “Axiom of Choice”).   In a society that values individual freedom, anyone has the right to turn another person down for a relationship or personal attention.  We’ve all faced that.  That’s called “consent”.  But no one should use this right in bad faith, particularly in an asymmetric world where anyone can become visible without a gatekeeper’s approval.   If it becomes too acceptable for people to walk away from others, then the social climate gradually becomes more unstable as others are left believe there is no way they can “matter” if they play by the “rules”.  There is just too much luck, vulnerability, and unseen dependence on the sacrifice of others.

On a few occasions I have felt that people were "bating" me to open up to someone I would not have thought well of, as if doing so could give me a morally acceptable purpose (rather like the problem dramatized in the film "Girlfriend", movies blog, July 16, 2012) before being heard.  This does not play well with me. 

There’s also the question of meeting the needs of others in a community where the aims of the larger culture seem wrong.  We have the luxury today of seeing how the aims of our leadership can be challenged.  People living in other cultures often have not.  The film “Generation War” that I watched all day Saturday (Movies blog March 15) demonstrated that.  

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