I have noticed a change in our culture over my lifetime. At first I thought I was noticing regional differences in behavior, but I am now sure it isn’t just that.
Our culture has some serious cracks in it. It is time for repair or remodeling.
As I have mentioned I grew up in a fairly rural area, but it wasn’t “hollers and feuds” or “Maw and Paw” rural. People I went to school with became rocket scientists, and physicians, my uncle worked for NASA, we respected education.
But there was something extra that is difficult to precisely pinpoint what now is missing. I can think of several things that may be involved in this diffuse difference, but could be symptomatic or causal.
Truth is missing from many conversations. Filial obligations are missing from conversations and actions. Concern for others seems to have disappeared. Individuals who lack information about a situation or person fill in the blanks by assuming the worst. Snark, insults, and accusation are common on public platforms by public figures.
What have we women allowed to mature in our culture? Are there tactics we can use to shift our perspective back toward respectful interaction? Toward kindness.
I’ve heard the lack of religion blamed for this, but I’ve also heard extremely hateful comments come from the mouths of women who attend religious services regularly.
I’ve heard women leaders in communities bad-mouth folks who need assistance with healthcare or food for being rude in public. Isn’t it rude to judge people about whom you know little to nothing?
When did it become okay to disrespect “the other?”
I would like to throw out some ideas for consideration about what has contributed to this break-down.
Families Have Changed
Extended family has become less of a center for family function. My family was not a model in any sense of the word. But we displayed remnants of 19th century agrarian culture that was very family-centered. Religious holidays, federal holidays, family birthdays all found several generations celebrating together with food and laughter. Outspoken family members were tolerated, because, well, “They are family,” as my mother used to say. Members who married and moved away may have only moved twenty miles away from their parents. The extended nature of family was celebrated with reunions that brought collateral relations whose last common ancestor may have been three generations removed from any living person who attended the reunion. Coming together and sharing food re-established bonds. The larger community was made stronger by re-established and newly made family connections.
Old fashioned reunions of 100 plus people and family gatherings of 30 to 50 closely related people are just not the norm today. People still tend to live close to where they grew up, but extended family gatherings declined?
So that is one cohesive element gone.
Mobility is the flip side of the family gathering dynamic. Out migration changes family structure. But mobility in general changes how we work and use our weekends. Both pre- and post- internet with social media changes the stability of family and family communication. Many people say we stay in touch so much better with the internet but this is only true for families that make the effort to connect regularly to interact. Facebook and Instagram can let families down.
Visiting Grandma, or visiting anyone, on a leisurely Sunday afternoon is not all that common. There is shopping to do, schedules for the week to check and coordinate, laundry to put away, menus to plan or prepare and freeze. There just isn’t as much time for grandma or grandpa.
That is another cohesive family element gone.
Women working outside of the home, taking a second job besides raising a family, has eroded the ability of women to tend to extended family functions. It need not be the case, and might not if women were paid equitably so we could hire out what we could not do. But sisters, aunts, mothers and grandmothers are all just much more divided between competing tasks than we once were and are less likely to help each other out as a matter of practice.
But what about all the hatred that has infected the US? Well inequality getting worse by the minute isn’t helping, but we are living through a change just as big as the printing press (brought down total church control) or radio (allowed Hitler and other extremists to distribute their messages of hate instantly ) and now we are living with the social media silos we box ourselves into.
A few decades ago, we had 30 minutes of national evening news around dinnertime on one of three networks that were not as varied politically as we might have thought. Now we can hear whatever we want to hear, whatever resonates with us 24 hours a day. I personally like to research what I consume as news through several types of media; print, streamed, and researchers I respect who tweet. I refuse to watch any TV in which the “host” hurls insults, derides people, or uses overt emotion to make their points.
People in 2016 started sending me memes on social media that when I tried to track down the site from which they originated I could not find any organization behind them. I would look at originating IP addresses and they were coming from Russia. I blocked these people and upped my security. I still check these types of things. I don’t need to be hacked, and I do not allow myself to read propaganda. Can’t block it all, but at least I can identify it.
The sad thing about all this is that it makes me more insular in my information consumption just as it makes extremists more insular. I don’t like it; I don’t believe in sides. There are not two sides, there are many, many perspectives, and I try my damnedest to deal in verifiable facts. Facts do not have sides.
The last thing our insulated-from-each-other country (here in US) needed was a pandemic that further isolated and insulated us.
Karma, Kindness, and Fictive Kin
Our kinship system is changing. Friends of mine are more like aunts and uncles to my daughter than aunts and uncles ever were. These friends are essentially a fictive, voluntary, or chosen kin. For me it has to do with generational anomalies, all my siblings are deceased. They were much older than me. I moved across the country which in the US means 2000 miles from where I grew up even though it is not the full distance of coast to coast. Lots of urban living folks are in similar situations.
The other thing that is dividing us, besides information warfare by foreign adversaries that are escalating differences to destabilize us, is our own history. We have major Karma issues from indigenous genocide, slavery, destroying the natural world for personal profit, Jim Crow, and gender and sex based subjugation, as well as the more and more successful attempts to remove the separation between church and state. Fundamentalism is sweeping the world.
We need to face and accept our complexity and embrace change, evidence-based reality, and simplicity. This is a lot harder to do than it sounds, but we women have to put it into practice now, or our species and all those we interact with are in very dire straits.
Kin to all, with friendship.