A Culture of Alienation

I was food-shopping in the store the other day when a young father rolled by with his baby girl in the kiddie seat.  In her hands was an iPad by which she was absorbed as something chirped, binged and squawked.  I was amazed by the sight!  Being so mesmerized by her small screen she was passing by all of those items which we as little kids knew to furtively yank off the shelves and get into the cart while our parents weren’t looking!  When I left the monastery 11 years ago and returned to society I felt like Heinlein’s “Stranger in a Strange Land”!  I was amazed and dismayed by what had now become commonly accepted cultural practices which actually thwart and prevent our desire for connectedness with others!

We seem to now live in a culture of alienation and teach ourselves to no longer hear!  There are people walking along with earbuds in, listening to sounds other than the actual ones around them!  Aggressive talk shows encourage us to nurture grievances against others which keep us at an emotional arm’s length from them.  Self-improvement books and systems convince us to feel good about ourselves by indulging our sense of self-importance but who eventually find themselves living in a hell of isolation which has no equal!  In short, life today seems to be fostering a culture of alienation from other people.  Fueling this is our cultural addiction to always be doing something, to always be producing something.  As a result we run from task to task even when we don’t really have something that needs to be done!  Many people honestly don’t know how to be-without-doing because when we stop doing we fall asleep from exhaustion or boredom!

And yet at the same time there is a cultural yearning for communion with others as is evidenced by match-up sites, date-sites, singles cruises and the like.  The best thing that Dad (above) can do is to take the iPad away from his baby girl, turn it off and talk to her as they go up and down the aisles, teaching her that the connectedness she instinctively craves is actually to be found in relating to other people and not to things.  If she looks up maybe she’ll even discover that there are cookies on the shelves to sneak into the cart!

Kahuna-pule Kimo

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6 Responses to A Culture of Alienation

  1. Exactly! give her the shopping list, one with pictures if she’s really young and find the food together. Its sad isn’t it, almost like people are scared of human to human interaction without something to offer absorption or at least displacement activity.
    On a recent holiday we sat at breakfast and the family in the table behind us had two children aged about 6 and 8. both were head down zombied out and the parents looked like they wish they were too. in the same time frame waiting for breakfast Dan and I played a game of advanced snap with Jake, one where you can say snap if anything is matching be it color, shape or pattern. in that time we engaged his brain and gave him our attention, there was laughter and fun, lots of interaction and finally a lesson in being a good sport.
    The kids at the other table carried on beep beep beeping while the parents looked into space.

  2. 최다해 gongjumonica says:

    Nice post. I agree with you. People now build walls around themselves. Put your earphones on and you’ll block everyone around you. The value of communication is lost.

    • It amazes me how people will interrupt a face-to-face conversation in order to answer an incoming call on their cellphone… whether it’s important or NOT! I stand there slightly insulted by their rudeness… after all, I was speaking with them FIRST before the call came in! To me THAT is a “sign of the times” that people are no longer appreciating face-to-face interactions in their quest to instant gratification. I think the next time it happens I will just WALK AWAY from them. If I don’t appreciate myself then how can others? THANK-YOU for your very astute response, Monica!
      Kahuna-pule Kimo

      • 최다해 gongjumonica says:

        I am clearly with you on that. Sometimes, I feel annoyed when my ex answered his phone. “It’s work,” he’ll say. I understand that, but there is a workplace for that, right? Nowadays it is common to miss someone even if you are with this person because there are now barriers between people. I believe that if you are with your partner or a loved one, then he/she must be important than others and answering your phone can wait.

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