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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: August 26, 2005
Latest Update: September 10, 2005

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In considering some of the latest discussions on transform_dom (Message Nos. 5636, backwards, and probably, forwards), I want to talk about friendship and loneliness and identity and social relations as defining our allegiance to one another. Rob has said:
"It's not my reponsibility to get between nature and every man, woman or child who cannot care for themself. This is too big of a burden for anyone to bear. So no, I don't see it that way. Nature is cruel but it is not my doing. I can only care for those whom I have a responsibility to."
Message No. 5638. transform-dom

And as I recall, in an earlier message, Rob speaks of responsibility to family and nation. Then, this morning in the New York Times, on the front page, there appeared the following article: Alone in Illness, Seeking Steady Arm to Lean On by Jane Gross, Backup. The following graph was included?

During the '60s the hippies who spoke of love and peace and caring formed communes, lived and worked together, and formed new families. Audiences ceased to passively listen to music, and actively participated in music that moved them. And for a while, the world seemed to have found a new harbinger of love and caring. But the communes broke up, the audiences gave way once again to relative passivity, and individual achievement in the unfeeling world of Wall Street stole away the remaining "hippies."

Now there is a return to collective awareness of the horror of a FATWA to kill the president of a foreign country by one of our own religious leaders. Maybe not yours or mine, but one who is listened to and followed by many of the religious right. Lauren Langman suggests that globalization and the Internet have a lot to do with that; maybe so. I list his article here for you. But I think Rob came closer to the simple truth (granting that no social problem today is simple): we're tired, overwhelmed, have to focus on what we can do, not on ideology. And in that process we tend to look backwards to a time when we could do something. To a time when family and nation-state did form the approximate boundaries of our world, our responsibility.

For our first week of classes, I want to examine this article, linking the courses conceptually, using theories I have readily at hand, knowing that myriad other theories, like those suggested by Langman et al., could help us understand alternative perspectives.

Discussion Questions

    Relating to Soc. 220 - Analytical Statistics

  1. What does the graph, Living Alone, tell us?

    Living Alone shows us that from 1940 to 2003 the percentage of people living alone in the United States has steadily risen, from 7.7% to 26.8 %. The graph does not indicate how many of those living alone have relatives or friends near enough and willing enough to help them in times of illness or need, though that would be an important next question. If 26.8% of us live alone, where does family responsibility begin and end? What does it mean to the person who wants to remain "independent"? As we consider how the individual relates in responsibility and accountability to family and nation-state, we will need to consider these changing social conditions.

    The rule is that everytime you use a graph, you must explain what that graph means in words. That is because some people are comfortable taking the whole issue in at once by just looking at the graph, and others are much more comfortable with the written explanation.

    I have highlighted that section of the interpretation you should "plagiarize", with quotes, of course, so that you will correctly state the interpretation of a frequency graph, which is the technical name for the graph here. You may then discuss that interpretation in your own words as I have done above.

    Relating to Soc. 370 - Moot Court

  2. How would you phrase a moot court issue on living alone in today's world?

    Consider that you would want first to supply the article and a summary of its information to the discussion group and the visitng professionals. Then you would want to pose different perspectives on the issue for the discussion. For example:

    • Living alone means that the individual has more latitude for being independent.
    • Living alone means that the individual lacks shared living support in those instances where it might be essential. For example, if I a welding a life-size metal sculpture, I could find the whole thing falling on my head, if there is no one to help me distribute the weight and balance as I weld certain joints. Sometimes, for some tasks, you just need other people.
    • Living alone means that one encounters more need for the intervention of others as we get older.
    • Living alone through illness may require the intervention of others.
    • Orderly functioning of a community means that the community must find ways to provide the intervention of others in cases where those living alone must rely on that intervention.
    • Our law does not define anyone as having a "duty" to care for another, except as there exists a special relationship between the two, such as parent or teacher.

    Relating to Soc. 386 - The Helping Professions

  3. Why is it important for those in a position of helping to know about the social distance in relationships in the client's lifre?

    Consider that the helping professional needs to survey the resources available and choose the mix of agency materiel and personnel that would work best with the client's alternative choices, including the resources the client may have of family and friends. The agency professional MUST NOT assume that such private resources are available to the client just because they exist. There are mothers who, though they may care about their adult children, really are not equipped to be of much help to them when they need it.

    Relating to Soc. 395 - Love 1A

  4. Consider Lear's interpretation of love as a loving orientation to the self's world context. Then consider that a loving orientation does not mean that one has the skills and/or resources to take requisite action in helping others. Most of us feel that we should not be overly kind to someone when we know that we will not be able to be there for them in a crisis because our own world context does not permit it, or we do not have the strength or skills to be there. But a loving orientation means that we can be kind, caring, and loving without that being a commitment to what we can or cannot do later. Each act of love increases the love in a lovable world.

    You might want to consider examples of a conflict between the extension of loving kindness, when you know you cannot go beyond that particular kindness. i.e. An adult child ill. Emergency care asks mother to take child home to care for it. Mother not emotionally able; hesitates. Professional puts child in hospital for illness. Mother's presence, and taking adult child to emergency care is still an act of love. Consider our expectations in family relationships.


    • Internet Mediation: A Theory of Alternative Globalization Movements Lauren Langman, Douglas Morris, Department of Sociology, Loyola University of Chicago. Carries this issue into the theory of social movements, which may guide some of you for further classes. Accessed on August 26, 2005.
    • Friendship Nice review of what several theorists have said about friendship as it is changing today, with references. Accessed on August 26, 2005.
    • Erich Fromm,1900 - 1980 Dr. C. George Boeree, Shippensburg University, Pennsylvania. Scroll down about two inches to find:
      "Fromm describes three ways in which we escape from freedom:

      1. Authoritarianism. We seek to avoid freedom by fusing ourselves with others, by becoming a part of an authoritarian system like the society of the Middle Ages. There are two ways to approach this. One is to submit to the power of others, becoming passive and compliant. The other is to become an authority yourself, a person who applies structure to others. Either way, you escape your separate identity.

        . . .

      2. Destructiveness. Authoritarians respond to a painful existence by, in a sense, eliminating themselves: If there is no me, how can anything hurt me? But others respond to pain by striking out against the world: If I destroy the world, how can it hurt me? It is this escape from freedom that accounts for much of the indiscriminate nastiness of life -- brutality, vandalism, humiliation, vandalism, crime, terrorism....

        . . .

      3. Automaton conformity. Authoritarians escape by hiding within an authoritarian hierarchy. But our society emphasizes equality! There is less hierarchy to hide in (though plenty remains for anyone who wants it, and some who don't). When we need to hide, we hide in our mass culture instead. When I get dressed in the morning, there are so many decisions! But I only need to look at what you are wearing, and my frustrations disappear. Or I can look at the television, which, like a horoscope, will tell me quickly and effectively what to do. If I look like, talk like, think like, feel like... everyone else in my society, then I disappear into the crowd, and I don't need to acknowledge my freedom or take responsibility. It is the horizontal counterpart to authoritarianism.

      That's a pretty reasonable way to look at our escape from ourselves and our responsibilities. jeanne

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