I begin to wonder if we have reached the start of a great unraveling.
Nighean Ban had a falling out with a friend, a friend she has almost since we moved here 8 years ago. She was involved in the fringe only but the issue did not end there. Things were said - stupid things, political things from what I understand (and that is what I know. And I do not know that I need to know more). Tempers were engaged. People are not talking.
And then the overflow. Suddenly the friend's mother - one of The Ravishing Mrs. TB's longest standing friends since we moved - felt uncomfortable coming to an event we were all planning on attending because what had happened. And during the weekend two weeks later, a lunch that was supposed to be planned never happened: the friend who was going to contact The Ravishing Mrs. TB never called and The Ravishing Mrs. TB felt uncomfortable calling her to see what had happened.
It is a small thing some might say, a falling out such as might happen between any teenage girls and mothers not wanting to exacerbate a situation. But something feels different this time, almost a sense of doubling down and hardening of opinions rather than an effort to resolve the issue.
Am I immune? Not at all, Over the past two months I found my communication with others greatly decreasing: outside of my coworkers I regularly interact with 7-8 people on a weekly basis, and maybe twice that number on a biweekly basis. Why?
More and more, I find myself unable to process the "how" of how we are speaking to others. I find myself "Unfollowing" more and more on Facebook (think of it as a sort of invisible secret double detention where you no longer realize people do not see what you post) because their lives - at least their online lives (and one assumes their "real" lives) - have been consumed with 1) politics; and 2) mocking and castigating those that disagree with them not as "misguided" but as "wrong" and "stupid". The same with most online discussion sites as well, which are turning more and more into tearing down anyone that disagrees with them rather than discussing the issues. It is as if we had abandoned the color TV of variegated and muted colors and were left with the harsh glare of black and white in our rooms and in our lives, where more and more the totality of our relationships - and communication, the point of any relationship - is reduced to communicating only with those of like mind and the "others" are merely the caricatures of what we have created in our mind (or worse, allowed others to create for us).
And here lies a key - at least fore me - that we have have started an unraveling, a disintegration of our culture and way of life: we are losing the desire to make the attempt to communicate with each other.
Too many now are quite willing to scream, shout and yell at each other. Fewer and fewer seem to be interested in talking to each other. The desire to be heard with the "correct" opinion outweighs the desire to have that opinion understood. And more and more, ideological purity to "my" position is the standard that is being used to judge the worth of another.
Perhaps I am overstating the case? I think a walk through every major historical war and societal breakdown at some level finds its in a loss of communication. Individuals do not communicate but judge others first on their agreement with their own ideas - and if they do not agree, it becomes easy enough to categorize them as a group that does not matter and can thus be treated badly because they are "stupid" or "reactionary" or "Alt-X". Groups do not communicate but see others not as fellow citizens or inhabitants but rather as obstacles in the way of their progress. Countries do not communicate but verbal denigrate and use soft attacks to influence those who do not agree with their policies or way of life. And countries not communicating eventually lead to war.
As the lights of communication slowly fade, the landscape becomes darker and darker. Like huddles only with like, while the voices of understanding and reason withdraw themselves from the discord and try to salvage whatever relationships they can, building smaller and smaller communities that huddle together in the physical and digital landscape as mobs roam the outside.
Like British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey, I begin to wonder if I am seeing the lamps go out - not all over Europe this time, but somewhere else, somewhere closer to home. And I begin wonder as well if I shall never see them lit again in my lifetime either.