Two articles this week in the international press, one about India and the other about Japan, brought home to me our essential need for connection and community, and the terrible things that result from the breakdown of sustaining community bonds. “Community” so often sounds esoteric, an intangible “good” that doesn’t mean much in real life. In fact, it has many real-life benefits, including better health and longer life as well as happiness. Its absence means all kinds of social and personal ills. An Indian novelist’s oped in the New York Times explains the rash of violence against women as a result of 21st-century disconnection:
“For his part, the Indian male, when nested in family and community, is part of a domestic tapestry that is intricately woven and vital, it seems, to his own sense of well-being. Take that away from him, hurl him away — and a possible result is a man unmoored, lost, adrift and, potentially, a danger to himself and to his world. Disconnection causes social disengagement and despair — and the behavior that is the product of alienation and despair.”
And a story in the Guardian about how young people in Japan have stopped having sex is really about their giving up on intimate relationships. I found myself very much in agreement with a former dominatrix who is now offering intimacy counseling:
“Getting back to basics, former dominatrix Ai Aoyama – Queen Love – is determined to educate her clients on the value of ‘skin-to-skin, heart-to-heart’ intimacy. She accepts that technology will shape the future, but says society must ensure it doesn’t take over. ‘It’s not healthy that people are becoming so physically disconnected from each other,’ she says. ‘Sex with another person is a human need that produces feel-good hormones and helps people to function better in their daily lives.'”
The epitaph of the novel Howards End is “Only connect!” That seems a good piece of guidance for all of us, in bed and out of it.