It’s become common complaint that people have become too individualistic, that even next-door neighbours don’t give good morning to each other anymore. So much so you can even get bad looks for disagreeing. In fact it is seen as positively evil to disagree. But it’s bullshit.
This is not at all about individualism. It’s not that people don’t like to talk to each other, it’s simply that they are not forced to. In fact, most people don’t like other people, even in your archetypical small town. But in big cities the infrastructure protects them from one another, so that they are free to not have a relation and still not incurr attacks (subtle and not) from it.
This is pretty much obvious if you give up on sustaining the im-good-ur-good pretense, the masquerade that creates society (instead of society creating it).
So you don’t think i’m going Hobbesian on you, let me get this clear: There is no war of all against all. This is bad science-fiction, Hobbes didn’t have PKD to learn. It’s simply that, on a total stranger both attacking and cooperating have exactly the same costs and benefits, so even if attacks are not really that common the unpredictability remains high.
Sociability does not make people good (or bad), it just provides a context where the risk of attack incurs further costs down the road. Thus it doesn’t really make life safer, but more predictable! Very important albeit subtle difference.
The real problem is not that your next-door neighbour doesn’t talk to you, but that there is so little that you’d wish him to!
Overfed with our status-quo, with contemporary ideology, we are led to believe that anything our neighbour had to say to us we could equally well learn from the newspaper or the telly. We are led to believe that our interests are what gives us pleasure, what is entertaining, and so our neighbour is less important than the latest soap opera. Because it is.
And the really cruel dynamic here is that, because of all of it, we are less interested in becoming interesting ourselves. We want to be famous or invisible, not relevant. Not engaged. And thus we accept a context were we can either be enslaved by the world or wage war on it.
None of this is bad, none of this is a plea for “local cultures”. There is no illusion that cozy small comunities are solution to a problem i don’t even think exists.
What is needed is a whole new level of creativity, a creativity that, for contemporary ideology, extends in a direction that doesn’t even exist.