Roger Cohen Needs Friends

Posted on February 23, 2010. Filed under: Issues, Media |

Roger Cohen has an interesting piece up right now. He goes onto argue that Americans have essentially lost genuine face-time with each other; that we’ve all gotten to the point where surrounding ourselves with the things that make us comfortable is how we exist in this screen-obsessed era.

Community — a stable job, shared national experience, extended family, labor unions — has vanished or eroded. In its place have come a frenzied individualism, solipsistic screen-gazing, the disembodied pleasures of social networking and the à-la-carte life as defined by 600 TV channels and a gazillion blogs. Feelings of anxiety and inadequacy grow in the lonely chamber of self-absorption and projection.

He then goes on to project France as a nation where “social solidarity is a paramount value.” I haven’t spent enough time in France nor do I know enough French people to contest this, but I have spent more than enough time in Korea to understand what “social solidarity” looks and feels like to know that I’m not so sure I agree that America should lament this perceived loss.

Even though I agree with his sentiment about health care,  in all honesty, I think this piece is more about Cohen than it is the rest of the country. It’s clear that his short time as a juror jolted the bubble he has created for himself.

I have been abroad for most Bush’s second-term and the entire Obama presidency. Like Cohen, I have spent too much time glued to this screen trying to make sense of the American political and social world. After reading about the insanity of the summer town hall meetings and the lunacy that the 9/12 Project has inspired, I also expected an America that would be tricky to navigate without stepping on someone’s political toes. However, that was not the case. The US and Americans were pretty much the same as always, which –as Cohen believes– was unthinkable.

“…we’d done something selfless for the commonweal, learned to listen to each other, accepted differences and argued our way to decisions.”

I like Cohen, but I think he needs more friends. Or better yet, I think he should stop “screen-gazing”.


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On a related note, take a look at this article by Christine Smallwood on The Baffler. I think you’ll get a kick out of it.

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