An Epidemic of Loneliness

George Will

is a columnist for the Washington Post and his latest effort is titled, We have an epidemic of loneliness. How can we fix it?

Excerpts follow, but I would like to begin with this, which is frightening: “America’s largest job category is “driver” and, with self-driving vehicles coming, two-thirds of such jobs could disappear in a decade.”

I drove professionally and I do not just mean when driving a taxi. There were various driving gigs in varied places when younger. I once drove a brand new Ford Probe across the country from Atlanta to Los Angeles in less than three days. I slept, or more properly napped, only in rest areas, stopping to take only one shower in a truck stop along the way because of tremendous time pressure, something with which all Chess players can identify. The person contracted to drive the car to the architect who had won it in a raffle at an architectural convention in Atlanta pulled out at the last moment. The owner of the company called me because, as he put it, “You are the only driver who can get it there on time.” The car was delivered to the owner on time. He gave me a twenty dollar bill as a tip. Enraged, I said, While driving a taxi for Buckhead Safety Cab Mickey Mantle once gave me a fifty dollar bill for a three fifty fare!” The cheapskate just glared at me…

Another driving gig was transporting Bell South vehicles to various cities in Southern states. Vehicles heading to the larger cities would usually go via hauler because those drivers could transport multiple vehicles. The single vehicles heading to smaller cities had to transported by individuals such as yours truly. Some of the drivers had worked for an airline, which at the time meant Delta Airlines in Atlanta, and they could return home using their free miles, while I would have to return on my own, which meant the Greyhound bus or Amtrak. The older drivers had no desire to go to, for example, Lake Charles Louisiana.

I, on the other hand, loved heading to Lake Charles because it meant a trip to New Orleans, a visit with the sui generis Jude Frazier Acers,

the Chess King of Decatur street (https://www.oxfordamerican.org/magazine/item/456-the-chess-king-of-decatur-street) and a night on Bourbon Street, before heading to the Amtrak station, and a train leaving the next morning at seven, giving me plenty of time for sleep on the return trip.

George begins his column, “If Sen. Ben Sasse is right — he has not recently been wrong about anything important — the nation’s most-discussed political problem is entangled with the least-understood public-health problem. The political problem is furious partisanship. The public-health problem is loneliness. Sasse’s new book argues that Americans are richer, more informed and “connected” than ever — and unhappier, more isolated and less fulfilled.”

“In “Them: Why We Hate Each Other — and How to Heal,” Sasse’s subject is “the evaporation of social capital” — the satisfactions of work and community. This reflects a perverse phenomenon: What has come to count as connectedness is displacing the real thing. And matters might quickly become dramatically worse.”

“Loneliness in “epidemic proportions” is producing a “loneliness literature” of sociological and medical findings about the effect of loneliness on individuals’ brains and bodies, and on communities. Sasse (R-Neb.) says “there is a growing consensus” that loneliness — not obesity, cancer or heart disease — is the nation’s “number one health crisis.” “Persistent loneliness” reduces average longevity more than twice as much as does heavy drinking and more than three times as much as obesity, which often is a consequence of loneliness. Research demonstrates that loneliness is as physically dangerous as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and contributes to cognitive decline, including more rapid advance of Alzheimer’s disease. Sasse says, “We’re literally dying of despair,” of the failure “to fill the hole millions of Americans feel in their lives.”

“Work, which Sasse calls “arguably the most fundamental anchor of human identity,” is at the beginning of “a staggering level of cultural disruption” swifter and more radical than even America’s transformation from a rural and agricultural to an urban and industrial nation. At that time, one response to social disruption was alcoholism, which begat Prohibition. Today, one reason the average American life span has declined for three consecutive years is that many more are dying of drug overdoses — one of the “diseases of despair” — annually than died during the entire Vietnam War. People “need to be needed,” but McKinsey & Co. analysts calculate that, globally, 50 percent of paid activities — jobs — could be automated by currently demonstrated technologies. America’s largest job category is “driver” and, with self-driving vehicles coming, two-thirds of such jobs could disappear in a decade.”

I hope you will read the entire column.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/we-have-an-epidemic-of-loneliness-how-can-we-fix-it/2018/10/12/e8378a38-cd92-11e8-920f-dd52e1ae4570_story.html?utm_term=.e87c12c89089

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