The rapidly mounting toll of modern life is worse than we could have imagined. A metamorphosis rushes onward, changing the texture of living, the whole feel of things. In the not-so-distant past this was still only a partial modification; now the Machine converges on us, penetrating more and more to the core of our lives, promising no escape from its logic.
The only stable continuity has been that of the body, and that has become vulnerable in unprecedented ways. We now inhabit a culture, according to Furedi (1997), of high anxiety that borders on a state of outright panic. Postmodern discourse suppresses articulations of suffering, a facet of its accommodation to the inevitability of further, systematic desolation. The prominence of chronic degenerative diseases makes a chilling parallel with the permanent erosion of all that is healthy and life-affirming inside industrial culture. That is, maybe the disease can be slowed a bit in its progression, but no overall cure is imaginable in this context–which created the condition in the first place.
As much as we yearn for community, it is all but dead. McPherson, Smith-Lovin and Brashears (American Sociological Review 2006) tell us that 19 years ago, the typical American had three close friends; now the number is two. Their national study also reveals that over this period of time, the number of people without one friend or confidant has tripled. Census figures show a correspondingly sharp rise in single-person households, as the technoculture — with its vaunted “connectivity” — grows steadily more isolating, lonely and empty.
In Japan “people simply aren’t having sex” (Kitamura 2006) and the suicide rate has been rising rapidly. Hikikimori, or self-isolation, finds over a million young people staying in their rooms for years. Where the technoculture is most developed, levels of stress, depression and anxiety are highest.