This "have it all society" is destroying communities, the backbone of society and ultimately our collective emotional wellbeing. Human Beings need roots, need to be part of a bigger whole and most importantly, they need to belong. Denying this whilst fostering a virtual social reality is unsustainable and leading to emotional unhappiness and the breakdown of Society.
Now I'm no Socialist, far from it, and neither do I advocate any kind of economic or social equality. This for me isn't really about wealth, income, aspirations and opportunities, it's about caring. About wanting to be part of something bigger than the self.
I always wanted a large family and have struggled to reconcile my ideal with the reality which is often dealing with symptoms of chronic illness and the behaviour challenges of Autism and ADHD. But that's our reality and our family and however tough it often is I kick back at the urge to abandon all hope of us functioning as that all important central unit. True, there are times when "divide and conquer" works best, when six of us en masse just doesn't work, but in my opinion that is one of the unique advantages of a larger family. There are simply more people to go round.
With Christmas on the horizon it's the obvious time to focus on the next level of belonging - the extended family. Whether your family are local or international, that next level of belonging really matters, and most people understand that. But what many are missing is the sense of belonging to the next level up - we live our busy lives hurtling to and from from our homes with little thought for our neighbours. When was the last time you connected with your local village network? Got involved with your suburb/town/street? The Street parties of 2012 to celebrate the Queen's Jubilee were a wonderful but anomalous event in the isolated existence of many. Too few of us find the time or inclination to get involved in anything more than the essential daily grind.
It IS a big ask to jump out of the hamster wheel of life and take a look around though. A scary thought that we won't be able to jump back in where we left off, or that we might get left behind if that wheel is in fact a ball heading somewhere. (you know how I love my hamster analogies ;) ) But those people I know who do give back receive far more than they give.
Maslows Hierachy of Needs (above) includes a Sense of Belonging as a fundamental base for self esteem. Yet we increasingly try and exist without it. Like the majority of people my age I benefit hugely from Social Media, and try to give as much back - but it isn't enough on its own. I miss the daily social interaction with real people, as my children have got older there are fewer playdates, no toddler groups, and it's even longer since I worked. I've tried volunteering, but always, ALWAYS there are restrictions, barriers against community involvement which are now everywhere, actively preventing us from participating, linking up, getting involved.
A member of an Autism support forum I am a member of today explained how her son cannot send Christmas cards to his friends because it is against school policy to give out class lists because it is a breach of confidentiality. I was completely stunned by this but it really sums up where our society is heading. Over the three years my second son was at his previous school I only got to know two other parents. Two. And during that entire time he never received a single party invitation, or invitation to tea with another child. And the school wondered why their PTA received no real support and struggled to organise events which were then poorly attended?
We are straitjacketing ourselves and our children, preventing them and us from making essential community connections in the name of Health and Safety. Those three words guaranteed to precipitate a response from anyone you say them to are actively reducing our chances of belonging, of being part of a community.
SO it's all very well for the Government to bang on about "Big Society", but Society doesn't stand a chance in the modern world without active support, instead of constantly erecting barriers which actively prevent and inhibit it. CRB checks have taken on a life of their own, and the perceived threat and endemic suspicion of others perpetuated by those who should be encouraging rather than scaremongering is dissolving those community jigsaw pieces and reducing their size.
Its going to take a lot more than a bit of volunteering to put our Society back together again. We need to start growing and nurturing our communities first and then start fitting them together. I only hope we can - before it's too late.