21 September 2008

Urbanization & the emotional pollution issue

The other day, while attending a call from one of my relatives, I was asked about my place and my neighbors. Though, It was just another casual conversation; suddenly, I realized that I am not aware of the people living in my neighborhood. However, it is not a matter of great concern if you happen to live in some urban society. Particularly, in developed countries, people do not have time for their neighbors and they refrain from saying hi to the people they don't know.

Urbanization is a complex process in which a country's organized communities become larger, more specialized and more interdependent. The process refers to much more than simple population growth; it involves changes in the economic, social and political structures of a region. Among several changes caused by urbanization, I am going to talk about the social & emotional changes that have made people 'strangers' in their own society.

I recall a story: In 1999, Paris district assembly member Atanase Perifan visited the apartment of an elderly woman living by herself. When he got there, he found her dead. It was determined that she had died a month earlier. A neighbor living on the same floor told Perifan, "I'd never seen her before". Perifan was Shocked, he thought that if there had been more neighborly interaction, this tragedy might have been prevented. Later on, Perifan went on to call on fellow French people to have a "neighbors' festival".

It's not only the relationship among neighbors, but also the family values are suffering a set back in course of rapid urbanization. The urban families, today, are under unprecedented financial, social, and environmental stress, making it difficult for parents to create loving, stable homes for their children. This stress and anxiety is vanishing the values in a family and giving rise to what we call as 'emotional pollution'. Please read the following story of a ten-year old boy and his father.

A ten-year-old named Alan was living through his parents divorce. The father he had adored and trusted was no longer coming home at night. His relationship with that father had dwindled to every other weekend and trying to cram all his love into 48 hours.

He held onto hope that things would change and his Dad would begin to pay more attention. He watched as his father moved further and further away from him emotionally. He wanted to yell out, to ask his Dad to not change, to continue to love him and find him important. He felt as if he were standing on a ledge and there was no one to catch him if he should fall and it wasn't a feeling he knew how to deal with. He decided to be brave, to go to his Dad and try to explain, in the best way a 10 year old can, that he was hurting and needing his Dad's attention.
Catching his breath and pumping out his chest, Alan, mustered up all his courage. He was afraid of hurting his Dad so he put much thought into what he would say. It was important to be gentle because the last thing he would ever want to do is hurt his Dad's feelings. So, with courage and a great love for his Dad he wrote these words in an email. "Dad, I love you and when you don't call me or come to see me, it hurts my feelings."

He used to check his email daily, several times a day. Alan was certain that his father will understand and that things will begin to get better. Two days after he sent his email he got his much awaited response from his Dad. He wrote, "Alan, your feelings aren't my responsibility. If your feelings are hurt then you just need to change your feelings." When Alan read that email he knew in his heart that his Dad had moved to far away emotionally for things to ever be normal again.

One can feel the pain and confusion of that child. Our imaginations lead us down the road into the future and we wonder what path such an emotionally polluted and injured child will take. The truth is, this is a narrative about the narcissistic behavior of a father and how his son is victimized by it.

The story narrated above might look like a case of extremely developed (?) urban society. If we, as a less developed country people who still believe in family values, think that such emotional pollution does not exist in our society, then we are, probably, wrong. In this era of globalization and our thirst for rapid development, sooner or later, we might also import this problem in our society.

The hunt for happiness is an ancient human desire. A vital question is: though, the world is trying hard to achieve high economic growth but how much happier is getting the place? In fact, by measures such as depression, crime, obesity and alcoholism, we have got very much unhappier. Shouldn't politics be focused around more than just economic growth? Shouldn't politics be as concerned with measures of human happiness?

There is a need to discuss how to regulate emotional pollution in much the way we now discuss environmental pollution. The list starts with advertising, which, at times, may be bad for our emotional health. It induces dissatisfaction with its discriminatory comparisons with an affluent elite. Television channels almost always are engaged in displaying disproportionate volume of violence and fraught relationships, which make people unhappy, less creative and cut them off from emotionally healthy activities such as sports or seeing friends.

What should be done to minimize the emotional pollution problem? Well, we can't stop urbanization. But, what we can do is, probably, encourage the traditional cultures, festivals that will promote harmony and brotherhood in the society. There should be a strong rationale to increase subsidies for festivals, parks, theaters, community groups, amateur dramatics, sports clubs and lots of other adorable things. We must keep our eyes open before it (emotional pollution) actually spreads in our society.

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Alok said...

Hmmm...interesting concept! I haven't heard about this term 'emotional pollution' before but surely there are psychological problems existing in our society due to the development activities. people are always stressed and, competition is becoming tough day by day, making life difficult to live. btw, the story about 10-year old boy is very touching.

Sujan said...

Deependra dai

There is always something new,refreshing touch in your post. But this one "Emotional pollution", i feel, is a very nice issue, technically and emotionally. Not only in the developed country, even developing country is now marred with this problem, which can be judged by the steep increase in the number of depressed people. It's high time for each one of the society to take a measure for it's reduction.

उजेली on September 22, 2008 at 10:24 PM said...

Very interesting topic and a good issue indeed.I liked it !!!!

Lukmanul Hakim said...

Hi Deependra!
"Emotional pollution" is kind of a new term to me, yet, it is a very interesting topic and I believe it occurs in the current society in this world. Of course, no need to blame the advancement we have achieved today. The post itself suggests a solution i.e. maintaining traditional family values, usually found in the eastern hemisphere.

Anonymous said...

Dear All,
Thanks for your views & comments on this ever growing 'issue'. Negative emotions are most likely to be caught by human beings than the positive ones, in this era of extreme competition & insufficiency. Due to the effect of Emotional pollution, we either convince ourselves of a elusive sense of value for everyone we come-across, or run the risk of absorbing their subtle negativity. Once negative thoughts start prevailing, the normal behavior becomes difficult to anticipate.
Dear Lokman, you are right, probably, in pointing that traditional family values are usually found in the eastern hemisphere. But, the scenario is changing quite dramatically there too.

Basanta Gautam on September 26, 2008 at 7:51 AM said...

Nice post Deependrajee! Modernity is not much friendly for family life and emotional relationships. It is a big problem because you can't stop the modernization and stay undeveloped for the sake of of good emotional 'harmony'. The trend is towards more and more urbanization. But emotional harmony is essential and without it human society, as we understand, ceases to exist. So we must try to make modernity as 'human' as possible. I don't know much about in this regard, but we can study different societies which are well developed and modernized. Some of them must be having emotional harmony as well as modernity. Not all the developed societies are as dry as we think.

By the way, the (newly coined?) term 'emotional pollution' was a new one to me.

Nepali Blog Awards on September 26, 2008 at 7:55 PM said...


You have a nice blog here. We would like you to join our network of Nepali blogs, and competitions. http://nepaliblogawards.blogspot.com


United Voices on September 27, 2008 at 12:49 AM said...

Must say a quite a rich content blog. Very well sorted content too. cool.

Anonymous said...

Dear Basantji,
I am happy that you liked the post. of course, we can't stay undeveloped for the sake of good emotional 'harmony' but, probably, you have rightly pointed that we must try to make modernity as 'human' as possible. The term "Emotional pollution" is comparatively newer concept and people have recently started talking about it seriously, I guess.

Dear "Nepali Blog Awards" team,
I have already added a link to this blog. I appreciate your effort in bringing Nepali blogs on a common network.

Dear friend from "United Voices",
Thanks for your compliment. hope to hear from you again.

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