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".
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.