A Loss of Human Contact

“Not only time, but place too, becomes commercialised. Civil society depends on environments where people meet, mix, and form attachments that cut across barriers of class or ethnicity. That was one of the historic roles of places of worship, but in other and different ways it is the role of public spaces in general – parks, squares, mixed neighbourhoods, the places you go where you do not have to pay. There are fewer and fewer such environments. Communities become more segregated as the rich move elsewhere. Parks become more dangerous as street crime rises. The great public arenas have become shopping malls and entertainment complexes, but these are not civic spaces. We go there as consumers, not as fellow citizens. More and more of our encounters are disembodied. We communicate increasingly by phone and e-mail, less by personal presence. The result is a loss of human contact and all that implies. Virtual communities are no substitute for the real thing.”

The Dignity of Difference, p. 135