I guess I've heard this a dozen times or so, and it's still funny.
See this article in the Catholic Herald.
I don't, obviously, try to follow the news here. I didn't even write about the October 7th invasion/massacre in Israel, or anything that's followed it, but I have certainly given it a lot of my attention. But this seems significant in a way not very far distant from some of the things I do write about, e.g. posts in the "Catholic Stuff" category, to warrant mention.
Peterson is an interesting guy. Interesting and smart. I haven't read any of his books but I've seen him in interviews and talks and he has, as you probably know, a great many very sensible things to say, and apparently a strong and healthy respect for the religious traditions of Western civilization. That's enough to make him unusual for someone who has as much popular appeal as he does. I don't think anyone would be surprised if he followed his wife into the Church.
This one actually appeared on the 15th, so is more than ten days old. But it didn't get any less ridiculous.
It appeared in National Review, and, as you might suppose, it's a government-skeptical response to an outlandish idea for a new government project.
I just can't think of anything much to say about the very idea that government could possibly do anything at all about loneliness. I think you have to be...well, I won't say crazy, but definitely somewhat off, to believe that it could. And as for the alleged "loneliness crisis," the term suggests that, as with inflation, there is some acceptable level of loneliness in society, that it can be measured, and that when it exceeds the acceptable level Somebody Ought To Do Something.
That widespread loneliness exists is surely true; that it's worse and more widespread than it used to be is probably true. That the government, which is to say politicians and bureaucrats, can or should try to do something about it is extremely doubtful. George W. Bush once said "When people are hurting, government has to act." In context, which was a natural disaster, the remark made more sense, but still, it struck me as odd.
Ok, that's all pretty goofy. But the NR story is responding to something that strikes me as being out-and-out crazy. It's a press release from the office of the governor of New York:
You remember "Dr. Ruth," right? An old bawd--that was always my impression of her--who ran a talk show giving sex advice? She's now 94 years old but is nevertheless ready to "work day and night to help New Yorkers feel less lonely!" Filling in the background, the press release defines the terms for us: "Loneliness is defined as the feeling of being alone, regardless of the amount of social interaction, while social isolation refers to a lack of social connections."
There's a great deal to mock in that press release, but it's more trouble than it's worth. (Why is it an ambassador to loneliness? How can you have an ambassador to an emotion? Why not to the lonely?) And anyway the word "honorary" suggests that it's only meant as a gesture. I'll just make one broader observation: Dr. Ruth's career (my impression confirmed by Wikipedia) was as a propagandist for the sexual revolution. Like essentially all of that stripe, she apparently has never considered the possibility that the success of that revolution may have contributed to the loneliness and other social ills that she does at least notice. No; the solution is always that the revolution has not gone far enough and must push ever onward. It's as if the successors of Robespierre and Company had concluded that the problem was that too few heads had been separated from bodies, and more must roll.
Some social progressives seem to be very close to proclaiming something which is strongly implied by things like this: that the enemy is the human condition, and that they intend to eliminate it. Which perhaps they are doing, but not exactly in the way they imagine.
Here's a current ridiculous headline, from the Washington Post:
This is funny because "blue" America is constantly striving to dictate how "red" America is run, and has been doing so for many years. It's a major component of Democratic Party politics now, as well as of the work of many progressive institutions. And it's a major component of the forces dividing the country. (I haven't looked at the story; it's behind a pretty opaque paywall.)