A Safe Distance

Safety                   -          Danger
Distanced             -          Close
Frictionless          -          Friction
Disconnected       -          Connected
Formal                  -          Informal
Smooth                 -          Rough
Efficient               -           Inefficient

Sidney Jourard, a University of Florida psychologist, visited caf├ęs in different parts of the world and recorded the number of times two people who were sharing a coffee touched each other.

In London, the tally was 0; in Gainesville, Florida, 2; in Paris 110; and in San Juan, Puerto Rico, more than 180.

Most sociologists would agree that societies like those in the Mediterranean countries (Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Egypt, for example) are contact societies, whereas the more northern societies in countries such as Holland, Great Britain, and the United States are not.

The physician P. N. K. Heylings wrote an article in the British Medical Journal entitled, "The No Touching Epidemic - an English Disease." The symptoms he describes include feelings of loneliness and isolation, doubts about other people's loyalties, feelings of insecurity, emotional inhibitions, unusual reactions both to being inadvertently touched and to touching others, inability to communicate with people standing nearby, and antagonism to massages as a form of therapy.

Other observational studies to determine the effects of touch on public behavior have been conducted in New England. In one study, shoppers were touched by a salesman offering pizza samples. The customers who were touched were more influenced by the salesperson, they liked that person more, and more of them felt the salesperson liked them more.

[Tiffany Field]
Touch, p.22-4

I remember growing up in Romania where if you wanted to make a good friend you would have to make what would now be called a ‘racist’ joke. There were a patchwork of ethnicities in my area and […] the easiest, most succinct way to get on someone’s nerves was to say something about [their race].

There was [an] ease […] and there wasn’t really limits, there wasn’t really the idea of getting into trouble for saying [something offensive].

I feel like now because we’re always trying to have purely consensual, purely don’t-step-on-my-toes relationships, it acts as a buffer between people. You can never really reach out and have those [close relationships].

I’ve always likened this to banter on a construction crew or the military - their lives depend on each other, and they’re not going to be courteous to each other because that’s how you build trust. Because we’re trying to have this really ‘pleasant’ society - you never want to be offensive - but that also keeps you away from [close] relationships. There’s always a layer of keep-away.

[Alex Kaschuta]
‘Patrick Deneen - Liberalism and the Meaning of Freedom’, YouTube

Forgiveness, not tolerance, furnished the proper corrective to the egoism and self-righteousness of groups, Niebuhr argued. "The religious ideal of forgiveness is more profound and more difficult than the rational virtue of tolerance.”

Niebuhr endorsed G. K. Chesterton's observation that tolerance is the attitude of those who do not believe in anything.

Forgiveness, on the other hand, made it possible for contending groups to fight to the death without denying each other’s humanity - “to engage in social struggles with a religious reservation.” Since the sources of social conflict could not be eradicated, it was “more important to preserve the spirit of forgiveness amidst the struggles than to seek islands of neutrality.”

[Christopher Lasch]
The True and Only Heaven, p.375-6

Related posts:-
Maintaining the balance