More Than Money
Issue #37

Money and Community

Table of Contents


The Connection Gap:
Why Americans Feel So Alone
By Laura Pappano
(Rutgers University Press, 2001)

Reviewed by Mara Peluso

Laura Pappano's incisive book grows more relevant with each passing year. The author examines the feeling of disconnection that seems to increasingly pervade American society-disconnection from ourselves, our communities, and our society. Pappano defines this "connection gap" as a "collective loneliness, an empty feeling that comes not from lack of all human interaction, but from the loss of meaningful interaction, the failure to be a part of something real, or to have faith in institutions that bring us together."

For More Than Money Journal readers, one of the more interesting aspects of the book may be Pappano's discussion of how our relationship with money widens the connection gap. Our constant quest to be more and to have more, she observes, has cost us: It has deprived us of the fulfillment that comes from feeling part of something larger than ourselves. To feel good, we treat ourselves to a new gadget or a makeover, rather than call an old friend or visit a neighbor. Driven by a consumer ethic, says Pappano, we have °redefined our goals in materialistic terms, driving us to reach for the better house, the better car, and the more exotic vacation, instead of reaching for the better quality of life, the deeper, more satisfying relationship, or the better society."

As a community or a country, services we used to provide for one another-such as bringing food to a sick neighbor -now require government programs and our tax dollars to replace us. Pappano argues that this has led to a lack of emotional investment in the well-being of others. "There is no common cloth, no linking threads-one reason, perhaps, why resentment of those getting public assistance has risen over the years: We don't see ourselves as linked to them."

How can we reconnect to our communities, our families, and ourselves? Pappano offers suggestions, including making time for conversation, unplugging the Internet, and becoming a volunteer. More importantly, she suggests that our ability to reconnect is, in fact, fairly uncomplicated: "The connection gap is here not because we invited it but because we have not pushed it away. The challenge seems daunting, and yet the solution is straightforward: Only connect." The question is: Are we willing to make the effort required? Are we willing to step outside ourselves and become engaged, connected members of our communities?

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