David Brooks’ article, “The Great Affluence Fallacy” discusses the trends towards individualism and isolationism that has characterized life in the 21st century US. He illustrates his arguments by talking about the way that the customs and lifestyle of Native Americans was so favored by colonists that Europeans were loathe and resistant to remaining with their fellow colonists. I had never heard anything like that about life in the colonies, but it really makes sense because there is so much emphasis on consumerism and capitalism becoming a sickness in our society.

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The constant use of electronic devices and social media to create the semblance of relationships has tended to leave people feeling lonely, isolated, and longing for real human contact. Brooks correctly observes the tendency of the millennials to reach out to each other on a more local level, forming communities rather than remaining in individual bubbles or households.

I have read a great deal recently about how many nontraditional families are living together, not only polygamist couples but also just groups of people that decide to live together and either combine to form families will bring all their families to live together. Undoubtedly what drives these people is a need for camaraderie, companionship, a sense of family, and the desire to be part of something larger than oneself. I believe that this is exactly what Mr. Brooks is referring to when he describes the coldness that many people experience because we have been using affluence to consume bigger and bigger things, have more privacy, and yet as he says it seems to “backfire. It was a striking fact that according to the World Health Organization, the people that live in countries like the United States, i.e. the wealthier countries, have higher rates of mental illness including depression than people who have very few material goods. That is the Great Affluence Fallacy. People seek individual privacy but actually that may make their situations worse in many instances.

It is unclear when reading the column whether or not in colonial times the people were as focused on privacy and individualism as they are today. Clearly Mr. Brooks’ point is that whatever the case, they seemed to prefer to reside with the Indians and take on their cultural features, more tribalism than the colonists were used to. I know that rugged individualism was a core concept in the country from its inception, i.e. there is a great deal of value placed on “pulling oneself up by the bootstraps” to survive and succeed. This reflects the American value of going it alone and accomplishing one’s goals without any help. Mr. Brooks is referring to that aspect of American culture that discourages participation as a community or tribe, and tends to put more worth on affluence, materialism, and individualism. I had never read or heard anything about the kind of tribalism exhibited by Native Americans that was so appealing that even the colonists chose to remain with the tribes and adapt their communal lifestyles. It makes sense because as John Donne said, “no man is an island unto himself”. The emphasis placed on self-sufficiency in our culture results in a society of separateness and alienation with more value placed on accumulating things rather than accumulating people.

“The Great Affluence Fallacy” describes the contrast between the Native American culture of community and working as part of the team and the modern US culture in which people work as individuals and are focused on accumulating wealth. The piece highlights the emotional bankruptcy of American society which no longer values tribalism. Instead, citizens are destined to live their lives and ultimately die wealthy but alone, as opposed to the Native American culture that placed a value on togetherness and interpersonal relationships.