David Masciotra in Salon:
A killer stalks the American street. Its weaponry is subtle, but it is responsible for the demolition of countless lives, and the damage of many communities. After it sneaks into a home, it creates social pathology and helps harvest political cruelty. It is loneliness. The United States of America has created a culture of solitary struggle and isolation. It should not shock too many careful observers who consider the predictable consequences of building an entire civilization on the mud and sewage of cutthroat, competitive corporate capitalism. The true meaning of icy bromides like, “rugged individualism,” “pull yourself up by your bootstraps,” and “no free lunch,” is not a celebration of individual freedom as much as it is a “you’re on your own” ethic, or lack thereof, resulting in communal fissure and political friction.
Standards of living the U.S. are generally high, and yet suicide has steadily increased in every state, the homicide rate remains off the charts relative to the rest of the developed world, liver disease from alcohol abuse is on the rise, and opioid overdoses have become so routine in major cities and small towns than many police officers carry, alongside a gun and badge, a dosage of naloxone, a drug that reverses the effects of opioid OD. In their bracing and brilliant book, “A General Theory of Love,” psychiatrists Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini, and Richard Lannon put America on the couch, and their diagnosis is rather grim. “A good deal of modern American culture,” they write, “is an extended experiment in the effects of depriving people of what they crave most.”
That which people most crave are the elements and effects of love — hospitality, community, solidarity — a general feeling of belonging and appreciation coupled with the exercise of moral agency for the benefit of other people. Thomas Aquinas defined love as “actively willing the good of the other.”