Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Web of Affinities

In 1871, George Eliot published Middlemarch, frequently heralded as one of the greatest novels ever written. In it, she describes British society in terms of a 'web of affinities', a lasting and integral patterning of human existence. We are all connected, is her message, and I am inclined to agree.

Think about it for a minute. How many times have you picked up the telephone to speak to a close friend about your woes, to find that they are experiencing something similar. You open a novel to find the sentiments are yours; even something as everyday as an American television show, raises issues or questions that you yourself have recently been pondering. When you flick through a recently published journal you find that it is themed. That would suggest that scholars are thinking along the same lines, at the same time: literally, great minds thinking alike.

I have discussed before, how we all live in villages. It doesn't matter how large the community you inhabit, you live in a village. Do we create these villages to maintain the web of affinities?

The cyber world makes the web far more intricate, but far more accessible. The world of difference out there is a little closer than it was 100 years ago. In the cyber world, apparently, we all speak the same language. So, what's the problem? Why, if we have this ubiquitous access to others, is the world unharmonious? Does the web of affinities mean that we are afraid of difference or does it actively seek to erradicate or ameliorate it? Contrary to popular belief, the social networking world doesn't serve as an opportunity to bring us together but on the contrary, simply allows us to maintain the 'web of affinities' with people who are like us. The small communities that Eliot wrote of in 1871 are no bigger. History truly repeats itself.

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