Isolation : Kinds and its Negative Value in Society!
Social interaction involves contact. Contact need not mean the infringement of one body directly upon another. What is necessary is direct or indirect sensory stimulation between the interacting parties.
The stimulus carries a meaning and unless the sensory contact carries a meaning it is not social. The social behaviour of human beings consists of acquired responses to the meaningful responses of other. So, social interaction is communicative interaction.
The absence of communicative interaction or social contact is isolation. It is a situation deprived of social contacts. Both the individual and the group can be isolated. In both cases the consequences of isolation are important. Absolute isolation in the sense that the individual has no contact whatever with other individuals at any time is, of course, purely hypothetical.
Even the child infant is not in situation of isolation. Though he is speechless at the time, yet he remains in contact with the parents who provide him parental care. This parental care is not simply innate and automatic but is meaningful. The child is undergoing the process of socialization through parental care.
Kinds of isolation:
Two main types of isolation may be distinguished—spatial isolation and organic isolation. Spatial isolation is external. It is an enforced deprivation of contacts as for criminals when somebody is banished from the community or put to solitary imprisonment. The individual in such cases is deprived of the protection of his group.
The individuals subjected to spatial isolator become aggressive and show a greater propensity for antisocial behaviour. At one time it was thought that solitary confinement would improve the character of the convicts but it produced horrible results. It led to melancholic mental conditions, sexual abnormalities and anti-social attitudes.
Organic isolation means isolation caused by certain organic defects of the individual such as deafness or blindness. It is not imposed by an external authority but is organic. The deaf and the blind are deprived of experiences common to all healthy men.
Beethoven expressed this forcefully when he said, “My deafness forces me to live in exile.” The deaf and the blind are handicapped in public communication. As a consequence of it they have less chance to choose their friends. They thus lack association by choice and the result is a narrow circle of people with whom one can develop intellectual potentialities.
They may become suspicious, distrustful, and irritable and given to resignation. Such a person may give up the hope of obtaining a normal position in life and may even become a broken personality. Organic isolation is partial isolation.
The sociologists consider shyness a.au a Kind of partial isolation which arises from an inability to make adequate responses in certain spheres in life. It is mostly a consequence of psychic shock suffered during childhood. This shock occurs where the child enters into the realm of secondary contacts. Shyness disturbs the personality. It may even hinder the normal decisiveness of the individual. Celibacy is sometime the consequence of shyness.
Privacy also represents a certain type of partial isolation. Privacy means that the individual withdraws a part of his inner self from public control.
The state itself abstains from regulating certain spheres of individual’s life, such as the matters of private conscience, private convictions, or the family matters.
In modern urban areas the private life of the citizens is protected from the public view, but that is not so in the rural areas where the whole village is concerned with the home life and problems of a peasant. In a village public control penetrates into every aspect of the family life of an individual.
It is so because in a village the range of activities for an individual is connected with the activities of the whole community. In urban areas there is greater possibility of escape into privacy than in rural areas. It may be emphasised that, it is the external circumstances which create a set of attitudes and feelings which are called private.
Privacy is an important aid in the creation of individualisation; it nurtures the tendency to internal individualisation. It creates a double standard of norms, both legal and moral. Excessive privacy may lead to a split in the personality. The inner world of privacy and the world of common activities lose their inner connection and the person comes to live in two separate worlds.
Isolation: Its Negative Value:
Isolation of the individual is considered to be a negative value that may or may not have compensatory advantages. Even the voluntary retirement of the devotee is thought by the devotee himself a terrible price to pay for virtue. Individuals do not prefer isolation. The reasons are obvious. Members of a human society are interdependent.
They cannot satisfy their wants by themselves. They need human company. Then there are a number of acquired tastes that are dependent on others for their satisfaction such as a taste for drama, for songs; for news of the outer world etc. In addition, the structure of human personality is itself a product of social interaction.
When this interaction ceases, human personality tends to decay. The individual’s personality can develop only in the midst of social relationships. Apart from any instrumental value which social relationships may have, they become an end in themselves. The individual has almost a craving for human company. The value of social relationships for social cohesion need hardly be emphasized. No individual can stand complete isolation eternally.
Complete isolation of the individual can hardly be called socially useful. But temporary or partial isolation is sometimes desirable and useful. As a matter of fact, isolation of an individual as a part of the social organization is only temporary and partial.
The individual may sometimes have to withdraw from society, withdraw into himself in order to preserve his personality from dissolution and to retain its wholeness, but if he completely separates himself from society, a retardation of his personality can be expected. The longer and fuller the isolation, the more it is likely to create a deep gap between the ends of the group and those of the individual.
Isolation of Societies and Groups:
Few societies have ever been totally separated from all others for any great length of time. Yet there are instances which represent an extreme degree of societal isolation. Societies may be isolated for two reasons—physical and linguistic: mountains, broad rivers, jungles and other physical barriers have been an important factor in isolating one group from the other groups.
Physical isolation leads to social isolation for a physically isolated group has little opportunity and even less inclination to borrow the culture of other groups. The inhabitants of rugged interior mountainous areas have been little influenced by the cultural developments and historical events of the past few hundred years.
They still preserve their old family life and have still to profit from contact with modern culture. Needless to say that physical accessibility fosters the borrowing of cultural elements from abroad. It is always the strategic locations of the cities which make them the economic, political and social centres of the country.
It may, however, be said that the new transportation devices have broken the physical isolation of the groups and have reduced the significance of mountains, rivers, seas or other geographical factors in determining the culture of a group. What at one time were physical barriers have been developed into routes of travel.
The Atlantic Ocean which at one time had isolated the aborigines of America from Europe has become a route of travel with improvements in shipping technology and in navigation. Present technologies have enabled men to circumvent natural barriers and reduce obstruction to their movements.
If a mountain obstructs a projected railway route, it may be tunneled through. If a Mil stands where an airport is desired, it may be leveled off. In short, physical isolation has now become less significant.
Linguistic isolation has been a much more important factor in delaying cultural borrowing than the physical isolation. We find instances of greater linguistic barriers among peoples who live much closer together. In our country, hundreds of dialects are spoken. The Constitution of India recognises as many as sixteen languages to be the language of the Union of India.
Not only the people of the North and South are strangers to each and unable to communicate with each other, but even the people living in the same region are linguistically isolated from each other because they speak different dialects.
Such linguistic differences constitute effective barriers to social contact among people who are geographically near and have limited inter-group communication even when circumstances have brought the members of different groups together.
A group which remains isolated from other groups on account of typographical or linguistic factors is slow to change. It remains dependent upon traditions, upon ascribed than achieved status and upon sacred values. It misses the effect of cultural cross fertilization. It remains cut off from the rest of the world and is slow at progress.
It fails to draw upon other cultural systems. It is unable to traffic culturally with any other people. Such a group becomes an island of indigenous culture, untouched by the cultural developments of other and even adjacent peoples.
It may also be referred that sometimes isolation may be socially imposed when a particular Government prohibits intercourse with the people of the other country for one reason or the other, or a particular group prohibits its members from coming into contact with the other groups. The practice of untouchability in India is a form of socially imposed isolation.
Social isolation is thus stultifying as it prevents cultural borrowings, but it is sometimes a useful aid to social solidarity and is sometimes an important adjunct of the ethnocentric attitude. The isolated group considers its own particular cultural traits the ideal, indeed, the only permissible modes of conduct.
The members of the group come to love their own ways. Within the society, the integrity of particular groups is reinforced by maintaining social distance towards other groups. Isolation promotes the stability and solidarity of groups. But complete and permanent isolation is hardly socially useful. Partial isolation is useful element in social organization.