Gretel Killeen

Loneliness, war and pathetic personal relationships

Credit: Stephen De Wolf

Research around the depths of loneliness Australians face has triggered a thought in Gretel Killeen: if loneliness was viewed as the economic burden to government it actually is, would they take more action?



Hello. This article is about the pandemic of loneliness and how it leads to both pathetic personal relationships and also war. I’ve decided to write it like a school essay because this format allows us to reduce complex events and ideologies to just one or two salient points. Other examples of this totally effective form of reductionism are:

  1. The Global Financial Crisis was caused by the collapse of one bank (which was named after three brothers who are not even alive);
  2. Princess Kate is an excellent role model because she loses weight quickly after giving birth, and;
  3. Dinosaurs became extinct because it got cold and also they didn’t have a belief system.

So in conclusion, before I begin, I would like to tell you the title of my essay is “Everything I know about world peace I learnt from pathetic personal relationships in pursuit of the avoidance of loneliness…and also Napoleon Bonaparte.”

A lot has been said lately about the loneliness that is currently creeping over the world like a cat burglar. Or slime. This is because some people did some surveys about this loneliness and then many important people used the surveys to discuss the affects of loneliness on our physical and mental health, it’s subsequent cost to the nation’s health budget and it’s deleterious impact on the nation’s productivity and balance sheet. Some other people then decided to advocate for a Minister for Loneliness to deal with the problem. Ironically, implementing this would presumably cost even more money.

A cheaper thing to do would be to alter the values of our current fundamentally miserable and purposeless society; a society that attaches happiness to acquisitions, and purpose to the accumulation of obscene wealth; a society that pitches fellow humans like arch nemeses in a continuum of eternal competition for “goals” that are either imaginary, unnecessary or in fact obstructive to the fulfilment of the individual, i.e.; the extinguishing of loneliness. This “cheaper” technique would actually cost nothing.

But I digress. And I am also being mean to politicians because without them and economics we would not only be without a measure for human suffering but we would also have no way of determining when we should make efforts to alleviate it! The best way to work out when and if to implement compassion is this calculation:

(media coverage + public concern + cost of compassion plan) ÷ (number of eligible voters affected) x (the number of days til next election).

Anyway, the point is that I would like to use these loneliness surveys to discuss my last boyfriend who I went out with to avoid loneliness, but who turned out to be a right dickwit who made me feel lonelier.

Loneliness is one of the greatest human fears. Sure research shows that moving house and public speaking are traumatic, as is accidentally tucking your dress into your undies and then parading down the Champs Élysées, but humans find even the thought of loneliness so scary that gods are worshipped to make it disappear. Psalm 23 exemplifies this:

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

There is no mention in the bible of undies and the Champs Élysées.

But how does loneliness lead to war? Well it mightn’t but it could. Because our fear of loneliness means that lots of us will do whatever is necessary to avoid it. This translates not only to settling for shitty personal relationships but also to modifying our dreams, ambitions, goals, values and politics in order to not be alone. This means many of us follow those who not only claim to be like us and promise to take care of us but, at the same time, fuel our fear of loneliness by alienating us from others by focusing on their differences. And fear of difference can lead to hatred and hatred can lead to war. Which ironically is very expensive and costs more than it gains and is therefore not economically viable.

Thank you. Oh, and also…Napoleon Bonaparte.


Gretel Killeen is a writer and performer
insta and twitter: @gretelkilleen


Gretel Killeen

Gretel Killeen is the author of more than twenty books. At various times she hosts radio and television programs across the country, works as a journalist, stand-up comic and voice artist, and writes and directs feature films and documentaries.

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