“I Want To Be Let Alone”

Greta Garbo was mimicked in a faux Swedish accent for saying “I vant to be alone”. Originally a line from one of her movies, observers noted that it fit her role in private life. She once clarified that attribution as false and a correct version was “I want to be let alone”. That made all the difference.

I think Garbo’s point was that she was in control of her own life and didn’t want anybody’s advice or interference in living it. She retired from her film career partly because she would not compromise with an industry which compels its stars to become something akin to public property.

Garbo was hounded in retirement. Given to regularly taking long walks around Manhattan, it became a New York phenomenon to make “Garbo sightings” or encounters.

Why all this attention?

I think she had committed the “sin” of being an individual in an increasingly collectivist society. Individualist America has been regressing politically to a more collectivist culture since the advent of the Progressive Era.

A society that reveres the individual is one that respects privacy. Collectivism considers the individual a member of the group, class or tribe to which he belongs.

Garbo was exclusively concerned with her self, free to choose with whom she would associate. She wasn’t turning her back to the world.


Fortunately for Garbo she didn’t reside in contemporary Toronto, where there are numerous public institutions to deal with recalcitrant individuals.

The Toronto Foundation conducts “quality of life” studies and has recently found “more Toronto residents living isolated lives”.

Global News cites Sean Meagher, executive director of “Social Planning Toronto” who offers possible reasons for the fact that “. . . almost 70,000 homes in Toronto are made up of unrelated people . . ..”

The “Vital Signs” report, apparently conducted annually, points to “potential health risks for those living alone.” There are references to many other independent studies which address these and other “potential” issues.

Does anyone think to ask how all this “social planning” and “independent study” is financed and whether it adds any real value for anyone?

Also why?

Why is there such a discipline as “social planning”? It seems to be conducted by a privileged number of individuals who presume to know what is the best way for the rest of the individuals in society to live.

“Living in isolation” according to these “social planners” is fraught with all kinds of negatives. They’ve got the matter covered with programs encouraging “loners” to mingle.

It never seems to occur to them that a significant number of the 70,000 homes in Toronto made up of “unrelated people” are individuals who have chosen this lifestyle.

Like Garbo, they might just want to be let alone.

2 thoughts on ““I Want To Be Let Alone”

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