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Alienation: How Modern Culture Makes Men Feel Lost

Gentlemen, these are strange times. A time for opportunity, change, and growth if you make it so. Nevertheless, strange times will either make or break you. Times that seem to push us towards an abyss, into alienation. Alienation is a state by which an individual becomes isolated from the world around them. In this sense, alienation is a process of transformation of consciousness that can occur both in a person and in modern culture. 

As a product of alienation, people behave contrary to what was expected of them because of their condition. 

The feeling of alienation is spreading again – whether it is alienation at work, in love, or in life itself. It is again allowed to talk about the social framework for a successful life. 

Being Alienated

The question is, among other things, whether we should think that in some households the smartphone has replaced Nanuk the house dog. Or if technology has redefined humanity. These questions are not easy to answer. In that sense, social theorists struggle with it if they are to decide whether our society is in decline. This can be read – as we know since Adorno – also from the handling of things around us, be it the refrigerator or the smartphone. 

At first glance, the revocation of the digital world is, of course, easy for the cultural critic. Even before exploring the last sub-menus of the new mobile phone, the next generation of products is on the shelves – what is the point of penetrating a device in all its functional diversity? 

Many feel the same way as the sociologist Hartmut Rosa from the University of Jena. “The time I take to get acquainted with the things is getting shorter and shorter, and the feeling that I have with it, always stately”, writes Rosa in The Diplomatic World. “They are so great, and I do not understand them at all, I do not bother with them I can not wait until they have a little quirk so I can throw them away.” 

Because buying is fun. Or perhaps because comfort is more appealing than growth. So it happened to him with many things, so that the scientist aptly described in a quote by Ödön von Horvath described: “Actually, I’m very different, except that I’m not to.”

A Life Being Involved

One of the greatest risks men can experience is living in a state of permanent passivity. That in which we let ourselves be carried away, dragged by the stimuli and circumstances, limiting ourselves only to exist, but not to feel. That where we dissolve in our obligations to such an extent that one’s life sooner or later becomes another obligation. Hope is then diluted from our horizon and men give way to an aseptic and purposeless existence.

We must have it clear: to live means to be involved. It means taking risks, being brave even though fear bites and having not one, but dozens of purposes to get up every day. Although sometimes, and there is our mistake, we choose the easy way: conformism. 

We are satisfied with what we already have, even if it is not our size and does not bring us happiness. We do it this way because it’s better to have a bird in hand than a hundred flying. Although, yes, when we open our hands, there is not even a bird, only feathers, only the sad glimpse of what seemed like a promise, in reality, it was nothing. Only a dream, false security.

Alienation From The World

Many late-modern men suffered from a sense of alienation from things and the world. It’s not just about ripping with the digital world. This problem could be solved in many cases with the sledgehammer and with the return to the analogous primitive world.

This is a discussion that would hardly have been conceivable ten years ago – the term was too discredited by the paternalism of both left and right cultural pessimism. For decades, the discussion about alienation was automatically linked to the question: alienation of what? 

This was followed by the speech of the false needs that people had been accused of. While he, the cultural critic, knew how to define the good life. Many rightfully resisted being told what was good for them. 

This essentialism is rightly dead.

The social philosopher, Rahel Jaeggi at the Humboldt University in Berlin, discussed this matter in her book “Alienation”. On the relevance of a social-philosophical problem (campus) pleaded again to ask the question of the good life – without requiring people how they have to live. She describes, among other things, how the unsuccessful life of people who feel alienated in their social roles, are dominated by unwanted wishes or suffer from their indifference to their environment. 

There is the gifted young mathematician, who once led wildlife between obsessive work and excessive nightlife. Eventually gets married, having a baby, and moving to the suburbs. He suddenly sees himself driving the station wagon to the mall every Saturday to fill the freezer, trying to get home in time to mow the lawn before the barbecue. 

All quite normal, actually inevitable, but at some point, he is shocked by the realization that his life is strangely frozen and unreal. “The problem of the mathematician is the loss of control”, Jaeggi described in an interview in this situation. “He does not live his life, but his life lives on him.” For the analysis of such experiences, the alienation concept is suitable.

The Dark Side of Work Alienation

The cases of those workers who are not enthusiastic about their work and who see it mainly as a way of pulling, as a means to survive even if precariously, as usual, are relatively frequent. Despite the alienation imposed by the work, these types of cases are different. Because the workers do not have a special attachment to the work they perform, they carry it out because there is no other choice. 

This latent discontent, and that each worker copes the best way he can, establishes certain limits to the level of commitment to his work.

It works only to the extent that it is a source of sustenance, but there is no unconditional surrender to work, nor a special identification with it. Because of this, the worker has certain limits concerning what he would be willing to do for his work, normally to maintain a regular income. It is, after all, the source of innumerable torments.

Parental Alienation Syndrome?

Although this syndrome has not yet been accepted in the psychiatric manual, its existence is undeniable.

Under the name of parental alienation, a syndrome is known that consists of a child, apparently unjustified, constantly denigrates, insults, and rejects one of their parents. It is considered a psychopathological disorder present in children who have been subject to “brainwashing” by one of their parents. To damage the affective bonds of the child with the other parent. 

Essentially, it refers to the child’s separation from one of the parents after a divorce. It is, in fact, a form of psychological abuse towards children. 

It is known by all that children are often used as weapons in the separations of their parents. One of the parents can manipulate it in their favor, through insults, scorn, mockery, derogatory adjectives … disparaging and discrediting the other to win the battle of custody. 

This can lead to a separation of the child from the other parent, which is usually extended to his family, despising him with a hostile and cruel feeling. They assume as their own the feelings that have been inculcated through emotional manipulation. 

The main victims of these manipulations are children with devastating consequences for them.

Meditation, Healthy Eating, Faith in A Higher Power

Rather, an alienated life is characterized by certain formal criteria, above all the fact that people independently pursue projects with which they can identify themselves. Is something somehow connectable, does it make experiences possible or does it hinder them? “

In this respect, it would be nonsensical to praise each of the previous social states as less alienated. Rather, the academic social theory must once again dare to ask the systematic question of the good life. For example, is work organized in such a way that people can identify with it? Does visiting the pedestrian precinct cause a cold horror or invites you to linger? 

It is unlikely that this question can be solved by reading the Lucky Guidebooks that pile up in the bookstores. Because this shifts the problem to the individual level alone: meditation, healthy eating, jogging, visiting friends, and having a deep connection to a higher power, maybe even caressing iPads and cats can contribute to your well-being. But beyond that, it is again allowed to talk about the social framework conditions for a successful life.


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