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Alienation: How Modern Culture Makes Men Feel Lost


Gentlemen, life comes down to a choice. These are times to seek deeper connections with others, opportunity, and growth. Or times that can push us toward the abyss of alienation. And yes, this abyss is staring right back. Alienation is a state by which an individual becomes isolated from the world around them. In this sense, alienation is a process of consciousness transformation that can occur at a personal and cultural level. 

Alienation, isolation, and division are spreading like a pandemic. Perhaps the true pandemic of our generation. Be it in work, love/dating, or life in general, we seem to grow farther and farther away from each other. And worse, farther away from ourselves. 

Being Alienated

In regard to alienation, the question is, among other things, whether the smartphone has replaced, Marley, the house dog. Or if technology has redefined humanity for the better or worse. These questions are not easy to answer. In that sense, social theorists struggle with it if we are to decide whether our society is in decline.

At first glance, the revocation of the digital world is easy for the cultural critic. Even before considering the “latest” smartphone, the next generation and iteration are on the shelves and in Youtube ads. So what is the point of penetrating a device in all its functional diversity? 

Many feel the same way as 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.” 

Materialism gives us a false sense of fulfillment and joy. Perhaps in the same way that porn gives men a false sense of gratification. Or that being “a man” gives some men a false sense of superiority. Or perhaps because some men find comfort more appealing than growth

An Involved Life

One of the most detrimental states men can experience is living in a state of permanent passivity. A state where we let ourselves be carried away, dragged by the stimuli and circumstances. Effectively limiting ourselves only to exist, and not to feel. That is where we dissolve in our obligations to such an extent that one’s life sooner or later becomes another chore. 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. Especially in our communities and “tribes”. It means taking risks, and taking courage as a shield when fear grips us. Effectively having a deep purpose to get up and fight for every day. 

Sadly, some men are satisfied with what they have. Even if it is not what they genuinely desire in life. They live this way because society has taught them that a bird in hand is worth two in the bush. 

Alienation From The World

Many late-modern men suffer from a sense of alienation from the world. It’s not just about ripping with the digital world. In many cases, this problem could be solved with the return to the analogous primitive work of the way of men.

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? Followed by a regimen of anti-depressants with labels on them: “M, T, W, T, F, S, S”.

This was followed by a speech about the false needs that people had been accused of. While he/she, the cultural critic, knew how to define the good life. 

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 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. And suffer from their indifference to their environment. 

A gifted young mathematician, who once led a wild life between obsessive work and excessive nightlife eventually gets married, has a baby, and moves to the suburbs. He suddenly sees himself driving an SUV to the grocery store every Sunday. Scurrying to get home in time to mow the lawn before the barbecue and Football game.

Almost inevitably he is shocked by the realization that his life is strangely frozen and numb. “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.

So is Alienation a matter then of letting life happen to you but not from you?

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 means to survive, even if precariously, are 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 to the extent that it is a source of sustenance. But there is no unconditional surrender to work, nor a special identification with it. Therefore, the worker has certain limits concerning what he would be willing to do for his work. Normally to maintain a regular income, work then becomes the source of innumerable torments.

Parental Alienation Syndrome?

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

Parental alienation syndrome consists of a child, apparently unjustified, constantly denigrating, insulting, and rejecting one or both of their parents. It is considered a psychopathological disorder in children who have been subject to “brainwashing” by one of their parents. It damages the bonds of the child with the other parent. 

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

Children are often used as weapons in the separation of their parents. One of the parents can manipulate it in their favor, through insults, scorn, mockery, derogatory adjectives, disparaging, and discrediting. The goal is to win custody. We see this over and over again, and often in the favor of the mother without proper justification or factual basis.

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

The victims of these manipulations are children. Often with devastating long-term consequences for them. In the same way, the consequences of this pandemic are yet to be seen in children. Time will only tell what sort of repercussions such events will have on society long-term.

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 which they can identify themselves with. 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 invite you to linger? 

It is unlikely that this question can be answered by reading the Lucky Guidebooks that pile up in the Self-Help section. Because this shifts the problem to the individual level. Pets, meditation, healthy eating, exercise, and having a deep connection to a higher power can contribute to your well-being. But beyond that, it is again allowed to talk about the social framework conditions for a successful life.

This brings us back, life is a choice. In the same way, happiness is a choice.


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