Ever since I was in my twenties I have complained of feeling dehumanized and alienated. It has had great impact on me and has required me to react and defend myself against it. The defense against alienation has, in actuality, had great impact on my life and determined a lot of it. It would not be far from the truth that battling dehumanization and alienation has, in many ways, molded and determined my life. It has had great crippling effect on me and, like a cripple, I have to live around it. This shows the power of dehumanization and alienation in life. It shows that dehumanization and alienation degrades life, making it less than it is. In fact, I consider dehumanization and alienation a serious problem nowadays. Oddly, though, it is something that very few people realize is happening and very few realize they are struggling with. It took me many years, in fact, to realize what was going on.
As I said above, I found myself having to defend myself against dehumanization and alienation. These are things I did almost automatically, like reaching out when one stumbles. They were like a reflex action, like the knee jerk reflex. Because they are like a defense it shows that there is a sense of a “threat”, that I am being threatened in some way. In defending myself from dehumanization and alienation I find that I am doing a simple and basic thing: I am maintaining who I am against something that seems to be changing who I am. All I’m doing is trying to be me and to keep myself from not being me which, in a way, would transform me into a “non-entity”.
Over the years I have found that the mechanisms of society are the primary cause of dehumanization and alienation. In other words, it’s the man-made world that dehumanizes and alienates. In many ways, all that we create causes at least a small measure of dehumanization and alienation. This has always been ironic to me and difficult to understand. On looking closer, though, I tend to feel that its actually not the man-made world that dehumanizes and alienates but the fact that we take it too seriously, become bound to it, and need it. In other words, it’s our DEPENDENCE and SLAVERY to the man-made world that really dehumanizes and alienates. But this dependence and slavery is an automatic reaction. This is because once we create something we become dependent on it. Basically, what we create is intended to be used and, in being used, we become dependent on it.
But it even goes further than that. Normally, we do not become dependent on things that we, ourselves, create. This is because we use them and they have active use for us. The dependence that causes dehumanization and alienation seems to be the creations of others. That is to say, it is the creations that do not come from us that dehumanizes and alienates. This makes it so that we end up ‘taking on’ things that are just told to us or which we must do but which have no relevence to us. Because of this, we take on things blindly and without meaning. In other words, it is the absence of making things ‘personally relevent’ that dehumanizes and alienates us. In many ways, if something is not ‘personally relevent’ it is “foreign” or “alien” to us deep down. Because of this, it is removed from us, detached from us. But, do to various reasons, we try to make this detached thing “important” to us, perhaps because we’re told to, or that its what everyone else is doing, or because its just there. In so doing we, in a way, fool ourselves, pretending that something that is not relevent to us is relevent to us. In this sense, dehumanization and alienation is a form of self-deception. We make ourselves “think” something that we don’t “think”.
This phenemena of self-deception is most prevalent with social situations. This tendency begins when we are kids, since our earliest years, as we blindly follow our parents lead, following what they tell us to do. This carries on into social relations as we grow older, making us follow trends, beliefs, and so on that go in in society. Blindly, we ‘take on’ things the social situation tells us that, in actuality, have no meaning to us, convincing ourselves that it is important and relevent. Because these things originates from what others create it shows that dehumanization and alienation has strong origins in the social situation. This means that dehumanization and alienation are primarily a result of the effects of our social living.
But this is still not enough to create a feeling of dehumanization and alienation. In order to actually feel dehumanization and alienation requires that one must feel the “mismatch” between what one “thinks” one feels and what one truly feels deep down. In other words, when a person feels dehumanized and alienated it usually means they have a “connection” with their deeper feelings. If this “connection” is not there, they may feel nothing at all. This creates, really, two forms of dehumanization and alienation:
- Conscious dehumanization and alienation. Here a person will at least feel that ‘something is wrong’ or that ‘something is amiss’. It may even go so far that they may recognize it as dehumanization and alienation.
- Unconscious dehumanization and alienation. Here a person has no knowledge of the situation. They will have signs showing that they feel it though. Like a repressed emotion it will often come out in various “symptoms”, such as feeling lost or confused in life, a feeling of not being content with anything, and such.
Being conscious of dehumanization and alienation often, but not always, means that a person is more “grown” or “mature”, I’ve found. When this happens they have a stronger “connection” with how they feel deep down. Some people often just have a stonger “connection” with their deeper feelings. Either way, without this deeper “connection” people usually have no awareness of dehumanization and alienation. Because of this lack of “connection” in many people, it gives the illusion that many people are not suffering from dehumanization and alienation. This fact mystified me for many years, often making me wonder if dehumanization and alienation really existed or if it was just something I made up. Observation, over a long period of time, showed that it did exist.
The social situation has a number of things that dehumanizes and alienates:
- The use of knowledge, information, and such. We are “told” things that we “think” is ‘personally relevent’ to us but they aren’t.
- The use of “formal ideas”. By this I mean things like law, customs, traditions, etc., many of which has no meaning to us.
- The product of what other peoples thoughts create. By this I mean the physical things that other peoples thoughts create, such as technology, machines, etc.
These show that dehumanization and alienation is created by far more than technology and machines, as is often supposed, but even things like law, customs, knowledge, information and beliefs. I have always felt that the reason why we see a rise in dehumanization and alienation nowadays, in the modern world, is not because of technology and machines but because there are many more created things existing than there normally are in history and we are being more affected by them. Now, more than ever, we have endless knowledge, information, laws, principles, machines, technologies, consumer products, etc. that goes on and on and on. We are bombarded with more things created by other people, nowadays, than ever before in history. As a result, we are increasingly being affected, controlled, and enslaved by things that have no ‘personal relevence’ to us. Human society has become “overwhelming” and it sort of rolls across us all like a big steam roller . . . ready or not! As a result, we become dehumanized and alienated. With the rise of “massive human society” we find relevence has become a lost fact. There are so many things thrown at us that we don’t have time to make it relevent to us. Everything is just a blur to us, of this, that, and the other thing. Life becomes a life, not of making things relevent, but in managing oneself amidst all the creations that are thrown at us. In so doing, society undermines us and takes us away from who we are. We become lost as people, uncertain of our meaning and relevence in the world. We become dehumanized and alienated.
For me, this caused a very strong “defensive act” on my part. Like I said, many of these just appeared like a reflex action. Because of this, how I responded became revealed a lot about the causes of the problem. Some of the things I did include:
- I actively participate in society only minimally. I often joked that I lived “on the fringe of society”.
- It became very important for me to point out that much of this society does not reflect me. In other words, I had to be aware that I was removed from this society and that, as I would often say, “it is not me”.
- I began to learn history, and to understand the origins of this societies things, so that events wouldn’t “pull me down” and I would be “tricked” into believing things.
- I began to seek solitude and tended to avoid social situations.
SEEKING PERSONAL RELEVENCE
- I sought to discover myself and who I was from a “non-social” context.
- I sought to discover what I really thought about things and how I felt.
- I tried to avoid ‘deliberatly thinking’ too much.
- I avoided learning and learning things other people created.
- I began to “seek inspiration”, as I always say. By this, I mean that I would try to let things ‘come out on their own’, naturally, without little conscious control. In general, I try to live this way.
- I sought solitude, where I could experience my self.
- I always try to seek and discover what is ‘personally relevent’ to me.
- I try to have a measure of self-reliance, where I do things for myself.
THE AVOIDANCE OF CERTAIN THINGS
- I tried to not become dependent on society, technology, and creations of other people.
- I do not get wrapped up with technology and new gadgets that come out.
- I avoid getting dependent on machines and technology.
- I try to focus on making things that are personally relevent to me and avoided things that weren’t.
- I avoided being in a situation where things are ‘thrown at me’, such as commercials, or places where a lot is going on.
- I watched myself and saw how I tended to ‘blindly follow’ things, learning how and why I did this. Once I discoverd this I avoided doing it.
Really, all this describes a process of “slowing things down to a human pace that is relevent to me”. In general, I would say that it is like a general “humanizing” of life, of making life more “human” and “relevent” to me. In a sense, its like a “taking back control of my life” form the clutches of modern society.
After doing this, one finds how much control modern society has in our lives. Very few people really realize this, I think. We often hear of things like slavery, oppression, and such nowadays. Is it any wonder? We ARE the enslaved. We ARE the oppressed. We ARE the controlled. I have always felt that these things are made such a big deal of nowadays because it reveals what we have become. It’s such a perfect enslavement of humanity, in fact, that no one even knows its going on. People feel this fact deep down, though, which is why people speak of it . . . but no one knows why. In many ways, we have become the ‘perfectly enslaved’, the ‘perfectly oppressed’, the ‘perfectly controlled’ . . . the modern world has done this without our knowing.
Not only that, people want the modern world and worship it like a god. Consumerism has so mesmorized everyone that they would give their lives for the latest new phone. The modern world has not only enslaved us without our knowing but it has made us want this enslavement.
The genius of the modern world is so great, in fact, that its frightening. Truly, in moving away from dehumanization and alienation one can see the great power and influence of the modern world . . . and its horrible genius. With all its stuff it looks like its backed us into a corner, a corner we can’t escape. There it stands hovering over us, like a big overlord hidden behind glittery colors and fantastic special effects, speaking in a tongue no one can understand, “I dictate your life . . . I dictate what you become . . . I dictate what you do . . . you must lose your self and follow my way”. People who live under its power cannot see this (at least, I’ve seen none that do), but on standing back its power and control becomes quite evident, making humanity look much like its minions, like a bunch of small ants in a large anthill.
This genius of the modern world has always mystified me. It seemed like nothing I’ve ever seen before. In many ways, I found myself combating this genius, which seems so complete that there is no way I could win. I seemed so powerless to it. But yet, I found I could not stand the feeling of being “gobbled” up by modern society.
Not everyone has reacted to dehumanization and alienation that way though. The overwhelming control of the modern world makes some people feel “comfy” and “cozy”, like a warm blanket, giving a sense of security. Many feel an “eerie” sense of uneasiness or frustration in life, of being “unhinged”. Most endure and tolerate it . . . what else can they do? But then there are those of us, who I think are few, who cannot stand dehumanization and alienation, where the loosing of a sense of who I am is like a death. Many feel this feeling but don’t realize it. It may plague some people all their lives. This is one of the many weird effects of dehumanization and alienation: of an “eerie” feeling that something is “amiss” or an “eerie unsettled feeling” that they can’t seem to pinpoint.
But in moving away from dehumanization and alienation there is a price to pay. The biggest is that one needs to move further away from society. This may or may not be a big problem. In moving further from society one loses some of the benefits of society. One may find social relations are more curtailed and limited, for example. Oftentimes, though, this is a good thing. A person also has to take viewpoints that go against the norm, which can create problems. In battling dehumanization and alienation one also finds the great need for society and people. It becomes much like a tug-of-war, with the need to avoid modern society on one end and the need for human society on the other. As a result, much of the battle against dehumanization and alienation becomes a question of how much of each one is willing to take. It’s like learning and discovering an acceptable amount that suits ones self.
In the end, it is just a learning about oneself and what one can handle. In many ways, though, isn’t that part of being “human”? Isn’t the “human condition” nothing but finding where one fits? In some sense, then, battling dehumanization and alienation is nothing but the act of being “human”.
Copyright by Mike Michelsen