Thoughts on the ‘era of alienation’ and the ‘era of dehumanization’

The other day I was thinking and made an interesting statement that got onto some interesting statements.  I said this:

“We are no longer in the ‘era of alienation’ . . . we are now in the ‘era of dehumanization’.”

In order to understand this statement you must understand the difference between alienation and dehumanization, at least in how I’m using it (I discussed this in this article:  “More thoughts on dehumanization and alienation – the ‘failed adaption culture’“).  Alienation is when a condition, which is out of our control, ‘uproots’ us and who we are.  Dehumanization is a reaction to alienation in which we, on our own accord, justify alienation and, in so doing, become even more alienated.  In other words, alienation is caused by something other than our self.  Dehumanization is caused by ourselves. 

Over the past several centuries it seems that two era’s have appeared.  These two era’s, reflecting the two conditions, have always existed together, at least to some extent, as they are really aspects of the same thing.  But what the two era’s show is that there are periods of time where one condition is more dominant than the other.  In many ways, this is quite revealing as to the nature and effects of alienation.

THE ‘ERA OF ALIENATION’

This era starts to become strong in the 1800’s, after the Napoleanic wars, and grows in intensity through the years and seeming to reach its height in the early 2000’s or so.  By this time the machines, technology, and the system have become constant in their ways with set functions and places in the society.  As a result, it has all become ‘set’, so to speak, in a specific form.  Because of this, it causes a specific reaction of alienation based on the specific conditions.   In other words, a ‘style of alienation’ has been created.  Just because a ‘style of alienation’ has been created does not mean that alienation ends here or that it is the only form.  In actuality, there are many styles of alienation depending on the conditions.  Each condition of alienation will cause different ‘styles of alienations’ which will cause different forms of reactions.  Eventually something new will be created, or the conditions will change, which will lead to a new ‘style of alienation’ in the future requiring a new reaction.  With each new ‘style of alienation’ there is created a specific ‘reaction of alienation’ in response to it.  This shows that a lot of alienation is a reaction to a specific style of conditions.

Once a ‘style of alienation’ has been created the ‘reaction of alienation’ tends to take a form and ‘end’.  Because of this, alienation actually has a limit to its effects . . .  it does not continue on because alienation is a reaction to a condition.  As a result, once there is a reaction  to that condition it ends.  But alienation does not end there.  It does continue on but in another way . . .  Once a ‘style of alienation’ has been created, and a specific ‘reaction of alienation’ created, there is a tendency for alienation to continue . . . through dehumanization.  I speak of this as the ‘ongoing alienation effect’.  It seems, to me, that this is where a lot of the real damage of alienation takes place.

THE ‘ERA OF DEHUMANIZATION’

This era becomes particularly strong in about the 1970’s and increases strongly through the years.  It appears to of completely supplanted alienation as a dominating force by the 1990’s.  This era is characterized by people alienating themselves (dehumanization).  In other words, its not the machines, technology, or the system that is the threat but the people themselves in their justification of their own alienation.  This, it appears to me, is exactly what we’re seeing nowadays and, frankly, is a defining trait of the current times.  There is now too much justification for various forms of alienation . . . the machines are no longer the cause.  This tendency to dehumanization is part of what has caused some of the worst destructions during this period of time.  Things that have been here for centuries are as if tossed to the side as if they were nothing.  Culture, belief, identity, morality, right and wrong, the family, the mother/father, etc. are now abandoned and forgotten, often as if it were some great cause to do it.  What makes up humanity, and defines it, is being whittled down to nothing, bit by bit, everyday by the people themselves.  All this justified and explained, as if it were all part of the natural order of the universe.

This is all part of the tendency of dehumanization . . . it is we, the people, who dehumanize ourselves.  In actuality, we are our own worst threat now.  We are the ones who will destroy who we are, what we are, our reality, our life.  This is usually done by a slow self-undermining of ourselves and ‘acceptance’ of the conditions of the times.  In fact, dehumanization is an acceptance of a condition one has no control over . . . alienation.  Once one accepts, one falls to it, and becomes its victims.  But this is not what it seems at first, which is why this is such a problem.  Acceptance, which makes up dehumanization, is an illusion of control.  Saying, “I accept” only appears as a form of control.  In a way, its like saying, “I accept, and therefore have control, that I have no control”.  This quality gives it a self-defeating and self-undermining quality, the unique qualities of dehumanization.

REACTION AGAINST ALIENATION IN THE TWO ERA’S

With the coming of alienation there was naturally much resistance and reactions against it (as there still is).  In fact, the reaction against alienation is so prevelent that the form of the reaction also gives a definate trait to these era’s.  Some of these trait’s include:

The ‘era of alienation’

This era created some unique reactions primarily as an attempt at preventing its effects.  These include:

  • The ‘philosophy of oppression’.  The sense of helplessnes caused by alienation made the political idea of ‘oppression’ appealing . . . the helplessness turned into the ‘oppression’.  As a result, this point of view is used quite extensively.  It got to the point that just about anything could be considered oppressive.  It became particularly popular as a result of the cold war, which emphasized freedom and liberty.
  • Rebellion against just about anything.  This could be against the government, the establishment, religion, morality, parents . . . you name it.  Practially anything that can be rebelled against was rebelled against.
  • The avoidance of alienation.  One form of this is what I often call the ‘male exodus’, which is still ongoing (I spoke of this in an article called “Thoughts on “failing” boys and males “dropping out”: “the male exodus” . . . another account of the fight against dehumanization???“).  In this, the males basically have begun to ‘turn away’ from society and tend to not want to have anything to do with it.  Another version include how many people want to live a more ‘natural’ life or in a life without all this ‘modern crap’.  I’ve been under the impression that much of the concern over being ‘green’ is probably appealing for some people who feel alienation (being ‘green’ representing not being part of the alienation).
  • The coming of nihilism.  In this, there is a tendency to believe in nothing, even to the point of not believing in themselves.  In many ways, its like saying “if I don’t believe in anything I won’t feel alienated”.  As a result, they often don’t have any opinions, views, and such.  They become, in a way, like an empty person.
  • The ‘worldview’ of despair, helplessness, etc.  Alienation causes things such as despair, helplessness, disconnectedness, etc. on such a scale that some people are overwhelmed by it.  As a result, much of their life view uses these emotions as a basis for life.  In that way it becomes a dominant force in their life.

The ‘era of dehumanization’

Since dehumanization is primarily a result of accepting the alienation, this era is characterized by various ways of acceptance or in trying to convince oneself that its OK.  A common form, that we’re seeing nowadays, is a result of the enticing way of technology.  In fact, many of the enticing qualities of technology has made it appealing to accept alienation, regardless of its effects or damage.  As a result, it has actually made dehumanization a ’cause’ for some people.   In fact, the willingness of people to become dehumanized is a big problem in the ‘era of dehumanization’.  For many people, its as easy as breathing.  But there are a group of people where this is not so easy.  And then there is even a group that is stuck in the middle and uncertain what to do and waver back and forth between the other two groups.  This shows a unique quality about this era.  The enticing quality of technology has created a condition where dehumanization is so appealing that the fight against its appealing nature is often a bigger fight than the negative effects of alienation itself.  In other words, the fight is actually the fight against being ‘sucked in’.  Many people, nowadays, are finding that they cannot fight being ‘sucked in’ . . . its just too powerful. 

In order to fight being ‘sucked in’ requires, though, that a person can determine enticing and the effects of the enticing.  Or, to put it another way, they need to be aware of two conditions:

  1. The enticing and how one is enticed.
  2. Where the enticing leads (alienation).

If a person takes this direction will depend on what a person can see.  If all you see is the enticing then that’s the direction you will take (which means that you are probably headed on the road to dehumanization).  If you are more far-sighted you can see, from experience, that the enticing leads to dehumanization.  As a result, a person can avoid being enticed.  The problem is that it requires a special person to do this, with traits such as:

  • It requires a far-sighted person.
  • It requires a person that has experience.
  • It requires a person that has felt the negative effects of alienation.
  • It requires a person willing to do what it takes to not be alienated.

Not everyone has these traits (in fact, I’d say few do).  As a result, people are falling to the enticing quite easily.

The people that avoid dehumanization seem to do it in several ways:

  • The avoidance of modern things, attitudes, etc.
  • Saying “no” to dehumanization and the justification of alienation.

Though these may sound simple they are harder than it seems.  Many people, I have found, do these things, at least to some extent, at some point in their lives.  Typically, though, they are done sporadically and half-heartedly.  This is because its very hard to maintain.  The maintaining of these things require one to stand apart from the society and to not be sucked into it.  Many people can’t do that . . .

But, because of alienation and dehumanization, I often feel that, nowadays, how one stands in relation to society is critical.  In previous era’s I don’t think it was as critical but now a person almost has to protect and shield themselves from the alienating aspects of modern society.  A person can’t just ‘accept’ whatever society, trend, or the times, say anymore.  You can’t blindly follow along with everything as was done in the past.  A person must ‘maintain-themselves-removed-from-society’.

This entry was posted in Dehumanization and alienation, Modern life and society, Psychology and psychoanalysis, Society, The U.S. and American society and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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