Sunday, February 18, 2007

alieNation (the State of the Union)

in considering my own state of affairs, I think it wise to examine the social environment that has spawned and which continues to shape me. it is not only instructive in terms of providing a basis for comparison, but also encourages me to reflect upon the interdependent nature of my plight. after all, to seek the character of society's needs and requirements is to begin the process of delineating my own. is not society merely a mirror of our common base, the generic self, upon which our distinguishing idiosyncracies and peculiarities are draped as so much adornment? and so it is that I find myself prone to turning outwards for the sake of illuminating my innards. and so too it is that my many posts expressing grief, despair, annoyance, anger, or the like have me as their subject at least as much as any other.


one of the most damaging phenomena that this nation, among others, is rife with is that of alienation. as regards this apparently inescapable process of estrangement, our own society exhibits a wide variety of ways and means. called into action by unrestrained narcissism and fortified by our natural gifts of guile and ingenuity, alienation is perpetrated as a matter of course.

passive. active. intentional. incidental. accidental.

we passively alienate those in need whom we neglect. we actively alienate those we fear or don't understand. we intentionally alienate those we deem valueless or harmful. we incidentally alienate others because of self-absorption or issues of comfort. we accidentally alienate the ones we love because of our insecurities and attachments. we even alienate ourselves by constantly distracting ourselves from the difficult questions.

I believe that we mistakenly associate leisure with enjoyment and fail to recognize that the unbridled success of the prolific entertainment industries (what I affectionately refer to as the ‘distraction factories’) can be attributed almost exclusively to our entrenched aversion to questions of meaning and purpose.

we distract ourselves in order to preempt scenarios that might throw our confidence or comfort into jeopardy. we distract ourselves so we don't have to despair over how to assess the damage and dress such severe and intimidating wounds. why are video-rental chains so incredibly successful? why are they a distant second to cable television? why has one of the greatest technologies of our era, the internet, been utilized primarily for enhanced consumption of needless products or pornography of various tastes? indeed, the methods and materials we have developed to both disguise and perpetuate this process of alienation have reached epic levels of complexity, as have our problems and our inability to handle them.

1 comment:

cjdonof said...

I shall simply respond by stating my immediate thoughts on the post...

It must first be stated that we live in a capitalistic society, and that our is one of the most unbridled on the planet. I believe that the effect that this has on the individuals in our society is that it places a pressure on oneself for constant self improvement. Thereby, it seems that we alienate those who have not, in our estimation, improved their situation in life. This comes with all of the bias of any other prejudicial decision in life. Is the poor, black man on the side of the road dangerous, lazy, unstable? Or is he truly a person in need who will be grateful for any help we can give him? Are the people that live in communes simply "dirty hippies?" Or are they Americans who have chosen a path that lies outside the standard deviation of picket fence America, but none the less have skills and knowledge that has value equal to those in more main stream careers? It could be argued that this alienation is part of what helps someone succeed. If ones fears poverty, will the fear drive one towards financial security. Likewise will a fear of ignorance, (such as the demonization of conservative Christians as a group), drive one to intellectualism.

It is in this pursuit of improvement that perhaps we seek leisure. For some this pursuit is not a thing that takes a matter of years, but of decades, and in many cases I would argue generations. Is it surprising that in our free time that we would turn to the mindless, the pornographic, the mind numbing instead of the intellectual? I feel the answer is no. Then again, are there times that people in our society deal with philosophy and theology?

I would argue that television shows seem to be raising more and more interesting questions these days. They are a place of entertainment, so rarely is the discussion amongst characters long, but can it not spark something in the viewers. Examples that come to mind are any number of legal questions that are “ripped from the headlines” on Law and Order, a resent episode of “House” that had a short conversation on Atheism, and any number of loud discussions that watching “The Daily Show” and “Colbert Report” have occurred in my house. Let me again be clear that I do not think these examples to be pinnacle of American thought, even for the mass populace, but they should not be ignored.

Another place that many Americans would get their infusion of thought, into an otherwise productive and leisurely lives, is in organized religious services. This is not something that I can speak of with great authority, being an agnostic myself, but I do have a remembrance of my time spent in church as a boy of being very thought provoking. Do many people ignore what is being said? Do people only go out of some social duty? Have the churches failed us, and are now simply pumping out indoctrination more than thought? These are questions I cannot answer.

Finally I would like to state that our society has produced much good. Our building of wealth has allowed us to spread it to those in need. Has it been enough; no. Are there those that have fallen into the trap of only wanting more and more wealth and do not care what they have to do to get it; yes. But can we ignore that in our society it is getting work, and therefore money, that allows us to become stable and to help those around us, even if it is only our immediate family.

In closing, I feel that we do not live in a country where we are all charitable, all helpful, and all searching, and we will never live there. I would go to say that these qualities are a minority. However it must be remembered that people are complex. We must make room in our imaginations that the same person who has a high paying job and the picket fence, is also the same person who will donate some of his time to improving things, and spends some of his time on higher pursuits. Not everyone can be a monk, and I doubt that there is a time in history when every part of society was concerned with the meaning of life type questions.

Again, this was written quickly, and should be viewed as surface thoughts, not a detailed or well thought out argument. I will be the first to recognize my own ignorance, inexperience, and biases. I hope this to be a starting point of discussion, and my own thoughts, not the end of either. In short, feel free to rip this to shreads.