How can people avoid alienation? What happens when they can't?
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It has been suggested that alienation is becoming more common in the last few decades; certainly it has been discussed more since the 1960s. It seems to have been articulated on a mass level via the sixties counter culture. Alienation is a feeling of separateness and disconnection. People feel it more often and more intensely when they live in periods of social change and dislocation. They can avoid it through resisting change (when possible), through making connections with other people, and through recognizing that their feelings of depression and loneliness have a source and a meaning. Joining communities, including workplace communities, can fight alienation.
If they cannot do so, they may become clinically depressed or feel like they've lost their way.
To me, alienation is when a group forcibly makes someone feel apart from the group and different/separate. This is a connotative definition for me. How one feels about any given situation is something that can be controlled. One cannot sometimes cannot control what happens in their lives, but they CAN control how they REACT to those happenings.
The best way to avoid alienation is to be involved in "Communities" that meet face to face be it interest groups, a class, volunteering for a cause you believe in. Alienation comes from the illusion of being separate, rather than realizing the interconnectedness of all.
"There can be no vulnerability without risk; there can be no community without vulnerability; there can be no peace, and ultimately no life, without community."
M. Scott Peck
author of The Road Less Traveled
Post #4 nailed it right on the head. Look at cliques in high school. You have the jocks, the goths, the nerds, the stoners, the preps and many more groups. Somewhere everyone can fit in some sort of category. Yes, generally the jocks will pick on the nerds, but they have a support system within their own community where they understand each other and what each other is going through.
This also extends into the adult life where different people have different interests. It is rare that a professional sports player with hang out with a teacher or someone outside of their professional field, but that doesn't mean that when they volunteer their time at the local soup kitchen because they like to give back to their community, they won't start a relationship with a teacher who is there doing the same thing. The kicker is, they have been brought together by a common bond of something they feel is important and they can connect through that community.
Even people who don't feel as though they belong to any particular community aren't alone. There are other outcasts out there, they can find each other and start their own little cliques. Especially with how easy it is to connect with people via technology and the internet, it is hard to be a loner unless they actively try.
When they can't avoid alienation, it is my personal belief that at that point maybe they need to look within themselves to see if there is something about them that turns them off to other people. Is it something as simple as a make over or personal hygiene? Could it be deeper like a personality quark that may need to be worked on to improve themselves internally? It takes work to change, but if someone is unhappy being alienated, they need to self-examine and assess if it is something that can be changed so they are more approachable to other people.
I'm not too sure that anyone posting here really understands what alienation means. Joining communities is not a way of avoiding alienation - any community can easily prevent you from developing a true sense of self. Seeking approval from others by joining communities can soon lead to sacrificing aspects of one's self in order to belong or feel appreciated. Alienation is feeling cut off - cut off from oneself rather than from society. Society naturally alienates because it demands conformity...we don't choose the bodies we are born into, nor the times into which we are born. We are all alientated, just some of us are more acutely aware of it than others. The most imporant thing is that you strive to be true to yourself in a world dominated by contingencies and chaos (including 'communities') which may look to knock you off your stride.
That said, to achieve one's true self is, as Rousseau pointed out, truly impossible. Hamlet came close and look what happened to him...:-)
As pointed out in the post #6 above, this discussion can be more meaningful when there is clarity on what we understand by alienation. As per my understanding of the term alienation, as used in sociological context, refers to a condition when an individual or a large number of persons in a society have a feeling of not being interested or involved in the society. They feel isolated from their environment and develop a feeling that they cannot make any difference in the society for the society or themselves. A feeling of this type is partly due to individual characteristics. But it is also influenced by the characteristics of the society.
When alienation is a widespread phenomenon in a society, it is a tough task for individuals to avoid it. As a matter of fact, the avoidance behavior it self is a manifestation of alienation.
The typical response of individual in societies that breed mass alienation is withdrawal. People are resigned to their fate, and ready to suffer in silence. Few other may revolt against the system and fight for changing the system. They reject the current values and systems in the society and change it. Still others may redirect their energies in some solitary pursuits such as those of artists and inventors.
I love the Scott Peck quote in #4! Unfortunately, there are all too many examples of alienation in our history which says a lot about humanity and our tendency to alienate other groups and perpetuate such approaches. Alienation can occur through stereotyping, segregating or even more upsettingly through programmes of systematic violence such as ethnic cleansing. How are such views countered? Well, there seems to be many examples of groups who try to bunch together to oppose alienation - either through violence or through genuinely trying to communicate and dialogue with those who oppose them. The effects and long term impact of alienation though are very damaging.
I think that now days some people alienate themselves because of technology. For example, I have a very good friend who is constantly on her Blackberry. While everyone is having a conversation, she is alienating herself and doesn't even realize it.
I think that people can avoid being alienated by forcing themselves to become involved in activities. There are numerous clubs and organizations out there to take advantage of.
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