Society, Status, and Alienation

Presently, I live in the primarily suburban, American, post-industrial society. Along my studies, I often find myself questioning what the “ideal” human life would be. I naturally view the world through a scientific lens, and as such believe that the hunter-gatherer societies live the optimal life. I base this belief from biological phenomena, mainly the evolution of species. The emergence of civilization, 12,000 BCE, precipitated the end of most hunter-gatherer groups. In Ancient Civilizations: The Near East and Mesoamerica, Sabloff describes the hunter-gather society as the oldest form of societal grouping consisting of familial orders of no more than 100 individuals (41). Their survival depended on physical information from the present moment. Their happiness was a result of natural rewards, like a successful hunt, and their fears of danger were based on survival. In general, they acted on information from subjective experience, such that they directly reaped the rewards, and learned from the consequences of their actions.

Humans living in a post-industrial modern society have minimally evolved from their hunter-gatherer ancestors, which causes a lot of psychological tension. We face different challenges; the societal mechanisms of economics, material wealth, and power are processed under the same cognition and neural mechanics of the ancient human brain. The most prominent example that comes to mind is the “fight or flight” mechanism within mammals. It is the instinctive release of neurotransmitters which trigger defensive survival thought processes, and is largely out of one’s control. For example, the sight of an eviction notice can cause the same reaction as the sight of a pride of wild lions: fear.

Openstax Sociolocy 2e defines alienation in terms of “Karl Marx Theory of Alienation” as the separation of an individual from his or her society, product and process of labor, or sense of self (82). I experience alienation from myself, or a loss of connectivity between my occupations and myself regularly. I recognize that I am merely a cog in the wheel for a functional society. I work at Panera Bread, and assist in its functioning. I have a passion for chemistry, yet I realize the knowledge from my degree will be used as a commodity, in a society adherent to application of knowledge. Yet, in the absence of other perceived options, I continue with this path.

I occupy several societal statuses. My ascribed statuses, or aspects of myself outside of my control, are numerous. I had no control over my gender, my birthplace, early education, and my race. These precipitated further achieved statuses, or chosen statuses. I realized I had a passion for music after playing in symphonic band in elementary school. I continued to play guitar and other instruments in various Jazz bands and musical projects until the present, and thus achieved the status of a musician. Furthermore, after high school, I was presented the option of continuing education in college, or entering the labor force full time. I chose to achieve the status of a student, and have been so for four years.