A rather unprecedented condition in modern times, if one is to define modernity as the moment between the industrial revolution, and this very present moment, is the circumstance of alienation.
As society is consolidated into greater density and population, it would seem that, by some rueful irony, people grow estranged. This is not however a coincidence or some quirk of human nature.
Obviously on some level there is a kind of practicality towards apathy. If you walk past a thousand people each day, then it would be difficult to ask all of them how their day is going. But why not the first five? On some level, there’s more to it than apathy. We begin to see strange antagonistic dynamics within crowd psychology.
If one were to be lazy and pseudoscientific, one could examine sociological statistics. However such statistics are frequently produced for the purposes of propaganda and complacency. Most adherents of sociological doctrine are tepid moderates who use this pseudoscience to justify brutal and undignified treatment of society’s underclass.
There are however some interesting things to examine, and patterns which would speak towards greater and greater waves of alienation. Labour unions for instance have grown weaker, and in modern times general strikes are virtually unheard of. The very notion that the common people could actually assemble together in the millions, as to halt the national GDP seems like herculean folly to a modern human.
Some may point to medical prescriptions and the diagnosis of things like anxiety or similar disorders as a sign of alienation, and to some extent this is correct, but I also think this pattern is flawed, since pharmaceuticals are beginning to replace functional alcoholism.
But there are of course other signs of alienation, one being contradiction. There are a lot of popular sentiments among ordinary people which is being unheard and ignored by institutions of authority. Alienation has become probably the most effective method in which to reverse the effects of democracy.
The most prominent example being that of global warming. There is of course no scientific way in which to fully know how many people that desire some kind of action to maintain our ecology, — and I refuse to rely on astroturfed pseudoscientific poll data — but I think by and large if you examine cultural patterns such as adverts, discussion, common topics and things like this, that there is a great concern for our ecology.
And yet, it is almost entirely ignored. Governments and corporations are more eager to offer excuses, justifications and symbolic gestures than to engage in the radical undertaking of refurbishing infrastructure and industrial methods as to produce a society with ecological technology such as nuclear energy, public transportation, the removal of personal automobiles, and strict regulations for things like pollution.
Many of course do not know the extents to which ecology actually matters. Vulgar knowledge on the topic still centres itself on extinct species and melting ice caps, but this ignores the realities of disease epidemics, famines, floods, natural disasters and habitation scarcity.
As the planet becomes more hostile, there is less habitable land. By enclosing an already turbulent species, we see circumstances for what may very well be some of the most horrendous mass-violence since the holocaust.
This is of course not a prophecy, it is only a possibility, and I am not looking to be alarmist either, I just wish to stress that this is a serious matter and that no one is going to resolve it on your behalf. It is up to you, and ordinary people such as yourself to actually organise like our grandparents did.
So I hope this puts the importance of alienation into perspective. There is a very mistaken idea that people have about the world ending. The world rarely ends, but it does often refresh itself.
Even climate disaster is far from a new phenomenon, during the bronze age collapse, a time marked by famine, war, plague, and all manner of terrible disaster, the skies would darken for several years by a great volcanic winter.
Similarly, following the second world war we did not see a species that grew more violent and cynical, but quite the contrary. We saw advancements in science, diplomacy, culture, civics and art. This was when we started to measure eras in decades as opposed to centuries due to how quickly culture would advance and diffuse.
Sadly though this has slowed down since the 2000s. We no longer have any particular distinction between the 00s, the 10s and the 20s as we had in previous decades. If you hear swing music or big band music, you quickly think “Oh that’s music from the 30s.” But there is no such music of the 10s, or the 00s. In fact the biggest irony is how celebrities and commercial pop music became so unpopular and reviled that the most iconic performers are generally the ones people like the least.
So my point is: The world is not ending. Whether you like it or not, climate change will not end the world. Rather, it will simply collapse the status quo as we know it, and from its ashes, something new will be found. And by all patterns of history, this new thing will be all the better.
Problem is that it won’t happen overnight, and that we’re part of the generations that will be caught in the middle of the transition, and those years will be very bad. Covid has been like an appetiser for the main course. Microbial evolution is always the most persistent and the most rapid, as the ecosystem weakens the rest of us, it is also rigging the game in favour of other viruses and pathogens.
So will there be plagues in the coming future? Of course there will, there’s always plagues when alienation sets in. This is because humanity is an inherently collectivistic species, and this experiment with liberal individualism has been an absolute disaster.
Beginning in the colonies and in revolutionary France, it has since then brought us the transatlantic slave trade, two world wars, one cold war and a terrifying perpetuation of exploiting the third world. As people were indoctrinated by their governments to think as individuals, they did not realise that they were merely being separated from the herd.
And if you do not think you’re being indoctrinated, then ask yourself this: Why do local news always report things that make us inherently distrustful of others? A murder is not news, in fact it’s the oldest story in the world, just crack open Genesis and read about Cain and Able.
To me news would be something new. Discoveries, inventions, advancements in knowledge, things like these. News would give us useful knowledge in how to navigate the world around us rather than just some cheap psychological trickery to separate us from our democratic abilities.
And what it does is to constantly reinforce our desire for self-preservation, which is of course a losing game. Because instead of making life worth living, you allocate your time and your efforts into making life meaningless and mundane. As the encroachment of cultural anxieties and stigmas begin to fence people into their homes and away from their communities. This is generally a far scarier thing than anything some lowly murderer can do to you.
Because often people mythologise murderers as these titanic and supernatural beings, but if you ever get attacked by a murderer then just murder them first, you’ll be fine.
What I am getting at is that in many ways, humanity is suffering a crisis of spirit. In the Hegelian sense of course, the geist. We are a social species trapped in an antisocial environment, and it has left us vulnerable to opportunism and tyranny.
One interesting thing to consider here is how quickly televisions replaced churches. Churches have been around for thousands of years, and most of the time, at least since the Constantinian era of Rome, they were more or less obligatory. Everyone had to gather each Sunday as a speaker of the state would reinforce doctrines and maintain social order. This was vital. Almost universal. Every society throughout the Abrahamic world had structures of clerical and theocratic governance.
And then around the 1920s, more and more it was suddenly seen as acceptable to treat the church as optional. As more and more people put a television in their homes, the priest became a redundant instrument for mass control.
Moreover, priests can be very unreliable, since once in a while a few of them actually get it in their heads that Christianity is supposed to encourage people to be good to others, which resulted in the occasional mishap such as introducing abolitionism to Europe.
But the television in its centralised infrastructure, universal formatting, strict class barriers and Orwellian editorialism means that you can now maintain a monopoly on people’s attention spans, and shut them out of society. Suddenly it becomes tolerable to spend 6 hours indoors and doing nothing. Suddenly the humans you see through the window are less interesting than the humans you see through the screen.
Similar principle applies to computers too, and especially social media. These are technologies of alienation. It doesn’t mean they are inherently bad, but they are misused and mismanaged. The corporations and governments who control these technologies do not serve a democratic mandate, nor do they hold the welfare and proliferation of social order and prosperity as their imperative.
In the short term, you can explain this by proclaiming profit motives, but profit motives are but a means to an end. Laws, statutes, codes of conduct, media, education, taxes, finances, profits, corporations and everything else like this are merely more and more sophisticated ways to maintain control. They all have their roots in the spear. If you were a warlord on the steppes and you wanted to build an empire, then you used spears.
After that you got tributes, so you invented the clay tablet to keep track of who owes you what, then suddenly you needed clerks for the clay tablets, and following this, before you knew it, you were creating great civilisations in Mesopotamia.
So there’s more to it than profits, profits, much like television, is just another instrument of alienation. Profits exist to alienate us from our social value, because it obfuscates the contributions that we make to society.
We go to work, and then we get a wage, but we can’t really negotiate that wage nor determine the value of our work, because everything is just pooled together into this nebulous formula that we call profits.
And the irony here is of course that individualism will, through the use of profitable venture, actually diminish individual accomplishment.
That’s why most people who work waged labour often find their work to be unfulfilling and even meaningless, it’s because the whole point of a wage is to deprive your work of meaning. That way you’re just a single cog in a big machine performing a series of seemingly arbitrary tasks.
But do you know what the difference is between a cog and a machine? There isn’t one. The cog is just what a machine calls itself when it has low self-esteem.
And low self-esteem means that you won’t even begin to question your value in the first place, which means you probably won’t demand a fairer price for the hours you put in. Wages is therefore a very profitable alienation mechanism.
That’s why I used labour unions as a good way to measure the effects of alienation. But there are other alienation mechanisms too, such as for instance education.
The mandatory education system began with the Prussian military schools, and if you ever wonder about why Prussia no longer exists, then it’s because it was a nation which had no concept of civil life. Everything and everyone was an extension of the military, and the military controlled the state in an absolute manner. It was one of the most dystopian societies that Europe has ever produced, which is saying something.
And as you can imagine, the Prussian government was excited about the prospect of regimentation, and how you could basically create a bootcamp for ordinary citizens. This was extremely effective, which is why the rest of the world had to adopt similar systems in order to compete.
And the results of mandatory education are quite clever. There’s a lot to say about the topic, but I will focus on the alienation of education for now.
What education does it that it alienates people from literacy. Literacy used to be a very volatile force, it sparked revolutions throughout the world in every context from colonial slavery to Lutheran reformation.
In those times they didn’t have a word for revolution, so they called it a reformation, but it was several centuries of violent peasant uprisings which produced the groundworks for what we today understand as democracy. It’s by no means the first iteration of democracy, but as far as recent history goes, it is very significant. It caused feudalism to finally start decaying, even if it took a very long time.
The point is, education is set up so that it both teaches you how to read, but then proceeds to teach you to hate reading. Through the use of psychologically manipulative methods such as book reports and homework, they train children during their formative years to see studies and learning as a chore rather than something pleasant.
By emulating the Prussian method of strict and rigid regimentation, and coercing the subjects into dispassionate and uninspired taskwork, most people never develop a passion for reading.
They do this with most intellectual subjects, whether it is mathematics, or history, as to create a mental barrier between passion and knowledge. This is also why most contemporary intellectuals are often so slow compared to their historic counterparts, because they have no real capacity for creative knowledge, only that of retentive knowledge.
In the past it was impossible to somehow compartmentalise prose, poetry and philosophy for instance. If you wanted to do one, then you had to do the other. Not just because the audience desired it when they read your books, but also because authors themselves found it natural to be inventive and passionate in their language.
Contrast and compare that to modern liberal teachings of language, wherein there is an innate demand for dry, dense and often needlessly academic language. More often than not people will use ridiculous euphemisms in order to seem more academic. Instead of saying something intelligent like “relationship” or “disposition” or “confluence” as to specify some kind of interaction, academics will often say “dynamic” as a kind of catch all.
Similarly there is this obsession with harm. Everything bad is suddenly harmful. Harm seems to capture a margin of situations ranging from stubbing your toe on the nightstand to getting macheted in Rwanda. There are of course many other examples, but by and large, sentimentality, passion, creativity and perspective is deeply frowned upon and discouraged.
And the most amusing thing of all about all this technical language is that it’s not in the slightest bit technical. It may sound technical, but its technical value is rather pretentious if anything. By always trying to cram the latest academic jargon into a delicate context, you’re just making all your writing seem vague. Not everything is synergistic or essential, sometimes things could be parallel, or merely crucial.
And that is of course not a coincidence either. Academia is a network of factories that specialise in the manufacturing of ideas. So when those ideas are almost universally inaccessible, then perhaps this is not some big coincidence.
In fact, maybe it has something to do with how Italian and German scholars would always write in Latin, or perhaps how Latin scholars would always write in Greek, or perhaps how Greek scholars were so common that even homeless men who lived in barrels were public intellectuals.
We’re told that people of the past were not very clever, that they did not want to be educated, that the dark ages were full of superstitious and backwards fools who couldn’t tell a grail from a pisspot, and yet… why bother hiding all your writings behind Latin and Greek? Why alienate the people from knowledge that, supposedly, they wanted nothing to do with in the first place.
Why bother making it illegal for women and slaves to learn how to read if they were so disinclined towards it in the first place?
School systems have this creation myth in order to justify their alienation. When a society of self-taught individuals looks like ancient Athens, where people would create their own schools and associate freely, then you have a pretty tough act to follow.
And those schools were very interesting too, because they often involved free and varied inquiry, and public assemblies and debates. They didn’t involve tuition, or class discrimination, there were no walled in campuses with security guards or boards of trustees who could keep people out.
If you wanted to learn then you could take your pick from any number of schools. Stoics, Epicureans and Cynics are very famous examples, but there were more strange and obscure ones too, even Tyrannical schools existed.
And they didn’t really do what the Prussians did either. At first you might not notice how modern schools are structured according to the military, but when you examine it, it becomes obvious. For instance, doesn’t it seem a bit strange that classes are set up with a commander and a unit? That’s what the teacher and the students are. It makes sense on the frontline, but I’m not sure exactly why knowledge would require such a thing.
Unless of course it’s because the ruling classes have a very lucid understanding of how knowledge can be just as dangerous as bayonets and cannons and rifles.
And it’s usually at this point that many people call me an anti-intellectual. Which to me is pure gaslighting. I’m not the one training children to hate books and mathematics. I’m not the one who favours barring the majority of the population from access to professors and university libraries.
The anti-intellectuals are in charge right now, and they’re commonly known as academics. Some may be innocent functionaries, others may be more culpable, but their job is to make sure that ordinary people stay as far away from real knowledge as is humanly possible.
I want to see universities that doesn’t have students, where you don’t need to sign up for anything or register with anyone, where you can just show up and sit in on a lecture, like you would in a public library or a museum. Maybe you’ll pay a small entry fee, but you don’t need to put yourself into debt for it.
And if you need something more advanced, like for instance to be a surgeon or an architect, then you can just become someone’s apprentice. Apprenticeships may not be as profitable to people who run universities, but I would find it preferable if the guy who is going to transplant my spleen to be trained and educated by a professional in good standing in the actual workplace where they are planning on spending their careers.
Same goes for people who plan the buildings that I enter, or treat the water that I drink. I want them to be exposed to as much knowledge as possible, and I don’t think it’s a good idea to cut corners with a bunch of antiquarian military methods from a country that doesn’t even exist anymore.
I’ve covered a lot of ground in this, and that’s because alienation is so prevalent. We see it everywhere, so I decided to stick to the bigger issues of culture, economy and education, makes sense to me at least.
Point is: You’re not alone, you’re not even alone in being alone, and you’re not some failure, and there’s nothing wrong with you. Even if you have some diagnosis, even if you suffer from anxiety or depression, then there’s nothing wrong with you. Anyone in your situation would react in a similar manner. All these obstacles, and hardship and pressures are not some product of weak individuals, it is the product of a citizenry that have been divided, exploited and manipulated.
You are currently outnumbered, and dealing with people who have phenomenal resources at their disposal. To be able to maintain even some semblance of sanity and dignity is a true testament to one’s constitution. But the first step to getting anywhere as a civilisation is to accept the fact that this is not the product of incompetence, nor is it all some big coincidence, nor is it something that can be resolved through meagre individual achievement.
Rather, it is the product of a centuries long project wherein a bunch of rich people who had previously ruled the world by controlling scarce resources suddenly found themselves in an age of machinery, electricity, mass production and unprecedented advances in human development — and they quickly realised that unless they figure out some way to keep us all separated, to keep us from actually using this stuff to make the world a better place — then they wouldn’t be living in palaces and penthouses for much longer.