The bitter fruits of our alienation from America

Summary:  We conclude our examination of the hit TV show “Castle” by adding up what we’ve learned from it about America. Perhaps we have become alienated from 21st C America because we no longer see ourselves as part of it. Hence our unwillingness to defend it. Today we discuss the consequences of that alienation. It’s not pretty.

This continues from part 1: “Castle” shows that many of us don’t defend New America because we don’t like it.

Kleisthenes of Athens
Kleisthenes, the 6th century BC father of Athenian democracy. He feels sad about America.

Contents

  1. Why should we worry about alienation?
  2. No worries! Others will rule us.
  3. How we got to this dark place
  4. Other posts in this series about “Castle”
  5. For More Information
  6. The flip side of alienation is irresponsibility

 

(3)  Why should we worry?

Wikipedia describes alienation (lightly edited):

In sociology and critical social theory, alienation refers to an individual’s estrangement from traditional community and others in general. … the atomism of modern society means that individuals have shallower relations with other people than they would normally. This, it is argued, leads to difficulties in understanding and adapting to each other’s uniqueness (see normlessness).

Alienation attacks the glue that holds a nation together, so that we no longer see ourselves as fellows in a great joint venture.   Just as unit cohesion makes possible survival on the battlefield, strong social cohesion allows — makes possible if not certain – a society to survive what would otherwise be overwhelming threats. Solon’s reforms gave Athens the such strong social cohesion that they remain a beacon for us millennia later.

Alienation of individuals from the group disrupts cohesion, and can prove fatal to the group in times of great stress. As a social illness, it might have already gone deep into US society.

This might explain the splintering of the American polity and our inability to do what we have done so well in the past — to respond collectively to serious threats. We no longer see America as ours; we feel alienated, which feeds on itself as our internal structures decay — and we realize that alone we’re powerless.

It’s obvious in a thousand ways. Our ability to take collective action to address serious national problems diminishes, as we see in Washington’s gridlock during the past decade. Even support for vital government programs — like rebuilding our infrastructure — declines.

We have heard countless warnings about Latin America-style hyper-inflation. Instead we should worry about Latin American-style social cohesion. In the 1920s people in the great European nations described the wealthy as being “Rich as an Argentinian.” Generations of social conflict wrecked their economic and social structures. Their GDP per capita now ranks 55th, between Gabon and Croatia.

Americans have fought to defend our nation. People don’t fight to defend a place we just live in. We can lose everything in a heartbeat of history.

(4)  No worries! Others will rule us.

The 1% grow more powerful every year, and slowly consolidate their control of America. An atomized people, millions of individuals, have little ability to resist.

  1. Why the 1% is winning, and we are not, 26 July 2013
  2. The 1% won a counter-revolution while we played. We forgot that we are the crew of America, not passengers., 28 April 2014
  3. How the 1% runs America. Runs us. The answer points to 2 futures for us., 8 May 2014
  4. As the 1% grows more powerful, they speak their minds more boldly, 31 May 2014

(5)  How did we get to this dark place?

From Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind (1987):

Country, religion, ideas of civilization, all the sentimental and historical forces that stood between cosmic infinity and the individual, providing some notion of a place within the whole, have been rationalized and have lost their compelling force.

America is experienced not as a common project but as a framework within which people are only individuals, where they are left alone. To the extent that there is a project, it is to put those who are said to be disadvantaged in a position to live as they please too. The advanced Left talks about self-fulfillment; the Right, in its most popular form, is Libertarian, i.e., the right-wing form of the Left, in favor of everybody’s living as he pleases.

… If there is an inherent political impulse in man, it is certainly being frustrated. But this impulse has already been so attenuated by modernity that it is hardly experienced. {Americans} feel a sense of impotence, that they have little or no influence over the collective life, but they live comfortably within the administrative state that has replaced politics.

(6)  Setting the stage for a New America

  1. From March 2014: Stand by for political realignment in America!
  2. Diagnosing the Eagle: Alienation.
  3. The bitter fruits of our alienation from America.
  4. Scary lessons for America from pre-revolutionary France.
  5. All posts about Politics in America.
  6. All posts about About inequality & social mobility.
  7. All posts about ideas for Reforming America: steps to new politics.

(7)  For More Information

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. For ideas about what you can do see Reforming America: steps to new politics. You cannot make a difference. I cannot make a difference. Organized together we can change America. Act soon. Events are in motion.  Time is not our friend.

(8)  The flip side of alienation is irresponsibility

When alienated from America we feel no responsibility for it.

Irresponsibility

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3 thoughts on “The bitter fruits of our alienation from America

  1. I personally feel very alienated.
    My own politics, and those of the people around me, and of my state in general (California), are irreconcilable from the national consensus on so many important issues. I feel the way the Federal government directs the country’s resources is so far removed from my own priorities, that I might as well be sending my tax dollars to a Congress located in London, to be spend on things important to the British Empire, and I would still feel similarly removed from the process.
    But what am I going to do about it? Vote? That’s one voice among millions of voices. There are over 300 million people in the US, many of whom are so easily swayed by propaganda that it would be laughable in any other context. Mine is one voice that carries half the weight in the US Senate of a voice from New York, one-eighth the weight of a voice from Kentucky. Many of those millions of other voices say the diametric opposite of what I say.

    So this is how I feel about national politics today: It’s like I’m at an HOA meeting for a little condo community where I live. Everybody at the meeting is yelling. Half the people want to paint all the buildings blue, and the other half want to paint all the buildings red. Everyone is complaining that the property insurance is too high, but nobody has ever looked at the policy details. They spend an hour trying to decide whether to have donuts at the next HOA meeting. Everyone wants donuts, but no one wants to be the one to go buy them. Meanwhile, I’m sitting in the corner trying to explain that the roof on my building is 30 years old and needs to be replaced. Someone asks whether I would want the new roof to be red or blue, and how that might affect the donut budget.

    It’s basically a mess, all but a lost cause. If only I could see the country’s population, and corresponding national representatives, come to some kind of reasonable consensus on even just one important issue, then it would do a lot to restore my confidence and feeling of connection with this idea of a unified America.

    I’m not going to hold my breath waiting. In my opinion, the ideal solution would be a balkanization of the United States, either by significantly reduced Federal authority (which I believe was the original plan anyway), or by complete secession into various sovereign regions. That way each region could have the government that they want to have. It would be as if each building in the community HOA formed its own smaller building HOA. They could each solve their own problems in their own ways, although it might not look as nice with each building being a different color.
    Of course, I won’t hold my breath for that to happen either.

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  2. “But what am I going to do about it? Vote?”

    That’s one thing to do. I don’t like the choices offered by our electoral system… But there are better versions of the voting system out there (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instant_runoff_voting). I want to promote that option. It’s something that would have to start locally.

    Complaining is legit too. The squeaky wheel gets the grease. Much better than apathy. Get informed, inform others, remind apathetic friends and family that it’s ok to be interested, that it’s possible to think about political issues without having to pick fights with people you otherwise love or at least get along with, and without the extreme polarization endangering your/their mental health.

    Economic choices could be an avenue to explore.

    As for HOA-meeting group behavior issues… sounds like a tough nut to crack. Save that one for step 2? :-)

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    1. I don’t understand where people got the idea that voting was the be-all and end-all of citizenship. It’s citizenship in the sense that toilet-training is adulthood.

      Get involved with political parties. Volunteer time and contribute money. Write, network, organize. There are dozens of ways to help run the political machinery we’ve inherited from the Founders.

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