Thursday 3 March 2011

Alienation, not-thinking and animism


The characteristically modern malaise is alienation - detachment from the world, lack of a sense of involvement with life, a sense of unreality.

This has replaced the conviction of sin which dominated though most of recorded human history, and still dominates most of the world.

Modernity has escaped from guilt into meaninglessness.


To escape from alienation is difficult, since it is not a misunderstanding of the modern world, but on the contrary a realization of the actuality of the modern perspective, following it through to its correct implications.

So alienation is commonest among the most thoughtful, most reflective people - not so much among the ignorant or instinctive.

Alienation is therefore an aspect or attribute of the nihilism of modernity.


In a society which regards the soul as a fiction, which regards the individual as radically isolated (and where solipsism seems as irrefutable reality to many - that humans have nothing to do with each other except at a crudely material level of satisfying or frustrating desires) - the compelling urge to escape from alienation seems to dominate everywhere and in everything.


There is only one way to escape from alienation while continuing to embrace modernity (atheism, soul denial, humanism, materialism etc) - and that is not to think about it.

The first is to learn not to think about it, to be unreflective, to become immersed in busyness at work or in the home, in the media - news, sport, soaps, fashion - in the minutiae of life, absorbed in hopes and plans for the future, absorbed in powerful emotions such as hatred or lust, absorbed perhaps in arts or crafts or science or maybe even creativity of some kind.

Or when immersion is impossible; to use analgesia, pain killing maneuvers - principally serial distraction, to hyperstimulate oneself and to become (deliberately) addicted to this hyper stimulation - to make oneself (deliberately) a hyper-stimulation junkie - such that life is a matter of seeking and finding, and planning to seek and find, situations where the pressure of stimulus is such as to displace alienation. These situations may themselves be unpleasant - like arguments, abuse, violence, self-harm, nasty drugs that make you feel bad - but they prevent the boredom which leads to alienation.
Another method is to obliterate the type of thinking which leads to alienation - to become and remain intoxicated, in one form or another.

Another is to train oneself in unemotionality; to be (or aim to be) cool, cold, indifferent - psychopathic. Such that intellectual or analytic perceptions do not trigger emotional responses. To look upon the world with a hard eye - invulnerable.


Another is to 'regress' - to adopt (in actuality, or much more often in imagination) the unalienated state of childhood or some imagined simpler society - a world of animism.

This is how the world was for almost everyone before they were spoiled by nihilism - a world when we had an immortal soul, and so did our toys and trees, a world of bogeymen and ghosts, a world where our parents knew what we were doing and thinking even from afar - a world of proximate terrors (often) yet ultimate coherence. A world focused around ourselves yet not solipsistic because it seemed that everybody knew who we were and everything was somehow related to us and we were part of some kind of plan (a world, that is, of paranoia - it its technical sense).

An animistic world in which we were engaged - where there was real joy and real misery, and always meaning and purpose.

Yet to embrace animism is to reject modernity.

If animism is real then we have left modernity; if animism is imaginative we have encapsulated imagination from socio-political life and made it irrelevant to life - at best a recreation or escape (and that indeed may be valuable - even vital).


So - alienation is an inevitable and rational consequence of modernity and its soul-denial, its nihilism.

And - given the assumptions of secular humanism - there are no escapes from alienation except these two: not-thinking about it, or 'regressive' animism.



a Finn said...

The outer forms of animism, shamans and their drug induced hallucinatory tribal dance states mesmerizing the masses are already here. I have read that "the shamans" have already started to connect pagan, animistic etc. religious themes to their performances.

Notice how "the shaman" moves:

Anonymous said...

Two of the solutions you mention -- perpetual distraction and perpetual intoxication -- were very astutely described by Baudelaire, in Enivrez-Vous and Au Lecteur, respectively.