Lie low and keep quiet


The term ‘Alienation’, was always an enigma and a puzzle to me; I first came across this when I was reading some plays of Bertolt Brecht and what critics had to say about him and his works and specially about the theme of ‘alienation’

….I found that Jean Jacques Rousseau was the first to use the concept of ‘alienation’ when he wrote:

“ When a people is represented by deputies it becomes alienated from its own collective and so ceases to be a people; community could be the instrument of government but never of the common will, for then it was bound to become alienated from itself within the state.”

According to Merriam Webster Dictionary, Alienation is generally defined as a withdrawing or separation of a person or a person’s affections from an object or position of former attachment .

This definition seemed a little ambiguous to me, and led me to study further when I came across this;

Alienation, a sociological concept developed by several classical and contemporary theorists, is “a condition in social relationships reflected by a low degree of integration or common values and a high degree of distance or isolation between individuals, or between an individual and a group of people in a community or work environment”. The concept has many discipline-specific uses, and can refer both to a personal psychological state (subjectively) and to a type of social relationship (objectively).

Then Kafka confronted me with his diabolic, mysterious and intriguing plots in the form of ‘Trial’, ‘Castle’ and ‘Stranger’.

Kafka’s novels about individuals confronting a powerful but opaque organization — the court or the castle — seemed to be fables of existential uncertainty.

Self estrangement; “the psychological state of denying one’s own interests – of seeking out extrinsically satisfying, rather than intrinsically satisfying, activities…”. It could be characterized as a feeling of having become a stranger to oneself, or to some parts of oneself, or alternatively as a problem of self-knowledge, or authenticity.

Social alienation; led to entire communities becoming uprooted: no longer fully part of their homelands, but neither integrated into their adopted communities. Diaspora literature depicts the plights of these migrants, such as Hafid Bourassa argues, “Low-income communities or religious minorities may feel separated from mainstream society, leading to backlashes such as the civil unrest

Political alienation; One manifestation of the above dimensions of alienation can be a feeling of estrangement from, and a lack of engagement in, the political system. Such political alienation could result from not identifying with any particular political party or message, and could result in revolution, reforming behavior, or abstention from the political process, possibly due to voter apathy.

American sociologist Bob Blauner argues that alienation is a subjective experience. The feeling that may be experienced can vary from individual to individual. Alienation was a state of mind and generally has four dimensions.

Powerlessness: (due to being controlled by others in an impersonal system); the remedy is to increase autonomy and empowerment.
Meaninglessness: (from lacking a sense of how their own work contributes to the whole); the remedy is to ensure a sense of purposefulness.
Isolation: (no sense of belonging); remedied by giving a sense of belonging and identifying with the organisation.
Self-estrangement: (detachment, no sense of identity or personal fulfillment): the remedy is to allow self-expression
In the modern context of human resources management many experts feel that Organisation science has overlooked the issue of alienation, pointing out that the organisation “is a significant barrier that separates them [individuals] from their true natures”

Organisations themselves can therefore be a source of alienation. Cognition by the employee of separation from the inner self can in turn lead to a reduction in organisational attachment and a deterioration in the individual-organisation relationship.

Experts like Webber and Sanders, later feel, Probably the most pervasive structure is the bureaucratic, characterized by job specialization, authority hierarchy, merit appointment, record keeping, rules and personality, a cumulative effect of which is de-personalization.

Impersonal administration may be more desirable than management by whim, by separating the bureaucratic person from the office held; however, it results in the individual feeling a loss of self or personal identity, so becoming a mere cog in a dehumanizing machine.

The individual’s feelings of a lack of control and powerlessness, especially over important aspects of work spill over to affect the individual’s life more generally.

Kanungo, an Indian expert feels, ‘This form of alienation can be interpreted in psychological terms as feeling unable to achieve self-realisation and satisfy ego-esteem needs. He further argues that “conditions leading to the loss of individuality deprives the workers of self-fulfillment or the realization of who they are or what their essential nature is” and thus is an affront to human dignity.

Advocates of empowerment believe that it, along with related forms of power sharing, provide antidotes to the problem of powerlessness experienced by employees.

After going through many tomes, websites and discussions with many like me , I have come to the conclusion, that in a democracy like ours, the great decisions are removed from our elected representatives and placed in the hands of a small group, many of them unsuited for their positions. The state is alienated from the average citizen who generically thinks of the group asthe powers that be’ or ‘them up there’ never as ‘us’.

I feel totally alienated with poor opinion of politics and politicians. I am getting convinced day in and day out that the whole business is pretty dirty, but I also know that I hardly can do anything about it……timidly do I accept it as it is telling myself “Lie low and keep quiet”……I know that the active citizens are disappearing fast retreating into resigned private lives…….Sometimes, I feel alienated from my own family and friends……This seems to be total alienation.


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