A Culture of Individuation and Alienation

When we are in the womb, we are literally one with another human being. We are connected to the breath of life that exists in everyone. When we are born and as we grow up, we go through a difficult process of individuation. We learn how to define things as relative to other things. We start to care about some things more than others. And some people more than others. From both the forces of both nature and nurture, we develop a sense of self.

I'm very interested in how this process is manifested and affected by our western capitalist culture. Clearly an individualistic culture, we encourage our children to choose their own paths (to an extent) after high school graduation. Of course this whole process is more nuanced through what access to resources each child has, placing limitations on choice. Even before leaving the nest, many children live with only the support of their nuclear family, some with extended family. However, our family units are becoming smaller and smaller, especially with high divorce rates. In college, you get the experience of living communally with others in a dorm building and eventually in a house or apartment with roommates. Yet, you are often in a totally different physical location than where you grew up. This change alone brings many challenges and forces a lot of flexibility and adaption.

After college, you are left with this bizarre openness ahead of you. It doesn't feel like this grand independence our culture writes it as. It feels terrifying to be forced to meet all of your material needs alone. More often, this isn't possible with wages being so low and bachelor's degrees not meaning much in the way of securing a job. So here you are. Potential to move anywhere in the country if you can find work there. It seems like it should be enticing but again you are faced with the realization that wherever you go, you have to rebuild a sense of community in a new location.

What I'm facing now is this feeling that I'm deeply lacking something. Feeling aimlessly drifted from place to place by happenstance. I feel powerless in the face of choice. There is within me a deep longing to be tethered to a location and a community. And of course, I am grasping on to all the community I have made at school. But as everyone moves to new cities, even though we can communicate online, it feels much harder to achieve a deeper connection and sense of mutual support.

While the individuation process is a necessary step in the life span of a human, our culture focuses so heavily on individuation that we are losing connection. It is a socially constructed evil that we are so lacking in intimacy and mutual support. The "choices" bred from capitalism results in a tiresome life of meaningless consumption. We are no longer tethered to physical location and are therefore disconnected from the land we live on. It's no surprise that we deplete the earth of resources without a second glance. In the natural cycle of life, matter is decomposed and consumed to create more life. We have disrupted this process. We have no connection to what we consume and no realization of the destruction of life.