The platform of alienation

On a platform somewhere in the world stands a group of lonely people looking down on the tracks. It’s a motley crew. Some  approaching retirement, some are sick, and others are just too unique to fit in on the train that just left the station. Tracks vibrates. The final destination is unknown. Those who, by the conductor with shared face, were allowed to get on and got a space were those who fit into the formed seats. The rest were left behind. To let them understand that they were not accepted to be among those that left on the train and are now sitting in the formed seats, a small man on a podium is informing them about the truth. His words are compelling. He tells them that they are misfits. They have been alienated. His words makes the small group understand that they are not accepted. To be on the outsiders’ platform is the same as not belonging. Some of them are overwhelmed by anxiety when they recognize themselves in the pattern of their school years: the bullying and the feeling of never belonging. From the man on the podium they understand that their only chance to belong is to become like them – those sitting in the formed seats.

Alienation is a modern word, created in order to describe those who find it difficult to fit into an established system. As long as the system is prevailing and ruling, individuals with difficulties adjusting will be ruthlessly excluded. As the group, from a socio-economic, social and psychological point of view is easily manipulated. Politicians will continue to use the word in order to consolidate or acquire power. What they in return do not understand or which is rarely talked about is what this terminology further raises. Words such as: old age, sickness or unemployment creates additional associations and brings us thoughts of poverty, deprivation, low education, poor self-esteem and poor productivity – A terminology that may be deemed unfit in a Western, capitalistic society.

With years of experience in the treatment of people in so-called alienation I can say that terminology and our use of it is as much rise to the phenomenon as the process in itself. Because the individuals in the alienated group connect their identity with the negative associations that the environment constantly feeds them, they will become more alienated and isolate themselves on the outsider’s peripheral border. The way back or the way out of alienation therefore usually means having to try to respond to the individuals based on their own abilities and slowly building them up into something approaching ”belonging” or to ”be with”, as a political party put it a few years ago.

The tracks vibrate again. From a distance another train is approaching. Those remaining keep their fingers crossed so hard that it hurts. This time they hope to have learned enough, hope they’ll fit in. Brakes screeching. Hydraulics release. The conductor with the two faces is out on the platform looking over the crowd. A hand pointing. Faces, first bursting into joy, enter into relief before the expressions is transformed into uncertainty and panic when they are brought on board. Doors slowly closing, wheels rotating a few turns before they get grip and get the train rolling out of the station. Once more some were left behind. An icy wind sweeps across the platform. The voice of the man on the podium is heard again, more penetrating, but the words now appear empty. Some of the people gathered move away. Others approach the edge towards the track. They look down and envision the platform empty, imagining how much more beautiful the world would appear if everyone had a place, if everyone could fit in. Eyes closes, a step forward. Brakes squealing …

Niklas Liiv september 12th, 2015