A good year for alienation? From the “research that confuses me department” comes the results oft he annual “Harris Interactive poll of alienation” and the resulting (no kidding) “Alienation Index.”
This year, the alienation survey found that Americans are feeling more isolated. In fact, the Wall Street Journal headline is this: “Americans Feel More Isolated, Less Empowered, Poll Shows”
Here’s what confuses me: the chart accompanying the story reveals that Americans are feeling significantly less isolated and alienated during the 2000s than they felt during the 1990s. Ironically, or perhaps not ironic at all, the survey after 9/11/2001 marked the lowest “Alienation Index” in nearly 30 years. You have to go back to the height of the Vietnam war to find less feeling of alienation and isolation, which also confuses me. The alienation index was low (which is good, I think) in the 1960s during a period that is rarely portrayed by historians as one defined by a universal feeling of empowerment and (except for Woodstock) brotherhood among men (and sisterhood among women).
I’m not trying to make a political statement, here. I, too, sense a collective feeling of alienation among Americans. I, too, feel our leaders of both political parties are out of sync with what people really think is important. But a deeper understanding and a more lucid interpretation of these statistics are obviously required for them to make any sense. Do these numbers reflect the reality of the world in which we live or the way in which media portrays that world? I have no idea — and don’t want to guess.