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Alienation 101

I had no television in my college apartment, so I walked a couple of blocks to Iowa City’s Hilltop Tavern to watch the national election results come in. Very early in the evening one of the networks “called” the presidential race, announcing, based on voter surveys and early eastern returns, that one candidate could already be projected as the winner in enough states to guarantee victory in the electoral college. A patron seated further down the bar was also following the news, and he was outraged. “I voted less than thirty minutes ago,” he said. “Polls in Iowa aren’t even closed yet, my vote hasn’t even been counted, and they say it’s over. My vote means nothing. I will never vote again.”

It’s one example–kind of classic in its focus and clarity, really–of alienation. Rightly or wrongly, a person comes to believe that institutions do not function on his or her behalf.

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