Thursday, 29 November 2012

Student Explains Brainwashing to Macleans Mag

The following is a letter to the editor of Macleans Magazine that I helped my step-daughter craft after she came to me for help (with her teachers permission) to write a response to an article about schools brainwashing children. Needless to say it was not published.

Dear Editor,
I agree that kids are brainwashed by their schools.  Schools should teach kids how to think or learn instead they teach kids what to think. H.L. Mencken said the aim of public school, “... is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality.”
Public schools are this way by design, based on the Prussian model that was developed to create a class of obedient factory workers and military men. How else would you describe an institution where the people (yes us kids are people) are compelled to attend, required to sit still in desks oriented towards a power figure, required to learn what the authority figure dictates, conditioned to turn our minds to a new subject and think a different way when a bell rings, segregated by age into classes that exist nowhere else in the real world, and trained that achievement is based on the judgment of an external authority figure who grades us? We are trained in obedience and conformity, we don’t even have control over our own biological needs, when we eat and use the washroom is controlled by an authority figure. What we are not taught is how to learn, to think rationally, to obtain self-knowledge, or to engage in critical thinking.
The predictable result of 12 years of government school is generations of grown-up children who appeal to mommy and daddy government to solve their problems. To think they are doing something important when they engage in popularity contests that determine who rules them. To tolerate the ruling class owning up to half their labour by way of taxation. To consume products and popular culture until they die.
Slaves that ran away from the plantation and refused to work were diagnosed with Drapetomania and prescribed lashes, and children that can’t sit still or listen to authority figures are diagnosed as defective (ADHD, ODD etc.) and drugged.  It is my hope that one day children will be afforded the same rights that slaves and women eventually gained. To be viewed as the freeborn humans we are, to have our interests and preferences be noticed and nurtured and to no longer be viewed as clay to be molded to the masters vision. Btw if you can’t figure out a major root cause of bullying after this letter you may be the product of a public school.
Grade 10 student

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Meet the Zombies (Part 2)

In my last blog post I outlined why I think there is a prevalence of the zombie meme in pop culture; namely that there is an increasing anxiety about mindless, brain eaters. In the spirit of full disclosure I have a bias towards this metaphor because I have a fair amount of anxiety about mindless, brain-eaters but I do think it is a rational fear. This all started when I saw a video of a horde of Black Friday shoppers at a Walmart and I mistook it for an episode of ‘The Walking Dead’. I posted a tweet comparing the average person to a zombie and was challenged by a reader who did not think my comparison was fair or accurate. After my last blog post she still doesn’t think its fair or accurate to call the average person a zombie, so I feel the need to further my case for the metaphor before I delve into the origins and possible cure for what I think could aptly be called the zombie virus.

The first thing I need to do is define my terms. For the purpose of this metaphor I will define a zombie as a person that lacks awareness of where its appetite, desires, motivations, and feelings come from and therefore acts essentially as an automaton. I will get even more precise here and define a zombie as somebody who is not aware that they lack self-awareness. Contrast this with a living person who is aware that they have unconscious patterns of behaviour, thoughts and feelings and are therefore able to modify and change themselves. A fully living person can not only empathize with others, by imagining themselves in that persons shoes, they can also imagine what that other persons experience of them might be…they are able to observe themselves. Activating this inner observer is the key to learning (Short, 1998) because it allows us to be in congruence with reality, fully engaged with the external world. The essence of being undead is being cut-off from your self…a zombie is a bag of meat interacting with the external world without an internal driver.

When I say the average person is a zombie I mean that the majority (greater than 50%) of the population are zombies…they are unaware that they are unaware. I went through a great deal of my life like this, never once questioning where my beliefs and assumptions about the world came from, oh I had ready made rationalizations and justifications for my beliefs, but not once did I stop and examine how I came to have these assumptions about the world and the resultant thoughts, feelings and behaviours that followed. So I am not writing this with any sense of inherent superiority to my fellow human apes. It took a radically life altering experience coupled with an incredibly powerful sense that something wasn’t right to help bring into my awareness the fact that I was completely unaware about all the assumptions and beliefs I held.

So there are two ways of looking at my claim that the majority of people are unaware of their own lack of awareness about their desires, motivations, feelings, and assumptions about the world. The skeptic would have to assert the opposite, that the majority of people are aware that they are unaware…I think this is a much more difficult hypothesis to support and as a corollary that a much more intuitively rational default position is that the majority of people are unaware of their lack of awareness. However, I’ll try and support my case.

If the majority of people were NOT zombies you would expect to see the following:
·        Insatiable curiosity about the world
·        Insatiable curiosity about the self
·        Insatiable curiosity about their relationships and other people
·        Recognition of cognitive dissonance as a learning opportunity
·        Insatiable curiosity about other world views
·        A high degree of psychotherapy would be prevalent, self-knowledge would be a top priority
·        Most social conversations would be deeply meaningful and intimate, people would leave conversations feeling empowered and connected
·        Consumerism, debt slavery and addiction would be very low as people would be able to balance and understand their life as it connects to deferred vs immediate gratification
·        Mob scenes would be almost non-existent (Black Fridays, Political Rallies, Huge Sporting Events etc.) because individuals just wouldn’t get a charge out of losing their individuality.

Now let me address these points one by one:
  • I do not see a great deal of curiosity about the world in people I’m surrounded by, most people I see around me consume and regurgitate media.
  • Even fewer people are curious about themselves and their motivations and feelings. If you have ever heard someone say, “She made me mad” you are hearing lack of self-awareness.
  • People I know in long-term relationships do not exhibit much curiosity about why the same patterns continue over and over again.
  • I’ve noticed that most people don’t know what to do with cognitive dissonance. I’ve often experienced telling someone a rational argument or epistemology and you can see that it makes them uncomfortable because they recognize it as true and it conflicts with another belief they have. This is a common occurrence and is actually at the root of learning, but the key is what you do when you experience cognitive dissonance. A zombie addresses it by being dismissive, passive aggressive, judgmental, lashing out with ad hominems, attacking a strawman, evading or a number of other intellectually dishonest means. The living accept uncertainty, remain curious and open to reason and evidence, and ruminate on the matter.
  • I don’t experience a great deal of curiosity or empathy from those around me about the world views of other people. I usually just see regurgitation of media for example when it comes to matters in the middle east. Most people aren’t curious about the experience or view of someone in Gaza, Israel, Iraq, or Afghanistan for example yet they will readily make a judgment or statement of fact.
  • Quest for self-knowledge is a hallmark sign of life. Psychotherapy is a well recognized path to obtaining self-knowledge with the help of someone trained. The number of Americans who have attended psychotherapy is under 4% * and of those I would guess that far less than half attended psychotherapy with the goal of obtaining self-knowledge.
  • Maybe I’m going to the wrong places for social conversation, but most of the time I experience conversations about work, weather, physical activity, politics, the news, gossip or sports. I rarely experience intimate conversations, outside close friends, of deep meaning about the joy, sorrow, and suffering someone is experiencing. Never talked about are adverse childhood experiences or the practice of life affirming virtues for example.
  • Consumerism, debt, and addiction are immediately gratifying but they are unhealthy in the long term. Delayed gratification would be much more prevalent today if the majority of people were alive, rather we have fiat debt based currency that is based in the impulse for immediate gratification.
  • A big part of being a zombie is losing ones individuality and becoming one with the mob. Why does it feel so good to chant, “U-S-A, U-S-A..” or rally for you politician or rockstar? Why doesn’t it feel as good to do it by yourself? Why is group conformity and belonging so important to our sense of self-esteem?

I hope to answer these questions in an upcoming blog about where the zombie virus comes from and how to cure it. I'll also let you know who I think represent vampires in this world and why we see a prevalence of blood sucking, power mongers, exhibiting superficial charm and beauty and who can't see themselves in a mirror (lack self-knowledge)...hazard a guess?

Now to my friend and reader who challenged me; first I want to say thank-you and secondly I want to say that I do not look down on zombies with disdain and I don't think they are hopeless and incapable of rationality and self-awareness, I simply experience anxiety and sometimes fear when I am around them...mostly fear for my children, thirdly I recognize the dearth of references here and will make up for it when I get into how the zombie virus was socially engineered. Let me know what your thoughts are.

Short, R. (1998). Learning in Relationship. Bellevue, Washington: Learning in Action Technologies, Inc.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Meet The Zombies

Zombies are mindless automatons that are neither dead nor alive, eat brains and are singularly focused on consumption. I hypothesize that there is a rational reason that the zombie is an increasingly popular figure in today’s culture, namely that it closely resembles what we fear most…our fellow humans. We’ve all seen the video's of crazed shopping mobs on Black Friday and faced the holiday throngs ourselves in crowded stores intent on pushing our way through and getting what we "need". These are the zombie hordes and we ourselves are part of what we most fear.

Let us look at what defines a zombie.

1)      Neither Dead nor Alive Automatons – They are drifting through an existence that is mindless and seemingly never ending, unaware of their own motivating drive to consume. How much does this resemble our everyday lives? Get a job, work 9 – 5, watch TV, consume products, and repeat until death. Most of us have a nagging itch in our minds that something isn’t right, that we aren’t really alive in any meaningful way. Zombies are unaware of themselves and their own motivations.

2)      They Eat Brains – You’ll have experienced what it means to have your brain eaten if you’ve ever had an original thought that you’ve been excited about. Especially a thought that is outside the normal narrowly constrained paradigm of dogma that exists in culture. The undead around you will quickly notice your bright light of originality and bring you into conformity with them. You’ll rarely be met with the curiosity of the living if you say something like, “What if god(s) and governments are made up and illegitimate?” Zombie’s must eat your brain and zombify you, it is an unconscious drive to bring you into the zombie collective.

3)      Focused on Consumption – Zombies have an insatiable appetite. They have a constant unconscious desire to consume. It is as if they are trying to fill a void that can never be filled.

I see the rise of zombie movies as a healthy sign. You’ll notice that the common thread of what defines a zombie is that they lack self-awareness, they are acting unconsciously. The fact that people are beginning to recognize the zombie virus that infects those around them represents hope! Eventually they will look in a mirror and notice themselves. This growing awareness is a natural cause for anxiety, zombies are dangerous and scary and waking up to find yourself surrounded by them is unsettling to say the least. This growing anxiety is reflected in pop culture I believe.

In the near future I will write about how the zombie virus is created and spread and how we can prevent it and maybe even cure it while fighting off the hoards.

Cheers, from a recovering zombie.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Why Voting May Be Harmful

     Imagine that there is a powerful thug who comes around every so often to rape you and your neighbours.  But he is a nice thug in the sense that he allows you to vote on the way he is going to rape you, you can choose which orifice and perhaps choose the sweet nothings he whispers in your ear as he violates you.  The people all around you activiely participate in their democratic right to choose how they are violated.  The fine and intricate details of rape philosophy are passionately debated as some prefer the mouth while others prefer the anus and so two groups form and the neighbourhood is collectivised and labelled in these are either a mouther or an anuser (right wing or left wing).

      Advocates of democracy argue passionately that our ancestors fought and died to get this new rapist, remember the old rapist never gave us a choice.  They praise the qualities of our rape system and rave about how lucky we are to be raped in this manner.  They engage in loving dialogue with the rapist and understand that while they don't enjoy being violated they understand that it is a necessary unpleasantness so that we may have order and peace in the neighbourhood and that the poor are looked after and the sick tended too. They rave about the good feeling they get taking collective action to create change and celebrate victories about orifice changes and small victories like the loving sweet nothings we get to hear as the rape occurs.

       Does anybody get why voting is harmful?  Its a dialogue with thugs that lends credibility to human rights violations.  Now I don't think voting is immoral because I think that a case can be made that it may reduce immediate harm in certain circumstances, for example I would prefer lube to rectal tearing, however what is the cost of this dialogue?  I posit that the cost is dignity, pride, and corruption of the self.  When we bring ourselves to believe that rape is virtue as long as we get to vote, we further degrade ourselves, we form a detachment from reality.

       I don't vote on how I will be violated because I see it as an affront to my dignity.  I prefer
 to look my rapist in the eye and tell him that I recognize that he is evil and that he is violating me and my neighbours. I prefer a little rectal tearing because I see it as less degrading than pretending I'm not being violated.