Posts Tagged ‘beliefs’

The Irrational Defiance of Phobics

“The psychological root of terrorism is a fanatical resentment – a quasi-psychotic hatred originating in the depths of the archetypal psyche and therefore carried by religious (archetypal) energies. A classic literary example is Melville’s Moby Dick. Captain Ahab, with his fanatical hatred of the White Whale, is a paradigm of the modern terrorist.

Articulate terrorists generally express themselves in religious (archetypal) terminology. The enemy is seen as the Principle of Objective Evil (Devil) and the terrorist perceives himself as the “heroic” agent of divine or Objective Justice (God). This is an archetypal inflation of demonic proportions which temporarily grants the individual almost superhuman energy and effectiveness. To deal with terrorism effectively we must understand it.” ~ E. F. Edinger: On the psychology of terrorism

Captain Ahab sees more than evil in the whale he seeks to kill.  For it to exist as a force, implies some defined order, and therefore some meaning to his universe.  And if he cannot find and kill it, then he has no proof of the orderliness.  What he fears, perhaps more than anything else (including his own demise), is a disorderly universe that attaches no meaning to occurrences, including the fact that he’d lost a leg.

Most of his crew suspected Ahab to be somewhat imbalanced about his intense quest.  But that imbalance did not stop them from following him at the cost of everything including their lives.    Ahab was not just authority, but absolute authority.  You cannot have an absolute authority without beliefs.  The certainty of those beliefs, “the feeling of knowing” according to neurologist Robert A Burton, M.D., comes not from examining empirical evidence, or even from any analytical process we call “thinking”.

“Certainty and similar states of “knowing what we know” are sensations that feel like thoughts, but arise out of involuntary brain mechanisms that function independently of reason.”   ~ http://goo.gl/QYtt4

So it is emotive based on what is presumed to be true.  The captain of the ship, certainly in the case of Ahab, is a dominator.  And those he dominates are fearful–not just of him, but of the idea of not being submissive to the authority.  Please note that the captain is not independently dominant, as he cannot manage the large ship without a crew.

His orders must be heard by those who are phobic enough to not dare disobey them.  When we see this behavior on playgrounds, it’s called “bullying”.  Sometimes the bullied fear not so much some physical punishment, but the withdrawal of favor: losing worthiness, or significance in some way.  And that is precisely why the crew of the Pequod, though many with deep personal reservations, do as they are told.

Through Captain Ahab’s commands, the crew could fight against evil, even death itself, because it had been given both form and a name–a great white whale–Moby Dick. This rendered it tangible, and therefore less awesome than an unnamed, illusive to clear understanding, death.

So as the captain commands absolute obedience, the crew follows him.  He has convinced them not just that the fight was very real, and very winnable, but that it was their unavoidable duty.  And in so doing, death itself becomes diminished.  Death, in the face of a necessary battle of righteousness, takes on a manageable definition when the foe is believed to be finite.  Compared to the unbridled fear of death, the “cause” with meaning and purpose becomes determinate.

It all hinges on beliefs overriding the insanity of the quest, and even though quite a few of them considered the skipper to be crazy.  It was safer to believe in the authority of the captain in spite of him being a bit nuts, than to allow the thought of the great unknown of chaos–that the personified evil, Moby Dick, might be a delusion–no, that would unhinge everything.

The study of mythologies identifies a common thread: explanations offer to give order to things otherwise phenomenal.  Chieftains, high priests, and witchdoctors have a long history of connecting subservience to the supernatural in a way that provides for a safety net beyond mortality.  And many of those who believe in the stories would rather die than have their beliefs undermined–even in the face of overwhelming evidence that what they believe is not remotely founded in facts at all.

The Beowulf epic, written by some anonymous Anglo-Saxon poet prior to the twelfth century, tells a tale of having to fend off, defeat, and destroy a nemesis monster character called Grendel.  From the point of view of Beowulf and his human comrades, Grendel is not one of them, but “the other”.

We can observe the failures of human civilization when, due to prejudice, misunderstanding, and ignorance, communication breaks down, and people become polarized in pockets of the “us”, and the “them”.  When all parties are so inclined to believe the differences to be irreconcilable, their phobic nature gives them few options outside of their fear.  And if they can growl loud enough, perhaps “the other” will fear them as well.

The very basis of the fear is often misinterpreted by the fearful themselves.  And without dialogue with a sincere purpose of moving closer to understanding, the objects of fear are often reduced to matters of cultural difference.  The differences, when carefully considered, may really be little more than acceptable costume, or the manner in which some child’s mother taught it to pray.

There are more than 6,000 languages spoken by human beings today, and most individuals know only one of them.  Some of these languages are only spoken by small groups of people.  In fact, almost a third of these languages are used by populations of only a thousand people, or less.  And while they may not be widely understood when speaking out, their needs, wants, and concerns are no less human than are those of the users of more common languages.  And even among the more frequently used languages, a clear translation of ideas often breaks down when the literal clashes with the colloquial, leaving intent to seem ambiguous at best, and at worst, hostile.

I think people could do better.  But they won’t as long as they remain afraid of what they don’t understand.  To clear up misunderstandings requires bravery and not cowardice; requires effort and not indolence.  It will require honest investigation of truthful information and not suspicious presuppositions.  It requires a commitment to wanting to do the right thing, and an openness to ideas that may be different from those we bring to the table.  While that may not be too much to ask, many seem to believe it’s too much to expect.

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Is Not Conservation Essentially the Quintessential Conservative Position?

When it comes down to the politically polarized issues about our environment, a good many people seem to be arguing about things outside their understanding.  It isn’t a new practice; it’s been going on for thousands of years–millions perhaps if you go back to the early beginnings of the hominids.  About 95% of our population is scientifically illiterate (according to Dr. Carl Sagan), and consequently fearful about what they don’t understand.

It is because of what they don’t know (and do not want to know), that they will presume to get their conclusions from other people.  The overwhelming majority are phobics, and as a large subset, get their opinions, not from research, or study, but from accepting the ideas presented to them by their bullies (dominators).  And as long as certain dominators are blinded by the prospects of a hugely profitable immediacy, the inability to postpone gratification, one of the basic character flaws found in individuals and societies as a whole, they will passionately pursue those profits, and support a campaign program of perception management to keep their phobic followers seeing everything as simple, and in some way similar to a pep-rally at a high school football game.  To them, it is just easier to see it as a game.  And during games, they will yell: “Hooray for our side!”

Some are not convinced, in the face of data they literally do not understand, that if we must err, it would be wiser to err on the side of caution.  Strangely enough, they have been convinced (which should give any reasonably bright person a clue to what is happening) that protecting the earth, air, and water in some natural way that can sustain life is some kind of communist plot. At the same time, the delusion has now spread so far as to insist conservation itself, which is the ultimate conservative position, is somehow a bad idea.

Furthermore, it is presumed bad by those who externalize good and bad to things outside themselves, especially if they do not understand them.  What makes it easy for dominators to benefit from such idiocy is the very nature of the phobics.  It is common for them to fear what is framed as “the opposition”, and fear it vehemently more so if it is not understood, or if at all, not very clearly.

And what irrational fear seems so profoundly expressed so loudly and so often?  What more so than the in-your-face insistence of an idea from someone seen to be of an opposing political or religious ideology?  In fact, since that very angst drives humans to become passionate about war, it appears that fears associated with threats they recognize (though not always rationally) to the fabric of their beliefs, will overwhelm even the fear of the loss of life and limb.  You’ve seen it in lots of places.  I’ve seen it on fields of battle.  You can find lots of evidence to support what I just said, if you’ll just look for it.

In the meantime, while incidences of melanoma continue to rise, while a glacier in Nova Scotia continues to melt risking thermal dynamic alterations to The Gulf Stream, while crude oil still leaks into the lower part of that Gulf Stream, while humans and their children have flammable liquids come into their homes through their kitchen faucets, since what was once thought to be an unlimited source of food in our oceans seen now to be endangered and very finite, while we continue to breathe air so unlike the air from just a mere century ago, people turn their backs to the problem, primarily because…they don’t even understand it?  And all of these things are happening whether anyone is willing to admit it, or not.

Oh, these issues are likely to bring sickness, pain, and death to some of the children and grandchildren of our people, but it is much easier to just not think about it than to risk the odd chance of becoming aware of the possibility that some things may have already gone too far.  And to turn our backs and not stand up to face these adversities is not a very responsible, or even a brave thing to do.  When others are seen to be not facing, and even hiding from things that could threaten them, it is often observed as the essence of cowardice, isn’t it?  Maybe we here in the home of the brave, should think about that a little bit.

I thought of some apparent confusions about irrational fearfulness and bravery the other day while looking at a photograph of a man carrying an AR-15 with him to the grocery store.  Imagine so many other people going to buy their daily bread without so much as a pocket knife on them.  Is it that they do not understand all the imminent dangers omni-present all around them?  Or instead, are they just enjoying the freedom that is found only in a peaceful mind?  And perhaps to some, is that not a peacefulness passing far beyond what others might have developed as skills, or ever made habits to even begin to understand?  Well, of course it is.

Human life exists on this planet, as does lots of other kinds of life, due to delicate balances within nature itself.   Some want to believe all this life, all this nature, is the good work and good gifts to us from an unerringly good Deity, yet they would trash it?  Hardly makes sense when you think about it.  But to think about it and want to understand requires an effort.  Those who are lazy with ideas and only want to stand on those built by someone else, some authority they’ve acquiesced their rights to self-reliant thought processing, will not think about it without becoming irrational, thus angry and even hateful.  Peacefulness, a by-product of understanding, is not the business of those willing to be enslaved by their own misunderstandings.

So the fearful will be sedated by the empty promises of their dominators, and remain faithfully in hope of being lead to safety.  And absolutely nothing outside those empty promises will be of any long-term benefit to the phobics, or to their children.

“Stop worrying about these rumors you’re hearing about Agent Orange.  It’s just a defoliant, and cannot cause any harm to people or other animals.”
 ~ Lt. Commander (name withheld), Civil Engineer Corps, USN, 1969, just outside DaNang, Vietnam.  I remember it well.

So, you think you have either an “A” or “B” type personality?

“I know nothing more annoying when people I don’t know jump to conclusions on my person based on nothing but gossip or speculation.”                                                                                                                                    ~ Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, actor, producer and screenwriter

*****

I’m no fan of the simplicity of using the either A or B personality formula.  It is not very academic or scientific.  A and B type personality assessments were intended to determine the likelihood of a person having a coronary.  You can look it up.

It is a poor tool for determining overall temperament, character analysis, social style, or general personality.  Unfortunately, in the business world, it has been used as a screening tool, with an assumption of some iron-clad rule that one type is more likely to succeed than the other, and that the template works the same for all jobs in all industries.  That would be not only incorrect, it would be foolish.  Here’s your real A/B:

“One group of people believes everything can be divided into one of two groups.  The other group of people doesn’t.”

Never treat supposition as fact.  That would be no more scientific than using a coin toss to make all important decisions.  Also, be cautious of the risk of falling prey to illogical deductive reasoning:

“All safe motorcycles have at least two good wheels.  My lawnmower has at least two good wheels.  Therefore, my lawnmower is a safe motorcycle.” 

That’s right, factual perhaps in the statements, but the conclusion is ludicrous; not very scientific at all.  So, if it isn’t scientific, what is it?  Emotional?  Well?  Don’t most people make decisions because of what they feel more than by what they think?  Yes, they do.

A good example of the is when a person buys a car.  No matter how analytical they thought they were during the process, the decision to buy is ALWAYS an emotional one.  The only plausible argument with that would be that what you are feeling does go through your mind.

Most people who try to measure behavioral qualities of other people by using generalized cookie cutter templates might find some of the erroneous conclusions they will draw to become problematic; even harmful.  This mistake is also a common occurrence with self-assessments, too.

When a person reads a profile of themselves they like, and considers it flattering, they will want to believe it true whether it was in the astrology section of todays newspaper, or a fortune cookie.  Believing such things allows thinking to not seem so necessary.  And people do prefer a set of beliefs far more than they do the idea of having to logically analyze empirical evidence, or even look for it.  Modern psychology has come up with much better tools, but using them does require some thought and effort.

Look at people as individuals instead of using some presuppositional tool to put labels on them.  Folks are likely to resent labels, especially if they believe they came by superficial means.  Don’t forget about the times you have felt you were judged incorrectly or wrongly by someone who was obviously being prejudicial.

So it is with that in mind that I ask you to please be cautious about using any simplistic template where any of the descriptive labels used will be seen by the people you are “judging” as judgmental. When they discover what you’ve concluded or said, it is very likely to come across to them as unfairly critical, narrow-minded, condescending, or possibly rude if not mean-spirited.

Some folks prefer simple explanations, or at least the appearance of them.  By that measure, they will think this A/B tool is wonderful.  Those go for the simplicity of it are likely to quickly pack it away in their toolbox along with the other belief disorders they have collected over the years.  And that toolbox usually holds things folks have learned to believe on their own by jumping to conclusions, or have been taught to believe in accordance with the leap some other person or persons want you to take.

But as I’ve said before, what people believe to be true to in fact be true, is not now, nor has it eve been required.  But be careful when it come to challenging what other people insist they believe.  They might attack you, or even kill you if they feel it necessary to, not so much for themselves personally, but that their beliefs be kept safe.  For without ideology, idiotic or otherwise, you cannot have war.

Significant, Worthy, and Safe

“Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising.”                                                    ~ Mark Twain, from “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court”

Remember the commercial comparing thick and thin with a close up image of a pearl dropping through two comparative liquid shampoos?  Do you know what makes shampoo (and all liquid soaps and detergents) thick instead of watery thin? Solids–the cheapest of which is SALT.  It was also the biggest trick when the janitorial industry started measuring the percent of solids instead of just buying by the gallon.

Need more gallons?  Add more water.  Need more solids?  Add more salt.  All you have to do is keep an eye out for that mere 5% of the population that’s even borderline scientifically literate.  The other 95% will (and do) buy almost anything if you make the commercial sexy enough.

Consider how these three concepts can become primary illusions that will convince most people to buy.  And while you are thinking about it, also imagine a corollary to the delusional motivation behind mass murderers and serial killers as well.  To some degree, they feel their actions, or their acquisition(s) of product(s) will somehow help them to become:

1.) Significant;

2.) Worthy,

3.) Safe.

The intent of all advertising (also true for all propaganda) is perception management.  To accomplish that, the message must allude to the hope that the (product or behavior) will not only make them so, but also make them appear to be so in the eyes of others as well (therefore, “cool”, or especially so not to be “uncool”).

So, there is that subtle hook to be aware of–not just what a person wants, but particularly mindful of what they don’t want.  And that is done by planting the idea that buying the competitor’s product can cause you to become (or remain) insignificant, unworthy, or that something important to you might be or become unsafe.

(Note: psychopaths may feel no need themselves to be “worthy”at all, but recognize that need in others, especially in arenas where sanctification, dogma, and patriotism are considered honorable.  And can be quite persuasive, thus causing others to hope they are seen as worthy by the very psychopaths that manipulate them.)

I think it fair to point out that “safe” is often just as important (in some cases, much more so) to people about their ideologies and beliefs as it is about themselves or their loved ones’ personal safety.  If a person doesn’t feel their beliefs to be secure and correct, a self perception of “significant and worthy” would be difficult to maintain.  People will kill thinking they are protecting what they believe.

We may very well be hard wired somehow to be drawn to this kind of thinking–perhaps some evolutionary pattern of survival being threatened by becoming insignificant, unworthy, and of course, unsafe.  If ideologies and beliefs were not tied to these values, think about how difficult it might be to convince human beings to participate in wars.  By war, I’m not talking about an individually dominant person standing in the face of adversity, I’m talking about armies organized to march against other armies–navies against navies.

(Some dialogue taken from the movie “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World”)

Capt. Jack Aubrey:  “Do you want to see a guillotine in Piccadilly?”
Crew:  “No!”
Capt. Jack Aubrey:  “Want to call that raggedy-ass Napoleon your king?”
Crew:  “No!”
Capt. Jack Aubrey:  “You want your children to sing the ‘La Marseillaise?’
Crew:  “No!”

Imagine a study of some people watching the following commercial message.  Do you think the initial responses of all the observers would very favorable towards the product?  If you say yes, you would most likely be correct.  But consider a possible interesting twist in the way men and women might respond differently:

How many of you believe women leaned toward the idea of being safe?  How many think men would be cognizant of a desire to not be unworthy–thus risking some significant reward for being worthy?

In other words, how might the female passenger in the car behave later towards the man who avoided running over the squirrel?  Without this possible difference being pointed out, how many women would think there is nothing sexy about this commercial?

It’s a sporty car (of course).  The desired effect for being seen driving a sporty car is to be seen as having sex appeal. Look at the headlights and grill of this (and practically all cars)–see the “death’s head” or skull face?  Most people cannot begin to verbalize the subtle erotic sensations associated with it, as they are usually very suppressed.  And finally, listen to the closing words:
“…or nothing.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GMxw6H6DUTA

The Open Mind

Some doors are set so that they may be used as an exit, but not as an entrance.  To say the gate is open doesn’t necessarily define how wide the opening is, or what can pass through it.  If a cat can barely squeeze by, the cow might have problems with it.

If a person claims to have an open mind, it doesn’t mean they are open to any and all proposals.  They will still be inclined to set some restrictions on what they will or won’t allow to be worth their consideration.  They will be likely to say they’ll be open to reasonable suggestions, but the caveat will always be what they consider to be reasonable.  And a lot of that will be determined by both what they think they have discovered, and also by what they have been taught to believe.  Yet, there is no axiom that would require either of those prerequisite beliefs to be true, or even based on any truths.

Once a position is adopted, and the person adopting it believes they are correct, those who would disagree with them will most likely be thought to be either flawed in their thinking, or unreasonable if not easily swayed.  Fact is, reason has little to do with it.  Reason considers probabilities and obstacles in a transition, whereas emotion defines the points of the beginning and end on a map.  Additionally, emotion is what is used to determine preferences.

This is often true, in fact, almost entirely with choices in fashion.  The self image desired while wearing a certain pair of shoes may have little to do with the benefits of, or the assistance the shoes will be with comfort, standing, walking or running.  And so it is with virtually everything a person chooses to buy, emotion will win out over reason almost all of the time, regardless of how analytical, practical, or logical they think they have been in making the decision.

So, while we may want to counter some unreasonable idea (ex: witchcraft) with logic, what we may be struggling with is the subjective emotion of fear:  Fear of being out of control; being wrong, being ridiculed instead of praised, or becoming despised by others who might strongly disagree with some new idea or decision that is in conflict with “the way things are done”.

If a person is not open to new ideas, trying to get them to consider them can often create tension.  And when made to feel tense, the fallback behavior you might expect from them may be predictable according to their personality, temperament, and social style based on what they feel is at risk by allowing some new proposition to be deemed valid.  Here are four general groups of styles, and how people in those subsets might respond (fallback behavior) to pressure to take on a precept that opposes something in their preexisting belief system:

1.) The assertive and emotionally controlled (DRIVER) may feel their authority, and thus their control is threatened, so they will likely dismiss you and become autocratic.  They may say something similar to:

“That is nonsense.  We don’t have time for that, and besides, I’ve already made my decision.”

2.) The unassertive and emotionally controlled (ANALYTIC) feels to be wrong is the greatest threat they ever feel.  They will likely avoid you, or at least avoid any deadline that adopts your proposition until they’ve had time to collect their own data to refute it.  Their data may not be accurate or true, but it will lean towards validating their own previously held opinion.  They may never confront you, but if you press them hard enough, they may be inclined to find an ally that will come to you and ask you to “lighten up”.

3.) The assertive and emotionally responsive (EXPRESSIVE) needs more than anything else not to lose their sense of worthiness that earns them applause.  They cannot stand having their ideas made to look ridiculous in front of their peers, or even total strangers, for that matter.  So, they may attack you, at least verbally.  I will not presume to spell out how they might respond as I did above for the driver, but you can presume it might be harsh with insults, rude language, and even fighting words.  You may not wish to hurt people’s feelings by acting that way, but while they rave on, your feelings are not a primary consideration as much as their need to feel like they are winning.  Even if you back off or give in to them, it does not mean their attack is over.  They might even come back with more rebuttal the next day or next week, and might want to fire a few volleys at you as the “opposition” whenever the subject comes up.

4.) The unassertive and emotionally responsive (AMIABLE) does not want you to dislike them, and is also concerned that some bad decision could cause others in their group to dislike, or even hate them.  If you press them too hard, they might appear to acquiesce if they cannot run away.  But they won’t.  The need to not be hated is likely to be too strong for them to dare risk that the “Emperor’s New Clothes” are invisible.  The other three won’t admit it easily either, but their reasons (motivation) are different.

While my overview using a tool of character analysis might be interesting, there are far deeper reasons other than my observations for why people think (or do not seem to think at all) as they do.  For those who wish a less superficial picture just based on reactions determined by style, there are many options available for reading things far more academic, and with much more detail given to specifics from a number of valid sources.

Lots of intelligent writings might help a person move beyond myth and superstition, along with disposing of all kinds of irrational presuppositions and prejudicial opinions.  I’ve run across three in particular that are absolutely brilliant books: One is by a physicist, one by a Neurologist, and one by a philosopher–all of these authors are vey highly respected in the scientific field and academic community.

Yet when I suspect a person might benefit from reading any of them, no matter how much I encourage it, I often find that they will not do so.  Further, they will become absolutely certain that it is a good idea to NOT read them, and become adamant about it if they dare peek at a few pages.  Usually after a short conversation I’ll find these people normally don’t read anything of substance, and are not inclined to ever do so.  When they do read, it will usually be some piece intending to reinforce their existing narrow opinions, and that is with rare exception.

Not surprisingly, when a person with an open mind does read them, they will easily see why a person with a closed mind will not get very far into them.  It’s almost like arguing the existence of Santa Claus with a four year old who has already been convinced Santa is real.  Adults are also guilty of that kind of a mindset. It is the same kind of fuzzy thinking held by certain aristocrats and clerics during the dark ages that once a person has been accused of witchcraft, they have to be found guilty and put to death.

Here are the three books I’d mentioned.  Once you have read them all, see how many other people you can find that have read even one of them all the way through.  You may not be surprised to find very few have, but if you’re like me and would want to live in a society where people are open to reason, you may be disappointed:

1.) “The Demon-Haunted World (Science As A Candle In The Dark)” ~ Carl Sagan, PhD;
2.) “ON BEING CERTAIN: Believing You Are Right Even When You’re Not” ~ Robert A. Burton, M.D.,
2.) “Breaking The Spell” ~ Daniel C. Dennett, PhD

*****

The three books listed above were not chosen to reinforce any opinion I already had, but were referred to me by people whose academic thinking I respect, when I posed some questions that called for deeper answers than a simple conversation would be likely to afford.