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Is it possible to detect if we've been "brainwashed" by our own Government? Can we be "thrown in a mental jail" by very powerful organizations, and not even know about it? If we don't feel like we have been brainwashed, is that a proof that we have really not been brainwashed, or is it just a proof that this brainwashing is working really well? Is it possible to "self-deprogram", i.e. to liberate our mind?
You've probably seen the old joke of the "weather forecasting stone", which is just some silly rock hanging next to a sign with two columns: one column for the conditions, and another for the corresponding "weather forecast", like:
CONDITION | FORECAST stone is wet | rainy stone is white | snowy stone is swinging | windy
Of course, the joke get funnier with conditions like "stone is jumping up and down" (earthquake!), or "stone is gone" (tornado!). My favorite is "two stones" (stop drinking!). But this joke has profound philosophical implications (and therefore, profound political implications, since good Politics requires good Philosophy).
Does the stone agree with the TV?
Can a Democracy be healthy if some powerful organization controls the information? Can citizens vote intelligently, if citizens are systematically misinformed? I assume you agree with me here, that good decisions require good information.
So all we need to do is to verify by ourselves if what we are being told corresponds to reality, and our problem is solved, right? If we want to detect if we've been "brainwashed" by our own Government, we just need to compare what the "weather forecasting stone" is telling us (i.e. what we can observe with our own eyes and ears and fingers, etc.), with what the Government is trying to make us believe, right?
It would be nice if things were this simple and easy!
Is it possible to actually desire to be brainwashed by our Government? Could somebody actively seek to be "programmed"? One thing is sure, if it's possible, then that would be the most dangerous form of brainwashing! What might cause this bizarre situation? I'd say anything that could make our will "bend" our reason, anything that could make us want to see something else than what the "weather forecasting stone" is clearly showing us. Some examples:
Yes, everybody is going that way, but does that prove it's a good idea?
3.1) Fear of being different from everybody else. Man is a social animal, and we are naturally afraid of anything that might make "the group" dislike us. So we have a normal tendency to follow the crowd, sometimes known as "the herd instinct".
3.2) Fear of bad news. The more a situation is bad, the more people naturally have difficulty accepting it. If you walk around the Titanic and tell passengers that they are serving free beer in the bar, everybody will love you (or at least ignore you). But if you go around telling passengers that an iceberg has just ripped a huge hole in the hull, and that there aren't enough lifeboats for everybody, and that in a few hours most of us will be dead in the cold Atlantic waters, you will probably be attacked, or at least mocked, spat on and insulted.
3.3) Fear of being tortured by the Gestapo. If your Government is either tyrannical, or starting to be tyrannical, the police will be actively hunting for people who use their critical thinking skills. Even suggesting that maybe the official Government version might not be the absolute truth will be perceived as an act of rebellion, and punished harshly by the police. And of course, since such a Government has informants everywhere, most people will want to appear in total agreement with the Government. So anybody asking too many questions will be attacked by their fellow-citizens. In other words most people's instinct for survival will tranform them into hyenas, hyenas eager to tear to shreds anybody who even talks about brainwashing and propaganda.
Actually, there is no theoretical limit to what power can make people do, if they are afraid enough. If citizens are cowardly enough, the Government can make them walk on all fours and bark like dogs...
I still get a giggle out of the famous Aluminum-Foil Deflector Beanie which supposedly protects us from "Psychtronic Waves" used by Government satellites to control our thoughts. But is there something we can do to really protect ourselves? Is there some kind of "Philosophical Aluminum Foil" that can protect our minds from brainwashing?
To seriously answer that question, we can look at the various sources of errors listed here above. If we can find ways to combat those various fears, we will be in a better position to detect, cure, and protect ourselves from Government brainwashing. As far as I can see, it comes back to THINKING. It always comes back to thinking! (Hey, this is the Philosophy section of my web site, what else were you expecting!)
Let's start with the "herd instinct". The more you think about a situation, the more you investigate what is going on and what are the causes and effects, the more you'll have reasons to behave differently from the herd. So you won't feel so bad behaving "strangely".
What about the fear of bad news? Here again, if you face those fears and do your own investigation, you'll either discover that there are no bad news (which will eliminate your fears), or you'll find out what is causing this bad situation. And the more you understand what is causing the bad news, the more you can react intelligently (like a passenger on the Titanic building himself a liferaft, instead of drinking more beer to try to forget the horrible things that are coming).
What about the fear of being tortured by the Gestapo? From a purely philosophical point of view, we can see that people who are convinced (for whatever reason) that there is some sort of Afterlife, could very well behave differently. If somebody is convinced that there is something infinitely more painful than whatever the Gestapo could inflict on them, for example "Hell", and that respecting Ethics will compensate for any temporary disadvantage endured here below, that person might not "self-brainwash" to please the Gestapo and their minions.
Relax! Nobody around you can read your thoughts. You can think as much as you want! But remember that nobody but yourself can give yourself true mental freedom. This requires some mental effort (sometimes referred to as "carrying your Cross"), but it can be done, and it pays well. Infinitely well.
What are you saying? Me? You're asking me if maybe I've been a little bit brainwashed? Maybe! I must verify again. It's always a good idea to regularly verify such things, like checking if our smoke detectors and our fire extinguisher are in good order. Thanks for reminding me to THINK. It's a beautiful Christmas present, the gift of light!
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