Categorized | Features, General

De Ole Dawg – Part 13 2016: Can a whole country be “brainwashed” and led into a march of folly?

BRADES, Montserrat, April 8, 2016 – The protester in today’s picture has his head –  and so his brain –  in a mock washing machine. He is fearful of attempted “brain-washing.” man shouting

People in places like Hong Kong  are very concerned that their governments and state controlled media are trying to warp their hearts and minds.  Where, suicide bombers are a chilling reminder of just how warped we can become, imagining that mass murder is an act of service to God.

Also, not so many years ago, clever advertisers led many millions of people to think that it was a good use of money to buy paper tubes full of dried leaves and then smoke them; damaging their health. So, obviously a lot of people can be misled to believe and do some very strange or even evil things.

Can “mind control” techniques[1] really rob us of ability to think, decide and act for ourselves? Are we really responsible, free, rational creatures? (Or, are we more like computers that just need to be purged of old programming and loaded with new software?)

After the Korean War (1950 – 53), there were major studies on brainwashing of prisoners of war, but in the end it became clear that the techniques in use were similar to much more familiar processes of persuasion and change. Though, perhaps, at a more intense and consciously manipulative level. Edgar Schein, for instance, put a seemingly simple change model on the table (based on Kurt Lewin’s earlier work):

Lewins model

. . .  just like an ice-cube. The idea here is that as individuals:

  • we are normally “frozen” in our current social circumstances,
  • but if we are failing and helplessly floundering, or if we are physically or emotionally isolated from our familiar surroundings, we will become “unfrozen” and
  • we will feel strong internal or social pressure to change.
  • This can lead us to follow seemingly more successful examples, or we may discover “new approaches; which can be “conveniently” put within easy reach. (That’s one of the big problems with the Internet and social media. Or for that matter, aggressive cults or the more manipulative forms of schooling.)
  • Then, gradually we consolidate into a new “shape” – refreezing.

This “ice cube” change pattern can be triggered by something as mild as moving to a new school or something as major as a military boot camp or a manipulative cult or a street gang.

(One of the main driving forces at work here is cognitive dissonance:  if we find ourselves acting out of line with our present beliefs, we will often feel internal discomfort and pressure to change our beliefs to line up with how we have now begun to behave. Similarly, if the new situation is polarised but dominated by a particular point of view, a spiral of silence can easily set in. That is, people may feel pressured to keep doubts to themselves and to speak and act as though they are fully in line with the dominant agenda. Another factor, is that people seek approval of a new circle they identify with, so they can be very vulnerable to peer pressure. As child safeguarding experts warn, we can also be “groomed” to take part in abuse or evil by being de-sensitised to wrong-doing, deceived and seduced.[2] For instance, child abusers often use porn to get children to lower their guard of modesty.)

None of these forces and patterns can actually rob a reasonably mature person of his or her ability to think, decide and act; but, we may find it much easier – or “safer” for the moment – to ignore warning signs and just go with the flow.  Especially, if we do not recognise warning signs or do not see a way to escape.

But how is this related to politics in our region?

Quite simple: too often political movements in the Caribbean can degenerate into cults blindly following politicians in marches of folly (such as that in Acts 27:9 – 44). And those movements now can easily hire ruthless communications, public relations, marketing and psychology experts who lack sound consciences.

Gotcha, look at those silly right-wing theocratic Christians saying how God anointed so and so to be a leader and so we must not oppose or question him!

Not quite so. Matt 22:15 – 22 records how when Jesus was confronted about paying taxes to the hated Roman colonial powers he replied: “Render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God.” Where, as Romans 13:1 – 10 reminds us, the civil authority is God’s servant accountable to do us good as a community, and so he bears the sword of justice to guard the civil peace of justice.  That is why (see verses 6 – 7) he is authorised to collect reasonable taxes that fund good government, and it is why we must respect just law and authorities in the community.

But just as anyone else, Caesar too is to live by the principle of neighbour love that does no harm. As a ruler, he is to seek sound counsel and do the wise thing that builds a stable community worth living in. And, where any neighbour – including Caesar – goes seriously wrong, Leviticus 19:17 counsels us:  “you shall reason frankly with your neighbor.” Indeed, this text makes it plain that this is part of how we are to love our neighbour as we love ourselves. So, no, there is no scriptural command of blind obedience in wrongdoing or in marches of folly. Indeed, in Acts 5:29, the apostles boldly said to Israel’s ruling Council that we must obey God and do the right rather than follow a civil or ecclesiastical authority in manifest wrong.

Just so, we are responsible under God to think for ourselves, to seek and speak the truth in love, to judge our neighbour fairly, and to support sound and just leadership in the community. Including, political leadership.  If we do so boldly, we will have little to fear from wolfish manipulators and misleaders. If.

END –

[1]           http://www.apa.org/monitor/nov02/pc.aspx

[2]           https://victimsofcrime.org/media/reporting-on-child-sexual-abuse/grooming-dynamic-of-csa

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BRADES, Montserrat, April 8, 2016 – The protester in today’s picture has his head –  and so his brain –  in a mock washing machine. He is fearful of attempted “brain-washing.” man shouting

People in places like Hong Kong  are very concerned that their governments and state controlled media are trying to warp their hearts and minds.  Where, suicide bombers are a chilling reminder of just how warped we can become, imagining that mass murder is an act of service to God.

Also, not so many years ago, clever advertisers led many millions of people to think that it was a good use of money to buy paper tubes full of dried leaves and then smoke them; damaging their health. So, obviously a lot of people can be misled to believe and do some very strange or even evil things.

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Can “mind control” techniques[1] really rob us of ability to think, decide and act for ourselves? Are we really responsible, free, rational creatures? (Or, are we more like computers that just need to be purged of old programming and loaded with new software?)

After the Korean War (1950 – 53), there were major studies on brainwashing of prisoners of war, but in the end it became clear that the techniques in use were similar to much more familiar processes of persuasion and change. Though, perhaps, at a more intense and consciously manipulative level. Edgar Schein, for instance, put a seemingly simple change model on the table (based on Kurt Lewin’s earlier work):

Lewins model

. . .  just like an ice-cube. The idea here is that as individuals:

This “ice cube” change pattern can be triggered by something as mild as moving to a new school or something as major as a military boot camp or a manipulative cult or a street gang.

(One of the main driving forces at work here is cognitive dissonance:  if we find ourselves acting out of line with our present beliefs, we will often feel internal discomfort and pressure to change our beliefs to line up with how we have now begun to behave. Similarly, if the new situation is polarised but dominated by a particular point of view, a spiral of silence can easily set in. That is, people may feel pressured to keep doubts to themselves and to speak and act as though they are fully in line with the dominant agenda. Another factor, is that people seek approval of a new circle they identify with, so they can be very vulnerable to peer pressure. As child safeguarding experts warn, we can also be “groomed” to take part in abuse or evil by being de-sensitised to wrong-doing, deceived and seduced.[2] For instance, child abusers often use porn to get children to lower their guard of modesty.)

None of these forces and patterns can actually rob a reasonably mature person of his or her ability to think, decide and act; but, we may find it much easier – or “safer” for the moment – to ignore warning signs and just go with the flow.  Especially, if we do not recognise warning signs or do not see a way to escape.

But how is this related to politics in our region?

Quite simple: too often political movements in the Caribbean can degenerate into cults blindly following politicians in marches of folly (such as that in Acts 27:9 – 44). And those movements now can easily hire ruthless communications, public relations, marketing and psychology experts who lack sound consciences.

Gotcha, look at those silly right-wing theocratic Christians saying how God anointed so and so to be a leader and so we must not oppose or question him!

Not quite so. Matt 22:15 – 22 records how when Jesus was confronted about paying taxes to the hated Roman colonial powers he replied: “Render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God.” Where, as Romans 13:1 – 10 reminds us, the civil authority is God’s servant accountable to do us good as a community, and so he bears the sword of justice to guard the civil peace of justice.  That is why (see verses 6 – 7) he is authorised to collect reasonable taxes that fund good government, and it is why we must respect just law and authorities in the community.

But just as anyone else, Caesar too is to live by the principle of neighbour love that does no harm. As a ruler, he is to seek sound counsel and do the wise thing that builds a stable community worth living in. And, where any neighbour – including Caesar – goes seriously wrong, Leviticus 19:17 counsels us:  “you shall reason frankly with your neighbor.” Indeed, this text makes it plain that this is part of how we are to love our neighbour as we love ourselves. So, no, there is no scriptural command of blind obedience in wrongdoing or in marches of folly. Indeed, in Acts 5:29, the apostles boldly said to Israel’s ruling Council that we must obey God and do the right rather than follow a civil or ecclesiastical authority in manifest wrong.

Just so, we are responsible under God to think for ourselves, to seek and speak the truth in love, to judge our neighbour fairly, and to support sound and just leadership in the community. Including, political leadership.  If we do so boldly, we will have little to fear from wolfish manipulators and misleaders. If.

END –

[1]           http://www.apa.org/monitor/nov02/pc.aspx

[2]           https://victimsofcrime.org/media/reporting-on-child-sexual-abuse/grooming-dynamic-of-csa