“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” ~ Alvin Toffler
Well, I’ve got some bad news for you: you’re brainwashed. Sorry to say, but it’s the truth. Protest all you want, it won’t change the fact of it, but don’t worry– we all are! To a certain extent, anyway. It’s impossible to be born into this world and not have our brains washed by the respective community we find ourselves in. Unless you were lucky enough to live in widely different cultures over the course of your childhood, you most likely suffer from extreme enculturation.
Even extensive travelling as an adult — while undoubtedly beneficial to opening one’s mind to the incredible diversity this world holds — most likely pales in comparison to the experience of culture absorbtion when one is still a growing child. Aside from the direct transmission we get from our parents (via both genetics and the quality of their rearing) everything from our deepest moral values to our sense of humour is created in this process, and, to put it very simply, every society has both its ‘good’ things and its ‘bad’ things– or rather, things that either work or don’t work in the aiding of the health and happiness of both the individual and the community.
To break it down, it starts with belief and ends with action. And to be clear, we are not talking here about beliefs that are professed, but rather demonstrated. These are actual beliefs. Many people preach certain things ad nauseum, but then go on to do the total opposite in action, thus displaying what they truly believe.
Cultures are created and perpetuated by the actions that are put into them, and these are built on a foundation of values, spoken or unspoken. This article attempts to identify four of the most common unconscious concepts found in cultures across the world and expose them for your consideration. At the very least it will hopefully encourage you to begin questioning the society you find yourself in.
After all, who better to wash your brain than yourself?
1) Money is the Answer
As Ned Beatty famously declared in the prophetic 1976 film Network:
“We no longer live in a world of nations and ideologies, Mr. Beale. The world is a college of corporations, inexorably determined by the immutable by-laws of business. The world is a business…”
Flash forward to 2015 and this is generally common knowledge, given the explosion of information we all now have available at our fingertips, yet across so many cultures the myth persists, even as everyone continues to spout the platitude “money isn’t everything”.
It doesn’t take a genius to notice that your value as a human being remains directly proportional, for most, to the level of wealth you display. The bum on the street is useless and gets walked over without so much as a glance while palms sweat and collars are wrung when the CEO comes for a visit.
You go into the arts because you love it but unless you can turn that love into a decent wage your work and your worth will go largely unnoticed. After a certain age, men become more ‘attractive’ due to the level of their income. The list goes on and on, unfortunately.
While it is important not to sabotage ourselves by taking on, or perpetuating, the belief that money itself is ‘bad’ (it’s not — it is a completely neutral energy that can be used for ‘good’ or ‘bad’) we nonetheless need to recognize how deeply money remains connected to our sense of value. Learning to cultivate a true “bearing of sameness” before all humans is a good beginning step in moving away from this illusion.
2) Your Security is to be Found in the Future
This point ties in with the last one, as money and security are undeniably interwoven. You must save for your future. The only problem with this? The future doesn’t exist. Far too many people most likely realize this when they find themselves in the now at 65, finally financially secure, and having spent a life working a job they hate — or one they they simply settled for — in order to get them there.
Yet it goes far beyond money alone. Most societies purport that everything you want lies in the future– confidence, fun, a perfect mate, a sexy body, time to relax –all of it, THEN. In the meantime, remember, you are not secure! You must work at everything in order to become secure!
This state of mind is so common and so widespread that most people don’t even realize they’re in it– it’s simply ‘normal’.
Two activities practiced humbly, however, will begin to wake you up to it: meditation and mindfulness. Take it upon yourself to add these to your “to-do” list and eventually you may just find that you are incredibly secure, no matter what it is you’re up to.
3) Your Acceptance Depends on Emulation
Have you noticed lately how many women are now styling themselves after Kim Kardashian? Same hair, same sunglasses, same clothes. Why? Because first world culture has declared her, for some reason, the most viable female role-model for the time being.
This type of behaviour is not new. Anyone who’s been through high school knows about the pressure to conform. Yet, on the other side of the coin, even the so-called non-conformists are conforming to an identity. Punks, hippies and hipsters are still part of their own cliques, replete with their own standards to conform to, and defined, as they are, in relation to the others– those whose values their whole existence is a statement against. It’s a never-ending cycle of us and them, and one that can be incredibly hard to break.
So what constitutes a true individual? Who knows. The meaning lies in the word itself, and is therefore only answerable by YOU. Get quiet with yourself and find out.
4) Certain Things Are Not to be Questioned
Draw a cartoon of Mohammed and get blown up: sad but true– and on the extreme end of the scale, to be sure –yet, unfortunately, in a horrible and violent type of catch-22, this type of fanaticism is exactly what happens when you’re not allowed to question certain things. Everything is available for the scrutiny of the individual, as it should be, and denying anyone that right is denying one of the most basic rights of humans everywhere.
Obviously, individual privacy remains an inalienable right as well, but certain things that have harsh external consequences, such as fanatical religious beliefs that result in violence, or an economic system that not only allows children to starve to death, but produces them, remain among those things that most people don’t want to discuss, let alone look closely at.
The antidote? Stop looking to external entities or other people for (often easy, bias-backed) answers. Learn to think critically. Get out the magnifying glass. Look and look some more yourself, and come to your own conclusions. Then do whatever it is you deem appropriate. If it is a compassionate answer, you are undoubtedly on the right track.