Shattering social programmin
g with truth
How do we make sense of the world as it is? We have endured indoctrination our entire lives from teachers and peers that has shaped how we think about the world we experience. How we dress in public, which conversation topics are off limits, when are we allowed to cry, how loud we are in a library, how we react to authority figures- the list goes on and on. Our education system fails to develop critical thinking ability or to foster creative expression, and instead teaches obedience to authority and to clocks, presents group-think consensus as fact, and instills shame in children for not paying attention to boring class material. The social behavioral patterns we are taught in school install brain-washing software that can last a lifetime if not consciously addressed later on. Which thoughts are genuinely our own, and which thoughts first pass through a cultural filter so embedded in our upbringing that we aren’t even aware it exists? When someone plans their wedding, how much of it conforms to traditions that have nothing to do with the couple getting married, and how much of it is creative expression? We choose whether we adhere to traditional behavioral norms for approval from family, or if we pioneer a new path and make choices independently from cultural expectations. Do we have the courage to face the criticism and alienation that comes with breaking from tradition, and also if we were to follow all family traditions laid out for us can we still remain true to ourselves?
I was having a conversation with some fellow contemplative thinkers and one friend described guilt as being based in all those things we choose to do on behalf of what someone else wants of us. Shame and guilt are two of the most prevalent and harmful programs we are indoctrinated in, and they act as cultural filters for endless decisions we make. Here is how the guilt filter works: You initially feel guilty about the possibility of letting others down. They are expecting you to follow along with the same routine as a means of continually initiating you into their group. You feel obligated to attend family functions like birthdays, holidays, and funerals because of the guilt of owing it to the people who raised you. These decisions to adhere to tradition in order for group approval add up and you can begin to feel like a pawn in another person’s game. Are we really passionate about these traditions we continually uphold, or are we just making the best of them while going through the motions?
Family expectations often follow the same basic indoctrination we are taught at school- if you disobey, you will be in trouble. Parents give you the guilt trip, but the state treats any disobedience with violent punishment. Every citizen of the U.S. is required to pay taxes, to obey armed police officers, and to submit to the established authority of courts and prisons. If you do not complete all your mandatory registrations and paperwork, you can be taken against your will and be locked in a cage. These obligatory constraints are enforced on you and on everyone else. Sovereign individuals are treated as threats to the group and are alienated or punished. The problem is that we don’t actually want to go to the DMV or fund endless war with our tax dollars, but if we don’t follow along we will be punished. We may honestly hate adhering to laws that punish marijuana users, for instance, but we must obey all of the state’s rules, even the ones we personally disagree with.
There is something changing in human consciousness and the proof can be found in the youth-led rebellions of repressive regimes all over the world. From the Arab Spring uprisings that overthrew dictatorships to the Occupy Wall st protests that connected young dissenters from all backgrounds under the message that this game is rigged. Not only do the young people know it’s rigged, they also know it’s fake and that they don’t want to play along by these game rules anymore. Older wealthy people fear that with institutional change they would lose their control, but the youth who don’t have the same opportunities as previous generations have nothing to lose. Their future is at stake, and they simply won’t submit to the traditions that aren’t benefiting them. As always, those currently in positions of power pretend to look the other way and ignore global dissent from the people. Religions, governments, and militaries are continuing to lose support as individuals break from social programming in search of something better. The idea that the path we are on economically, militarily, environmentally, or spiritually is the best of all possible paths is ridiculous to anyone used to entertaining more than one possibility. But if we are to become better, we need to begin a process of incorporating changes. We change gradually as we rethink these social programs we were installed with.
We can confront the guilt and obligations to others with honesty, even if doing so is difficult. These games we are playing are horrible and they are going to change. As we communicate more honestly we will be able to organize better solutions more effectively. Until we are true to ourselves, we will feel robotic and hollow.