No one likes to think of themselves as indoctrinated, but you would be the rare person indeed who wasn’t indoctrinated into something: religion, patriotism, or (insert favourite sports team here). A profound sign of your own personal growth is noticing where you’ve been indoctrinated and choosing what parts of your indoctrination—if any—are worth keeping.
Indoctrination is how we are controlled
Indoctrination is important because it is the most effective means— better than whips and chains—for a power elite to get us to serve them.
Indoctrination works by stifling our capacity to think and replaces that capacity with sets of pre-digested thoughts, attitudes and beliefs that we use to make decisions, choose friends, politicians, spouses etc. The indoctrinated serve the interests of those at the very top.
Even if you think this doesn’t apply to you, pay attention because you may be wrong, and it may be used on those you care about.
So how does indoctrination work?
Thinking about thinking
For indoctrination to work, people must be discouraged from thinking about thinking. My guess is no one ever asked you to think about thinking.
Because the average school teacher and parent was never asked either. You can’t indoctrinate people who practice thinking about why they think what they think; it’s hard to indoctrinate people who wonder what it means to think, and for what purpose.
Thinking is not about having thoughts, or even about solving problems, even though they are essential aspects of thinking. Thinking is about developing capacities to observe, notice and ask questions designed to help a person learn what is important, and how to go about caring for what’s important.
Our educational system doesn’t really encourage thinking.
If it did, philosophy and psychology would be mandatory from pre-school onwards instead of electives at University level.
Rather, our educational system is designed to indoctrinate the masses into taking care of what’s important to those at the top of the pyramid—the power elite, or the top 1% of the top 1%. Education is designed to teach the skills, attitudes and behaviours the power elite require in the service of their own aims.
Indoctrination corrals thinking
The average indoctrinated person isn’t a walking zombie and is, more often than not, a very smart cookie. But the indoctrinated person only exercises her capacities for thinking in certain domains. A free thinker—a philosopher—observes everything and notices anything that doesn’t fit any beliefs, or ideas she’s already taken on board. These anomalies are then used to reevaluate existing beliefs and ideas which may or may not withstand that re-evaluation. An indoctrinated thinker on the other hand, is trained to not notice anomalies and only notice what supports his belief.
Indoctrination explains why someone can use critical thinking to solve complex problems at a micro-level, but never step back and ask the bigger more interesting questions of why do we solve this problem and not another?
You could say that indoctrination is “corralled”thinking.
We don’t notice
Indoctrination has us not notice (or not object if we do):
- the cycle of fear and greed that drive us to take care of what matters to the power elite, and not what matters to ourselves, our future, and even our planet’s habitability.
- that the power elite enrich themselves by getting us to spend our money first on fast food, alcohol and sedentary living, and later, on the medical care we need to recover from all that fast food and sedentary living.
- how the media stories about crime, terrorist attacks and evil dictators serve to scare us into supporting trillions in government spending on security apparatus, intelligence gathering, military expansion, and wars.
- that the war on drugs not only isn’t stopping the drug problem, but only sustaining tremendous spending on law enforcement, incarceration and the courts.
- the problem solution cycles we’re in only serve to sustain the problem by throwing “solutions” that fuel the fires we’re trying to put out.
- that these systems concentrate wealth at the very top.
This is what Bernie Sanders is pointing to in his campaign, and his success shows that people are awakening from their indoctrination.
we don’t wonder
Indoctrination serves to stifle our sense of wonder—that form of thinking fueled by imagination—to ask ourselves,
“What would the world be like if we dismantle these structures and replace them with ones that promote work instead of money, health instead of disease, forgiveness instead of vengeance, and gratitude instead of fear?”
My guess is that the world would be safer, healthier, happier and more prosperous per person, because it would be fairer, kinder and more importantly: friendlier to thinkers,
But we’ll never know unless more of us start throwing off the chains of indoctrination and reawakening our sense of wonder.