Monday, October 24, 2011

VOR’s Turn: Americans, Delightful Though, Of Course, We Are; Are Some Of The Most Brain-Washed People In The World.

Mind Control (Stephen Marley album)

Image via Wikipedia

As you may gather, if you have read a number of these blogs, I am fascinated by how people think; or, in many (arguably most) cases, don’t think.

I tend towards the view that most of our big issue (Job Creation, Healthcare etc.) problems are solvable, and again and again am surprised – I really mean disappointed - that not only are these problems not dealt with, but readily available solutions aren’t even considered. Yes, I know the flaws innate to human nature are the primary reason, but I don’t think it is just that. I also think other factors are involved. Let me proffer some thoughts:

  • Conditioning. Americans, pleasant to meet though most are, are some of the most brain-washed people in the world. We don’t use Madrassas. Primarily, we use corporations. They are exceptionally well-equipped for the task. They have massive resources, and (subject to some notable exceptions) they are unconstrained by feelings of social concern, or decency, or values of any kind. They are focused solely on the pursuit of profit. Such motivation means that they are not only unrelenting in their self-promotion, but that their own cultures are about as conformist and authoritarian as can we achieved. As befits our culture of consumption and excess, we use total immersion from birth to death. It works. The combination of commercial, government, and social propaganda – much of it more myth than fact - imbues such a strong sense that the American Way of Life is superior, that any fresh thinking has a hard time getting accepted. That might not not matter if the American Way of Life really was superior, but, across a wide range of issues, palpably it is not. We should be out learning how other societies do things better, but mostly, we refuse to. In contrast, where other countries think they can learn from us, they do. They benefit from the best of both worlds; and, predictably, that gives them the advantage.
  • Ideology. Ideologies stem in many cases, though not all, from conditioning. They are dangerous because they involve shutting down one’s mind in favor of blind belief. Accordingly, it becomes culturally acceptable, for instances, to pay people so badly they need Food Stamps; or to cut back on Health Care (as Wal-Mart is doing now). Or to cut back on research in favor of short-term profits (as many U.S. corporations are doing right now). As for the effect of ideology on our politics, the current self-inflicted paralysis speaks for itself. As for the combination of ideology and religion in our politics; it is toxic.
  • Specialization. Specialization works best when it evolves from a broad base of experience and where one’s underlying philosophy is, and remains, holistic. In contrast, we have evolved a Third Level educational system which tends to teach more and more about less and less. The end result is the emergence of what I tend to think of as “professional illiterates” – professionally qualified people who tend to know remarkably little outside their own area of expertise; and who, not infrequently, don’t talk to each other. Look no further than the medical profession for examples where different specialists, treating the same patient, not only fail to communicates, but are not even coordinated. It is unconscionable.
  • Experience. There is just no substitute for broad experience of life if you want to use your mind to best advantage. That involves – as a minimum - travel, languages, reading, study, an appreciation of the arts, and the active cultivation of one’s critical faculties, together with a keen eye and an open mind. Add in a diversity of work experiences, and perhaps a little combat. There is nothing like being shot at to focus the mind. It really does get you out of your comfort zone. Throw in a period of poverty. Sprinkle with commercial successes and failures. There are few things more brain-deadening than success and riches alone. After all that lot, there is a reasonable chance that an interesting, thoughtful, compassionate, and creative human being will emerge.

The above thoughts have been prompted by reading an extract from WIRED’S publication, I, Steve: Steve Jobs in His Own Words

The following is the quote that got my attention:

“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people. Unfortunately, that’s too rare a commodity. A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have." ~Wired, February, 1995

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