As a civilization we have to grow up, otherwise we’re not going to make it. It’s plain and simple – if we continue doing what we have been doing, i.e. continue our current behavior, which is based on our thoughts, which are based on our beliefs – we won’t last another decade. Destruction of ecosystems, consumerism, oligarchical capitalism, rival economics, mass-scale disinformation and manipulation – all this is accelerating us toward a cliff. But how can we grow up?
One aspect of maturing is disillusionment – the understanding that we have to let go of certain beliefs we used to hold. These beliefs have served their purpose – they were our coping mechanisms when we were young – but continuing to cling on to them has already become toxic. We must change our individual and collective mindset. And on some level we all feel that now is the time.
“It is, most often, the belief that we are aligning with virtue, or at least with the necessary sacrifice and the authority-defined common good, that leads well-intentioned people to engage in extremely harmful behavioral programs.
Those who design public media and marketing efforts, i.e. expert propagandists like Edward Bernays, know human sensitivities and the concept of social responsibility well. They know that we long to be seen as “good people” in the eyes of authority and also as a competitive advantage over our wrong-doing, pain-causing, problem-making peers.
For generations, children the world over have been raised in authoritarian households, defined by hierarchical power dynamics, punished for deviant individual expression, and rewarded for sheepish compliance, ultimately disconnected from their own drives, interests, and intuition.”
-Kelly Brogan, M.D.
The trouble is that many people remain children their entire lives.
In order to grow up, we need a different blueprint of making sense of the world. We must learn to seek out other perspectives – especially those, which may contradict our existing beliefs – and at least add them to our arsenal. Because when the time comes to make a choice and you only have one pre-conceived perspective on the subject, then your decision is automatic. It means that you’re not really free to decide. It only constitutes a choice if you can choose between two or more perspectives on the same subject.
It takes an adult to make a difficult decision, instead of putting it off. To take responsibility for one’s own life, instead of willingly turning one’s responsibility to some authority in exchange for a promise of safety. It takes an adult to admit and say “I was wrong.”
Here are just some of the naïve beliefs we must let go of, if we want to grow up:
- “These are just coincidences.” There’s no such thing as a coincidence.
- “Over and over again, same people in power make honest mistakes.” If you can see a pattern, then it’s not mistakes, but intentional actions that are made to look like mistakes.
- “People can change.” People don’t change – they simply become more of who they already are.
- “Those with authority have the public’s best interests in mind.” It’s infantile to believe that someone is telling the truth simply because he is a figure of authority.
- “The simpler explanation is more likely to be the truth.” Not when you figure people’s creativity in the context of incentivized disinformation.
- “Not everything is that bad.” To an extent, this is right. But it doesn’t work as an argument against the ‘accelerating toward a cliff’ analogy. Let’s be realistic and not stick our heads in the sand.
- “Science is our ultimate salvation.” Like all things human, science is corruptible and is, in fact, corrupted. Citing studies is not enough anymore – we also have to know who funded those studies. We have to know how much money doctors and university professors receive from big pharma companies, etc.
- “The giving up of freedom is a temporary inconvenience.” Freedom is never granted, it can only be claimed. Those, who voluntarily give it up – regardless of the reason – give it up forever.
This “coming of age” analogy also works on a grander scale. The human civilization is very young – if you compare the amount of things we think we understand with that, which we don’t understand, you’ll quickly see what I’m talking about. The humankind can be compared to a 7-year-old kid playing with matches. Do we continue this behavior, or do we change?
If we are to make it into our “teen years,” we have to think long and hard about our priorities and figure out what’s most important.
This is our opportunity.