Saturday, December 12, 2009

How About Illegalizing Indoctrination?

Where does much of society's conflict and strife seem to originate? Perhaps indoctrination explains much of it, most notably among its naive "little ones". For children will pretty much believe anything they are told to believe (sadly, many of us will too). If they are told in the crib that certain races or cultures are inherently evil or inferior or that others with divergent beliefs or cultural practices are wrong or weird, they will have little gumption not to believe it.

Much of this indoctrination will sow ill feelings in the years to come, creating conflict which would otherwise be absent. Should "we"* forcefully prevent the kind of indoctrination that leads to terrorism, this being perhaps the worst of its many ill faces? Certainly it can then be argued that this would be an affront to the basic freedom of allowing a person to "believe whatever he wants to believe". However, the ill consequence of "protecting" this freedom is that it seems to create or at least magnify wars and other such conflicts thus providing the ultimate trigger to kill and maim.

What is the imperative? To provide the freedom of allowing a person to "believe whatever he wants" knowing full well its negative consequences or simply banning the kind of indoctrination that creates such violent division in the first place?

*"We" is highlighted to differentiate its many faces. Ask "we" in Iran or North Korea or Afghanistan or Iraq or Papua New Guinea or Scandinavia or France or wherever else and "we" will have many divergent goals and ideals. So the relevant question might be, "whose indoctrination should be censored?" It seems wars and violence are predicated not necessarily on clear right/wrong dichotomies but on the simple principle that peoples' opposing views and preferences create contradictions and hence conflict when "forced" to live side by side. At this point, "creating" enemies out of "others" (herein enters the purported right/wrong dichotomy into the conflict, thus giving the "good" guy moral justification for it) is obligatory when it becomes apparent that any attempt to "intertwine" these contradictions is destined to fail.** And so ensues tension which manifests itself as at best simple conflict and disagreement, at worst war. Much like the AIDS virus being viewed as "bad" from our perspective, it is only "bad" because the both of us cannot peacefully coexist. But ask yourself this: in the grand scheme of things, do you really think there is anything particularly "bad" about the AIDS virus in itself? Decidedly not! It is just trying to make its way about the world like the rest of us! But it causes US harm so we think it fair to label IT "bad" and believe this to be an objective judgment. But of course it is anything but objective! Once again, as per my hypothetical idea of censoring certain types of indoctrination, which types then? Perhaps those with uncontested control of the world should make this decision for everybody else, as has always been the case. But these days, I don't know? Who might this be?

**This is a rather silly argument to illustrate my point. I ask you to think more deeply than seeing this only as an argument between 2 young boys fighting over a most trivial matter. As such, project the following parable onto almost any argument and I believe there is relevance: I have never met anybody that believes colors to be intrinsically "good" or "bad". Imagine 2 brothers are going to share a Nintendo DS for Christmas. Peter likes blue but Sam likes red. Each is so compelled to get the device in his chosen color that it becomes an obsession. As a result, they become so identified with their chosen colors that they actually convince themselves their favorite colors are "good" in turn making other colors antithetical to "good" and hence "bad". If you're not with me you're against me! It's that vexatious war mindset so commonly used to justify conflict in the first place***. Since the other brother wants a "bad" color, he is "bad" and thus an enemy. Once again, the purported right/wrong dichotomy creeps into the conflict because it provides moral justification. With this then, the "good" guy is justified to fight because he is "right". And which one IS the "good" guy? Why that's simply a matter of perspective.

***This "if you're not with me you're against me" dichotomy preys on human instinct with reckless abandon. Since we are social animals, we have a need (or perhaps just an irresistible instinct) to be part of clearly defined groups to give us a sense of social identity. What does this compel us to do? Choose sides. In which case people "join" either the "with" or "against" group and conflict is thus born! Note that without this "choosing of sides", there would exist no with/against dichotomy and hence conflict would be avoided altogether! It is also important to note that most of us are compelled to choose one or the other because it "seems" as if those are the only two options. Politicians, talk show hosts and war mongers, notably, love to delude us (and themselves of course) into believing there is only "with" and "against" because they are always looking to recruit people for their "sacred" cause(s). Of course if you choose "against" them, they are morally justified in criticizing you! However, this with/against dichotomy is usually untenable. Almost always "with" and "against" are simply opposite ends of a spectrum. In which case there exist many subtle combinations of "with" and "against" along this spectrum. Upon recognizing this "truth" in a given conflict, I myself choose the "middle", in effect doing my part to "strip" the conflict of its "identity". This is what politicians, talk show hosts and war mongers, among others, live for: to recruit people for their cause(s) in order to give the conflict(s) "identity".

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