Brainwashed

Symbol of the major religions of the world: Ju...

The other day while doing research for a novel, I stumbled upon a webpage concerning the Illuminati and the conspiracy of world banking. As I read through I found several of my assumptions and beliefs challenged, some quite strongly. I began to feel as if I was being “brainwashed.” But then I thought, “What is brainwashing, really?”

I hold a certain set of core beliefs, and hundreds of what I’ll call causal beliefs. Core beliefs are only changed by brute mental force, but my casual beliefs can be changed with little argument or effort. I believe rice is hard to eat with chopsticks until someone shows me the correct way. America is the most advanced country in everything until China lands a rover on the moon and Europe builds CERN. I can’t stand Lady Gaga until I buy her latest album. But the core beliefs – political preference, religion, patriotism – these I’ll endure conflict and attacks without changing.

You have your own set of beliefs that, quite possibly, are drastically different than mine.

We all cling to our own favorite arguments, slogans and beliefs – “Tax the rich,” “Trickle-down economics,” “Communism,” “9/11 was an inside job,” “There is a war among civilizations,” “Christianity,” “Judaism,” “Islam.”

The question is, why do we believe them?

If you think back on your youth and your upbringing you’ll see that most everything you believe has been implanted in your head by another sentient being. We share the religion of our parents, or lack thereof. We are loyal to the country we are born into or focus on its flaws, depending on our school district. And we understand great and enormous things about our universe, from mitochondria to dark matter, all of it told to us by professors who might, in fact, be making it up. How could you or I prove them wrong

It all resembles a conspiracy. That conspiracy is the battle to define reality being carried out by each and every human being.

Sometimes we encounter a belief so opposed to our own that we decide we cannot co-exist with it. This is called war. Sometimes we dislike a belief so much that we encourage the government to take action against those who hold it. This is called fascism.

But at the very core, when you look at your own beliefs, whether you believe in heaven, hell, nirvana, Mother Earth or black holes, you believe it because someone told you it was true.

There are, most likely, no pure or original beliefs in your head. You’ve been brainwashed. And if you do have an original belief, you’re probably a writer.

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17 thoughts on “Brainwashed

  1. What on earth would an original belief look like? Luckily, most of our core beliefs are similar because they are based on reality, looney conspiracy theories notwithstanding. That’s right, Virginia, there is a reality. πŸ˜‰

    • Thanks for the comment. Of course, the idea of “brainwashing” is a term meant to exaggerate the reality of what happens, but I would add that around the world most core beliefs are strikingly different. We think opposition to murder is an absolute when in many places it is an act that brings “justice” or gives “honor.” The idea of stealing is abhorrent to us, where in some places and circumstances it is what is required, and is also dignified in the concept of taxation. And I believe my soul lives forever, and there are millions who would call me crazy. Our thoughts and ideas shape our reality just as much as our perceptions do.

      • Actually, those aren’t what I would have called core beliefs. I was thinking in terms of cause and effect, continuation, etc. Even the ones you list, though, aren’t as disparate as you think. Opposition to murder is an absolute with us? What about self defense, warfare, capital punishment? How are those different from honor killings in essence? Stealing, as you correctly point out, is seen as defined by circumstance even in our society. And the millions who call you crazy probably also have some form of body/spirit dichotomy in their everyday, behavioral philosophy, if not in their overt, acknowledged philosophy. Whether that spirit lives forever or not is a matter of detail.

      • If cause and effect were a determining factor in belief there would be no conflict in economic theories i.e. free market capitalism vs. communism/socialism. For the record I never called anyone crazy, I only commented that some might consider my beliefs to be so. And the point about science is not that it doesn’t exist or provide facts, it’s that the vast majority have no capacity to determine those facts for themselves, and thus rely on the testimony of those labeled “experts.” Believing what others say without verifying existing facts is the bread and butter of politics, which in essence is mass propaganda, or when practiced by a society we don’t like, brainwashing.

  2. I think the key is that we have the ability to choose who we allow to brainwash us. Our minds are designed to learn through repetition and from our environment. We have the agency to choose who repeats what to us and to place ourselves in the environment that is most in harmony with our beliefs.

    Awareness of brainwashing allows us to use it in our favor. It’s our opportunity to choose the trees that give the best fruit.

    A great companion song to your article is “Brainwashed” by George Harrison.

    • Great song, and good (brainwashing) argument. I would humbly add that not everyone chooses the trees that give the best fruit, and not all that attempt to persuade do so with good intentions. But that’s, of course, my perspective as someone who has been persuaded to believe in a certain idea of good and bad. Happy new year!

      • We have the opportunity in this life to use our own individual agency to break away from whatever reality we were born into. If we’re brave enough we can question our beliefs and test them for ourselves, and then follow the truest path. I think it’s our responsibility to ensure that we allow the right influences “brainwash” us.

      • Sometimes it’s hard to realize that you need to break away and be influenced by others. I think of Jamestown. Those people were looking for something different than what they had been sold, and found hope disguised as evil. I think the best thing parents can teach children is not what they should believe, but how to discern.

  3. The core beliefs I was brought up with are still there, but not those that deal with religion, political adherence and so on. I think I was brainwashed as a child and young adult to believe is non-truths. It took a long time to overcome those and to start thinking for myself. I believe that, because I am no longer tied to doctrine, I am a better person, one able to look beyond it to the person beneath. It is not easy to go against established belief systems, and it usually takes some deep challenge to those beliefs to get past them and into a freer place.
    Another great post Daniel. I always enjoy your thought-provoking entries. πŸ™‚

  4. My frustration with what you call “brainwashed” seduced me into becoming an anthropologist so that I could study the mystery of how and why people work that way…and so began the delicious and horrible journey into exploring Culture.

  5. That last line: absolute genius! πŸ˜€
    Unfortunately from a young age we get rewarded for living in that brainwashed state.
    Thinking outside the box or forming a different opinion will either get us in trouble or get us ostracized. Experience talking here. smh.

  6. Great read Daniel! Our beliefs are more or less formed by our knowledge, as we grow wiser our opinions and beliefs become more and more silent due to the realization that life is far too diverse to keep them.

  7. Interesting thoughts you posted, so these are mine…I watched something
    on the History Channel about the Iluminati, which was fascinating to
    watch. Don’t know if it could be true or not, but I think we are all
    capable of drawing our own conclusions and beliefs. I personally
    DON’T think I am brainwashed because I have personally had things
    to happen in my personal life that set me on my personal/spiritual
    path. Now, I think there are those that probably have been
    brainwashed by whatever/whomever, BUT not everyone
    has. As a writer, I feel as you said have original/pure beliefs,
    because being a writer yourself, we step outside the box and
    become more open minded, at least I do.

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