Doug Soberstrom / CommonDreams.org – 2005-10-24 00:57:56
(October 17, 2005) — As a result of nine-eleven’s jarring impact upon our nation, journalists have discovered a near-paranoid rise in retaliation against individuals who attempt to expose governmental malfeasance. Increasingly, government officials have begun to punish courageous individuals for nothing more than reasoned attempts to inform the American public about facts like these:
• 1. How the government intentionally withheld evidence suggesting that an attack upon the United States by Al Qaeda had been imminent.
• 2. How the military has systematically abused and tortured prisoners of war and foreign detainees.
• 3. How the military has begun to wage war upon American soldiers who have, in good conscience, come to believe that it is wrong for them to kill in the Iraq War because it is illegal according to international law, and because the reasons for going to war were fabricated by the President of the United States.
• 4. How the USA has a sixty-year history (1945- 2005): of assassinating foreign leaders who have chosen not to support this government’s foreign policy goals; of simultaneously initiating the overthrow of popularly-elected foreign democracies while supporting brutal authoritarian dictatorships; all of which was done to fill the coffers of the US military-industrial complex — a cabal of egregious imperialists whose chief goal is to control the world economy.
As a result, many of these individuals have been unjustly incarcerated, falsely accused of either being a traitor or treasonously sided with the enemy, told that their careers will be destroyed, and threatened with extended imprisonment.
For example, on 21 September 2005, US immigration officials banned Robert Fisk from entering the USA due to his incisive criticism of the Bush administration’s handling of the Iraq War, despite the fact that he is an internationally-renowned British journalist who was on his way to deliver a speech in Santa Fe, New Mexico. So much for our freedoms of specch and press!
Regrettably, this example is just the tip of the iceberg, for this disgusting scenario has been repeated many times over inside our country. And this is a rather sad fact, when one considers how often our president has chosen to propagandize us about his much-quoted, seldom-practiced ideals of “freedom and democracy.”
PEOPLE WHO SEEM NOT TO CARE
But even more shameful is the fact that there are so many people who seem not to care that such evil things are taking place in our country; that we seem to have become a rather ignorant crowd of jingoists who are more comfortable sitting back, and pretending that everything will be just fine; that we’re a people with apparently little, or no, regard for the facts. As a behavioral scientist, I am grieved at what the near pandemic of disinterest in what is happening to our country.
Given the re-election of George Walker Bush as our president, our country has made it quite clear that it is pleased to have a lying scoundrel as its leader, a true terrorist who is more than willing to bully the rest of the world; as opposed to having chosen a real man that humanity might embrace as a person of true character (someone like Jimmy Carter), an individual who is committed to doing what is best for the world (rather than what is most profitable for those running the petrol, armament, pharmaceutical, and construction industries), someone with a desire to do what must be done in order to create a more humane world of peace, justice, and love.
Although we claim to be a Christian nation, having chosen George Walker Bush
to be the leader of our nation is a scandal beyond belief. Indeed, it mocks the very name of the one whose life embodies that which we have been said to believe.
NO YOUTHFUL SELF-DELUSIONS
However, I am well into my seventh decade of life and very near retirement. I have reluctantly come to some conclusions: that the world really is “a vale of tears” (i.e., that it basically sucks); that there are far too few who possess the investigative courage to take a good hard look at things which, if discovered, would destroy one’s delusions about “a land that can do no wrong,” and which somehow has “received the eternal blessing of God”; instead, it has become fashionable to be a toadying sychophant.
SO I MUST ASK: HOW IS IT THAT WE HAVE BECOME SUCH A MINDLESS NATION, A SOCIETY POPULATED BY DEADHEADS; FOLKS WHO SEEM TO HAVE LITTLE DESIRE TO LOOK BEYOND THE THINLY-VENEERED SURFACE OF LIFE?
Speaking as a behavioral scientist, it now appears likely that the vast majority of our nation’s people have chosen to relinquish two precious qualities that are essential for an authentically human life: the existential responsibility to think for themselves; an ontological need to discount the petty concerns that drive the minds of those who are directed by triviality. It seems likely that most Americans have become so utterly preoccupied with — and so enamoured by — the norm of what others think, that they have already relinquished, through a process of cognitive foreclosure, their capacity to think for themselves.
Having become so extremely alienated from the inner core of their own being, they have little choice but to follow the madding crowd’s need to forge a symbiotic attachment to, a vicarious relationship with, a society that has, for all practical purposes, has become the substitute basis of their own identity, the very shallow bedrock of their being. Having done so, the identity they have forged for themselves (or who they believe themselves to be) has become every bit as fabricated, every bit as disconnected from reality, as their image of society.
So in wanting to have at their disposal a more positive image of themselves, they have been left with little choice but to construct a glorified image of society; an image of what they wish society would have been, rather than what it has actually turned out to be.
If choosing one’s self-identity were a conscious process, this would be something like having chosen to build one’s ego-framework upon the shifting sands of inane social rumors and outright public lies — truly a flight of fancy that borders on the absurd!
EFFORTS TO CONQUER THE WORLD
Very few would disagree with the proposition that there was a determined effort in Hitler’s Germany to brainwash the people so they would support “Mein Fuhrer’s” efforts to conquer the world. However, what if one were to suggest that much the same is occurring in the United States of America?
That there has been a determined American effort to socialize us – through the pressuring influences of our schools, government, mass media, churches, and even our own parents — into believing (just as Hitler believed): that our country has received the special blessing of God; and that because of this, we have not only the right, but more importantly, a divine responsibility to see that the world acquiesces to our national needs and expectations through the use of military weapons.
Just as Hitler slowly prepared his countrymen to obediently accept the Nazi government’s authoritarian controls throughout the 1930s, a strikingly similar process might very well be occurring in the United States.
Just as Hitler indoctrinated his people to believe that Germany had the right to conquer the world, so too might George Walker Bush be doing the same thing “in the name of freedom and democracy”: indoctrinating the American people to support his administration’s imperialistic drive to dominate the world.
When viewed from the perspective of the behavioral sciences, it becomes
clear that our citizens, from cradle to grave, are being primed to conform
to the dictates of those in power, and instructed never to question the
validity of what these people — who would like to take control of our lives — have to say.
As a consequence of this never-ending “socialization process” (i.e., behavioral modification to produce mindless obedience), most Americans have no idea:
• that we are fed “news” through the mass media’s broadcasts and newspapers that is nothing more than a portrayal of what powerful corporations – the owners who pay the salaries of those who run mass media — want us to believe;
• that what passes for “education” is, as often as not, merely propaganda (e.g., that Americans are always “the good guys” and their enemies are, without exception, always “the bad guys”);
• that what we’ve been learning in our churches and synangogues may have very little, or nothing, to do with the truth;
AND THROUGH SUCH A PROCESS, THE GOVERNMENTS IN NATIONS AROUND THE WORLD WIELD CONTROL AS TO WHAT THEIR CITIZENS, BELIEVE, VALUE, AND DO.
Of course, in our own society, there is one negative reinforcement through which most of us are tightly controlled, and it is how the vast majority of us are forced to “toe the line”: through the ominous threat of being fired.
It goes something like this: if you are interested in keeping your career on track, then you would like to keep your job. Of you want to keep your job, you ought to consider the following in order to assure your employer that you “deserve the right to keep your job”: get married and have a couple of kids; become a member of a social club (such as the Lions Club, Kiwanis Club, or Rotarians); be a good capitalist; be a patriotic citizen who loves his country; and make sure that you attend a local church so that everybody will know that you believe in God Almighty.
However, if you decide — for whatever reason — that you would like to “become a rebel,” by which I mean that you would like to begin thinking for yourself, then you’d better brace yourself for trouble, because there is a reasonable likelihood that you will be fired! Please understand that I am not prescribing what should happen; I am only describing what does happen!
The negative threat, or the actual experience, of being fired controls our behavior. You see, in America, there is a rule of thumb concerning the working world. It basically says this: “Those who do what they are told to do are likely to keep their jobs. However, those who tend to think for themselves will tend to buck the system (i.e., they won’t do exactly what they have been told to do), so they end up jobless, powerless, and left to fend for themselves on the mean streets of American society.” American life reduces down to “The Apprentice”: toe the line, or “Yer fired!”
But why? Why does such a cruel thing occur with regularity? Why would America The Beautiful, Land Of The Free, do such a horrible thing to its own citizens?
The answer is quite simple: “knowledge is power”; so the secret is controlling the outflow of information to make sure that citizens know no more than they “are supposed to know.”
Ehat means making sure that they remain relatively uninformed. And that means making sure that they are given “just enough” that they will peacefully accept, and quietly go along with, the false premise that they are well-informed people who have a good idea of what is going on.
In short, the few can control the many only so long as the government can keep the people from learning the truth.
THEREFORE, KEEP THEM FROM EVEN WANTING TO KNOW THE TRUTH!
Cradle-to-grave behavioral modification puts “the fear of God” into them to the extent that they will never question what they have been told to believe. You see, those in power might say that they want their citizens to be educated and well informed about what is going on; however, such is simply not the case!
Ask yourself this question:
“What happens to those of us (teachers, preachers, philosophers, writers,
journalists) who do not “toe the line,” to those who are intent upon proposing
alternative ways of looking at the world?”
History provides the answer:
Look at what happened to Jesus Christ, Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and even a philosophical gadfly like Socrates. I mean, really now, who among us wants to be crucified, assassinated, or forced to drink hemlock? Who wants to risk the possibility of losing one’s job, and thus the ability to put food on the table for one’s family?
However, just in case you do not believe me, try this experiment. The next time you go to work, tell the boss: that you are an infidel (i.e., that you no longer believe in God); that you have decided to become a socialist (i.e., that capitalism essentially sucks); that you no longer give a damn about your country’s victory in the current war; or better yet, that you have decided to become an actively-participating antiwar protestor. And then see what happens. Do you get the point?
Nevertheless, there are many people who have illustrated the courage to risk their jobs, their careers, their reputations, their marriages, their wealth, years of imprisonment, and – in some cases — even their own sanity: among others, Robert Fisk; Cindy Sheehan; Sybil Edmunds; Bunnatine Greenhouse; Coleen Rowley; Captain Ian Fishback; Colonel Anthony Shaffer;
Kevin Benderman; Jeremy Hinzman; Brandon Hughey; and Sargeant Camilo Mejia.
MAKE A STAND FOR THAT WHICH IS RIGHT!
But the sad fact is that for every hero out there, there are literally thousands of mindless Americans: (a) who consider themselves to be conscientious, hard-working “good citizens” (i.e., they have a sincere belief in God and a loyal commitment to their country); but (b) who utterly detest the men and woman who have had the moral courage to put their lives on the line for no other reason than to make a stand for that which is right. It almost goes without stating that the many mindless “good citizens” are dead wrong, whereas the few morally-courageous heroes are quite right.
The heroes are willing to tell anyone, and everyone, who is willing to listen, that it is a far better thing to have sacrificed one’s own life so that others might see the truth, than to have chosen to remain silent. The heroes are exposing the morally-blind pretense that “all is well,” that there is “nothing to worry about,” that Big Brother will take good care of us, so long as we simply keep our mouths shut and do exactly as we are told.
WHO WILL SAVE US FROM THE MINDLESS AMERICANS, WHO ARE A TRAGEDY
IN THE MAKING? ONLY THE HEROES, WHO FULLY UNDERSTAND TWO THINGS:
• (1) THAT THE MOST DANGEROUS THING ONE CAN DO IS TO TELL THE TRUTH, BECAUSE THE LESSONS OF HISTORY SHOW THAT DEATH IS ALWAYS THE PUNISHMENT FOR TRUTH-TELLING IN ANY CORRUPT CULTURE; BUT
• (2) THAT LIVING A LIE IS EVEN WORSE, BECAUSE IT IS DEATH-IN-LIFE.
SO THE BEST AMONG US GO AHEAD AND TELL THE TRUTH ANYWAY!
Soderstom, Ph.D. is a behavioral scientist in Texas
NOTE TO READERS:
Now read Sheila Samples’ directly-related 10-17-05 CC essay, “Good Americans:
Democracy’s Gravediggers?” [She aptly compares:
(a) America’s obediential culture, in which “Good Americans” mindlessly obey authority while “Bad Americans” use critical thinking to question authority; to
(b) Nazi Germany’s strikingly similar obediential culture, the sociological term for which is “creeping Eichmannism”.]: http://www.countercurrents.org/us-samples171005.htm