Are you familiar with that brainwashed citizen who blindly follows one particular political party? I think each of us knows that kind of voter; they know nothing about the issues, our nation’s history, or how the world really works. Those people are so tragically funny. They could also be you or me. Many of us simply don’t accept this idea. When our self-esteem is at stake, we neurotically guard our egos, and the truth has little chance in reaching us. It could destroy us to admit to ourselves that we are fools and rather than admitting to our foolishness, we lie to ourselves, tell ourselves that we are bright, enlightened, and blessed with the ability to be right even when logic and evidence proves otherwise. Sometimes we just aren’t prepared for what horror we might see if we entertain the thought that we might be the puppet, a puppet duped into buying this, into voting for him or her, and into being quiet and not disturbing the status quo. Our own beliefs can go unquestioned, and our own delusions can go unnoticed since we can become hyper-focused on the ‘others’ as pawns in a political agenda. Sometimes we don’t even seem to meditate on our beliefs for a few moments as they appear to be accepted blindly. Those beliefs coincide with a delusional self-portrait of ourselves in our minds. Painting a pretty picture over who we have become reinforces an irrational mind, a mind that’s heavy with contempt for the ‘others’ and with such inflexibility, fault is thoughtlessly placed on the other party, the other country, the other class. If we want the truth, it’s time to focus on the fairy tales we use to describe us.
Acknowledging that we can be deceived when we’re being careless is paramount in discovering what we truly care about. Without discipline, it’s incredibly easy for prejudice and propaganda to lull us back to sleep. This is the whole point of manipulation. It’s clandestine. You’re not supposed to realize you were indoctrinated with beliefs that work against your own interests. Propaganda is so effective, because it preys upon our denial, our unwillingness to accept that we might have no idea what’s really going on. Our intellectual laziness plays a role as well. Sometimes we choose to be fed delusional bits of information instead of making the effort for deep introspection, educating ourselves and thinking clearly without the black ink of bias. Prejudice demands nothing but silence from the intellect; it is a perfect word for those who clench tightly onto their beliefs, like a handle on a knife, and do not doubt their superior need to point fingers and to call other people useful idiots. This behavior is a sign of a fragile ego. We cannot reason with someone who clings to prejudice, but we can look for signs of prejudice within ourselves. Awareness and doubt, our weapons to detect any cognitive dissonance or hypocrisy, will jolt us out of sleep. With that healthy amount of doubt, we can eradicate the lies that feed our egos, like how we are sages, how we are smarter than everyone else.
If we think we are impervious to manipulation, we’d better challenge that thought. Let’s be completely honest with ourselves. Let’s realize that we aren’t perfect and can be wrong, led astray with ideas that were never our own. Has each of us not made an assumption and mistook that preconceived notion as fact? Our behavior, motivations, and the actions that follow will report the true story, so let’s listen. If we want the details of who we have become, we’d nurture the doubt and treat doubt as our friend. Asking ourselves if we are the ones rising up in the name of ignorance, chanting cheap, shallow slogans, and marching towards something we never understood doesn’t have to be so terrifying. Doubt may be a menacing threat to our egos, but the truth will humble us, build our character, and open our eyes to see that the suffering in the world reflects the internal struggle we have with our own egos. People who act out of unrestrained arrogance and ignorance devastate the world with needless suffering. If truth is what we seek, the process of learning, examining ourselves, doubting whether we know anything, and having an insatiable curiosity takes precedence over being right.
This doubt, however, needs not be related to confidence. Confident people doubt their strategies, beliefs, and thoughts as opposed to whether they can accomplish what they set out to do. Doubt itself helps purify the mind of delusions; it doesn’t cripple the mind with excessive hesitation and low self-esteem. Although like most things in life, doubt needs to be managed, and that’s why discipline is crucial. Taking doubt to radical levels will be no better than clinging to malformed beliefs in the first place. If we wholeheartedly claim that a diverse group of people share one despicable quality, like being violent, uneducated, violent, judgmental, evil, lazy, dishonest, or ugly, then we’d better think again. It is extraordinarily beneficial to admit to ourselves that we have acted stupid. Going down the unethical path in life can teach us valuable lessons. Let’s learn by being wrong. Let’s learn by doubting that we were even initially right.