In light of the trucker protests, essentially weaponizing their trucks and the anti-vax movement at large, my measured conclusion is that ignorance is a fatal disease. Not getting vaccinated may kill you and others. As we pray for the future of a world filled with division, hatred and ignorance, I cannot help but wonder what is going on, deep in the psyche of America. The conspiracy theorist knows how to mix a lie in with a bunch of truths, tell a great story that includes the lie, get us to accept the lie because it is part of a story which includes multiple plausible truths. The lie becomes accepted as truth by association as it is woven into the compelling story. Unless we are taught critical thinking skills, we are all susceptible to this ploy simply because humans are wired to love stories.
One big story that has gripped the right wing is the story about freedom. The “Don’t Tread on Me” crowd is up in arms about the plot on the left to curtail their freedoms. Here’s where they start mixing and matching story elements to support their personal beliefs. While it is true, freedom is our right and that there are people bent on taking our freedoms, and while it is true, God gave us free will, He did not give us the freedom to do whatever we want. We have constantly evolving laws that protect us from those who are unable to see the difference between satisfying their freedom to get whatever they want from harming themselves and others.
The Truth of our Beliefs
Of course, in reality there is a double standard for what people mean by freedom. Outlawing a woman’s right to choose or banning books may be considered an infringement on freedom to some, while others see vaccine mandates and gun regulations as an assault on their freedom. But freedom cannot merely be viewed as a means of justifying our narrow beliefs. At the end of the day, you cannot send your child to school with Chicken Pox or walk barefoot in a store or defecate on the sidewalk, all in the name of freedom. If you don’t want your child to receive a chicken pox vaccination, you cannot send them to public school. This is to protect ourselves and others. Life in a Democracy has always been a trade off between the public good and individual freedom.
That certain members of our society cannot or will not see this trade off leads me to wonder if ignorance is a disease, as a postulated at the beginning. I say disease because I’m beginning to believe what seems like woeful ignorance may not actually be our fault. Ignorance is something being systematically perpetrated upon us. We are griped by it, like a drug that imprisons the addict. There are some very clever people who have discovered that a compelling story, with lies sprinkled in along with a bunch of truths, triggers in some, I desire for wrongheaded action.
My daughter really believed the girl in this cartoon secretes a pearl every time she cries. I couldn’t convince her otherwise. She is like many people who lack critical thinking skills, who cannot tell entertainment from news, fiction from fact, lies from truth. She is wired to believe a good story, like all of us. The people who create all the YouTube and TicTok videos (like this one) she consumes, know this all too well. I am working overtime as a parent to liberate her from this very dangerous personality trait. Thought addictions are even more dangerous and prevalent than addictions to drugs and alcohol. The truth is all addictions begin with a thought that feels true, that seems right, but ultimately is not true. For instance, I used to believe I was destined to be poor because I was an artist. Even though I saw my father with my own eyes, being quite successful. Myself and others had convinced me that to be a real artist meant a life of struggle. Whereas there is some truth in this statement, it is not entirely true. But it is a good example of what I mean when I talk about thought addictions.
Thoughts actually become “true” the more we focus on them. This is the basis for the Law of Attraction. This principal can also be used to change our thinking to become more positive. But for the most part, thought addictions lead us down a road of despair and heartache. Intervening upon or altering another person’s thinking process might be considered brainwashing to some. The idea of mind control evokes sci-fi helmets and some megalomaniac making us do all kinds of crazy things. But mind control is not that same thing as brain washing. At some point, we all must learn how to control and direct our thoughts, to keep us from going down the myriad of Rabbit holes the world presents to us. Unfortunately, some people just know what they know and there is nothing or no one who can change their mind. This is commonly referred to as Confirmation Bias. That is a very dangerous mindset and it is the profound challenge our society to face this kind of thinking. Perhaps thought addictions should be recognized, understood and treated the way we do other addictions. I have used CBT to treat my thought addictions. Critical thinking is a useful skill that can and must be taught at home and in school. To be sure, we all suffer from thought addictions, some to a greater degree than others. Becoming aware and owning our addictions is the first and most important step to recovery, individually and as a society.