Donnerstag, 17. Januar 2013

The chains of modern life

Manipulation: "Dexterous, especially unfair, management of persons or things. To manage by dexterous, especially unfair,contrivance or influence."
- The Oxford Universal Dictionary -
Modern men find themselves in a very discrepant and insidious situation. On the on hand people are permanently told, that the amount of freedom reached in our times have never been more complete in history, on the other hand we cannot deny the nagging, deeply penetrating feeling of being fundamentally unfree. In former times people knew to whom they owed obedience. A king, an emperor, a dictator or the local authorities suspiciously made sure their power over the people stayed complete an untouched. Nowadays the chains worn by most individuals are far less visible and quiet often they are totally invisible or made of gold, so that the need for freedom, which is inherent in all humans, is wastly corrupted. Furthermore the bonds, building up modern unfreedom, are very numerous and breaking free from one of them does very little to the extensive captivity, to which most people are subjected.
Games of power in our days are being played in a very subtle and indirect way, an open craving for power is usually declared as brutal, uncivilized, barbaric, a relic of a primitive past, unworthy to be shown in our era. But let us not be deceived by outside appearence! The game is played as it always has been played, it only changed it's style, but under the surface there is still the old hard reality of competing willpowers and intentions. Nowadays the name of this game is called MANIPULATION.

Manipulation infringes a basic human value, a value crucial for the health of a society and a derivative of human dignity: Fairness! Fairness and justice guarantee the access of people to the good a society has reached, which includes true information about things and people, as well as social realities. Nobody is more slave than the one, who is shackled and at the same time views himself to be  a free individual. As humans we have the potential of reason. But we have to face the fact, that only a small part of our live is determined by this capacity; the much huger part is under or only little influence of reason. This does not mean to accuse humans of their way of living, but an ascertainment of facts. To use reason we need to tame our emotions to a big part, otherwise they run wild and we have to follow others, weather we like it or not. In addition we have to have a quiet big extent of knowledge to be enabled to make full use of reason - it is unquestionable we lack such knowledge in most parts of life.
By nature human life and existence are chaotic like life itself. On the other hand manipulators as well as society as a whole, permanently try to structure chaos; as a result individuals lose a big part of their spontaneity and natural ability to face and handle life, losing also the wast majority of their freedom for a seemingly bigger security. Many perfect manipulators on the other hand do everything to use chaos for their benefit, for their profit. Very often chaos is used to hide goals and intentions, using the insecurity most people feel after they have been conditioned to demand structure and have lost their natural abilities and contact to their pure nature. This insecurity makes people vulnerable to all kinds of manipulations. The bigger the insecurity, the easier it is to influence humans. In many cases little influence causes big results. Human beings are social creatures who have a strong need for companionship, for being respected and loved by others. This need is in effect the number one reason for the possibility to manipulate individuals and groups, always considering that all other needs are potentional means of manipulation too. Social appreciation is the big "currency" of social life. More than we crave for things (our times seem to be very materialistic), we crave for our reputation, the acceptance and opinion others have about us. To the major part this is the reason for consumption and for owning things.

As a logical conclusion every society tries to educate it's members to like what they have to do, so that the specific society's structure is maintained, and in regard of the future, is stabilized an made immune as much as possible to changes. Therefore a society is conservative by nature. One way of conditioning people is by means of education. Every society presents goals for the individual, as well as accepted ways to reach them. So for instance in western societies citizens are influenced in wanting a private home, which is owned (at least in the legal, less in the economic sense) by the individual. The way to reach this goal is  hard work over a long time, to pay back a huge mortgage, usually given by a bank or money institute. This system supports the existing financial and economic system, but does not care about people's real needs and wishes, which are normally unknown to the individual. A thief for example craves for the right things, which means to goods society wants you to buy, but the way he chooses (theft) is not socially accepted. Worse to the existing society than a thief is one who is not even interested in the goods which are offerd by the economic system.
The majority of goals people follow in their lifes are precreated by the culture and are not an emanation of a free individual decision, authentically chosen values and a mission in life. The power a community has over it's individuals normally is underestimated; even the nonconformist is determined much more by the things he refuses than by his "individualistic" style of living. Education tells people, especially children, to see the world in a specific way, showing very clearly what is acceptable and what is not. The power of a big part of socialization lies in it's indirectness, in it's sublte way, by which she is teached.

Like all worldviews in the first place the specific one taught does not pass the rational mind and in Addition is brought into young and moldable brains, in which it stays for the rest of their lifes, even if consciousness brings light into the darkness of the human mind. Even the taste for food, preferences for music, literature, movies and even future professions (why are medicines and lawyers so popular?) are conditioned and not individually created. Very early we learn that we have to adapt to the social standards or we pay a high price of unpopularity and in the worst case we are expelled form the community. The naive conviction that the majority is right, dominates the mind of most people (young and old). A wrong understanding of democracy tells us, that the result of a vote, the opinion of the majority, makes the difference between right and wrong. As much as most people in western nations consider themselves as individuals, the more they are deluded, for an open view on people shows very clearly that individuality is a myth, everywhere in the word. There is a conformity in being individuals, in being nonconformists. The whole idea of working hard on being a self actualized person is a pure illusion, a very tricky one, for the etiquettes we put on ourselves are the complete opposite of the reality (the slaves who tink to be free).
To have an original opinion very often means to overcome insecurity, because it is extremely difficult to resist the suffering of confronting the masses opinions, and to prefer your own opinion over the one of the others, the big group. To be faithful to yourself requires a big amount of efford as well as paying a hight price. The benefit of it may be an increase in self-respect. But most people rather trade self-respect for popularity. To expect different results, woudl mean to desregard human nature, at least in her current state of development. To shoulder the burden of frustration is very difficult for humans, therefore the odds are much higher to expect someone takes the easy road than the stony route which probably leads to more freedom. The compensation for frustration is found in twisted, very often neurotic behaviour, which we see very commonly in our times.

The state, the military, legal powers, the economy, financal businesses, all kinds of media are the  main manipulating powers of our times. An other group to be mentioned are all groups and institutions who form and shape worldviews, including philosophy, universities, schools and institutions we know as "Think tanks". We shall not forget that also individuals play power games at work and in private life but the beforementioned are the major influences by far. The following covers especially their activities.

Let us consider differend forms of manipulation in everyday's life, as people face it day in and day out.

Manipulation is based on repressing the ability to think freely and use reason to come to a rational conclusion. One way of doing this is by permanently destraction people's mind by giving informations or sensual stimulation, which have nothing to do with the case to be decided. Music in supermarkets, department store etc. serves this purpous. An other way of destracting is by talking very quickly, giving so many information that a customer is unable to concentrate and then you force him to make a decision very quickly for example by artificially limiting the offer (by quantity or time). People feel an urge to decide in the moment, for if they do not do so, they may lose a unique opportunity. When it comes to business people or experts of all kinds, this argument of speed can be use as a "test" of competence. The expert may feel, that the other one may consider him as little competent if he does not decide immedietely. An other method would be to use a crowded area, like on a trade fair, where concentration is very difficult or to sell a product at the street. A newer, but very powerful method of distraction is the use of scents. Different aromas in the air have strong influences on the psyche of people and most of them run unconsciously, for humans are normally not trained to watch and develop their olfactory sense. The old romans had a concept which served very well for the whole time of their empire: Panem et circenses (bread and games). The idea was simple: Provide enough food for the poeple, so that hunger is a relativly rare phenomenon and keep people busy. For most people have no idea for themselves how they shall spend the time until they die, society has developed entertainment and structures (work, family, duties, rituals etc.) which keep an ordinary person busy. Interestingly most people are very grateful if someone organizes their life - but due to our knowledge of how children are made dependent of others, we know why most citizens stay dependend for the rest of their lifes. This directly leads to the second method.
Modern life is very complex, we learn and understand more and more of even less. So most people become experts in a small area, but for all other areas they are dependent on other people. This includes in our times many things of everyday's life which our ancestors could never have imagined, that you could not handle them on your own. Experts seem to take care of us, seem to know what they do. Their special language (jargon), their way of conduct, of behaviour looks very professional and most people do not question their judgements (who are you to question an expert, you are a lay person!). But the whole concept is systematic and far more a  burden to society than a helping hand for the individual. By the way who would (over)pay all the unemployed experts, if everybody would care for his or her own life?
Manipulators use wrong goals to hide their true intentions. It's like in warfare. Warfare is based on deception (Sun Tsu) and to make a direct and very visible attack on your enemy is almost never a good idea (except the enemy is very weak). Instead it is far more profitable to open a "fake" battlefield, a minor place of combat, on which the enemy concentrates his powers, so that the attacker can easily approach the real target, the one which has been the primary goal right from the beginning.
Take a lie and repeat it over and over again, something will always be left in the mind, in the remembrance of people. This cynic concept used by some of the most disgusting creatures of the 20th century has turned mainstream. Wrong informations are spread through the canals of the media. Even if proofed wrong, even if you bring them before court and win, the reputation will stay ruined to a certain degree. Rumors are created like this, urban legends, as they are often called today, serve the purpouse to manipulate people's perception of products, services and activities of people and institutions. The worg idea people get through this concept is, that they do not believe, that a big lie is completely a lie. We are used to small lies of our daily life. But if a lie has passed a high limit we start believing, that at least something about it must be true. Otherwise we would have to confess,that we were wrong and fell into the trap of a manipulator or charming charlatan. Making this confession, very often, is harder, than just sticking to a existing opinion, especially if you have invested a lot of
emotional energy into it.
Strong opinions very often are created in using a lot of energy into the defense against it's opponents. Polarization has the potential to split up human solidarity and the ability to use reason to make a judgement. Artificially created evil or enemies (normally demagoges use strong language) are quiet often necessairy to promote a position which seen under the light of reason would not be brought into action. Best example naturally is the start of a war. You need an enemy, you have to dehumanize  him and present him as absolutely evil, otherwise you could not convince ordinary peaceful people to listen to the sirene song "ad armas" and act accordingly. What is not so important is to have a presentable and understandable "casus belli" (reason for war), such can be created after the war has
already starten.
What do you do if you have a product for which there is no need in society? You stop your business, try something else? Nope. If you have the financal potency and support, you hire experts who create a market. This can include to suggest problems to people, which they have never heard of and do not feel they really have. But as an "expert" you know it better and people give you the benefit. We have legions of psychologists for example who would be unemployed if there would not be "psychological problems" created permanently. What is called "burn out" is a modern, very chique sounding term. For some people it even seems to be an honor to be in treatment for "burn out", because it should show to their bosses and to society, that they are really hard working employees, who even ruin there health for the company they work for. In fact it is very questionable if "burn out" really exists. But even if in a few years the dominating opinion would change, there is definitly found a new "problem", which makes treatment necessary.

Many ideas and products are presented with the help of "famous" and respectable people - celebreties. A well known scientist supporting a new product makes it look much more reliable, than  Billy Joe, telling about his positive experiences. Worldviews are "sold" by refering to famous people who held it. The social reliability is much higher if Einstein or president Roosevelt had it, than an ordinary Person from the street.

Manipulators have a basic problems, by approaching people. If you face a person eye to eye in a calm environment, it becomes very difficult to convince someone, only if you possess a lot of charisma this tactic can work, normally you do otherwise, using situations, where rational thinking is wastly suppressed or impossible.

There are different levels of manipulations:
1.) The manipulation is obvious and direct. The effect is, that it hardly ever works.
2.) Manipulation is not so easy to be seen, but the manipulator directly is facing people by having a different opinion than the other ones. This level is not or only little working, like the first one.
3.) The manipulation is indirect and hard to recognize. The manipulator uses others to work for him: people who are organized in his interest, who already are convinced of the ideas the manipulator wants to spread and support. Seemingly objective informations like statistics (only trust the statistics you have faked yourself) or scientific studies (studies support the opinion of the customer, not truth and normally not even of science) or reports in news, interviews with "experts" and thelike serve a good deal in influencing the masses and making the manipulation harder to be detected. And in the end you can use already existing circumstances, like laws, morality etc. to  support the rightiousness and necessitiy of a specific idea or action.
The most profund manipulation is the one which
* is not recognized at all
* the manipulated person identifies with the idea of the manipulator and wrongly thinks of her as his own
* the goal of the manipulator is unknown or not detectable.
That are the facts we face in our lives, whereever we live. But we are not helpless, as old as manipulation is in human history, as old are also the weapons to defend yourself and your loved ones against such assault.

In one word the solution can be described as the use of REASON. As we have seen reason is a sharp and effective tool, but it is also a tool which takes a lot of energy to be used and therefore we sporadically make use of it - economic reasons force us to such behaviours. But a few simple questions can help us on the way to a more authentic, successful and happier life.
* Is ist true?
* How do I know it ist true?
* Cui bono? (who profits?)
* What does the other one want from me?
* What do I really want and need?
* What is it all about?
* What will be the result of this action?
Autonomous acting always means to act by rational thinking, it is something you do actively, whereas being manipulated means to react on something coming from outside, which means to give up control to an outside power. Make sure that your actions are based on facts and not on bare opinion or suggestions. Examine your real actions, they tell the truth about your convictions and your worldview. Be skeptical about pure ideas, especially if they have no correspondence in real life, if you have never made any experience which tend into the direction of the idea. Do not always trust your own thoughts. A human brain "talks" a lot and many "self-talks" are wrong. Just because you have an idea, does not make it right. Trust your own experiences more, than the word of others (and yourself). Real actions cannot lie, words can. Develop your ability to say "no" and recognize the bondage and hidden costs which possession of things often include. The amout of self-restraint you have, is the amount of freedom you are capable of.
If your really want to be a free person you step apart from the power game. Some poeple think the game is inevitable and you better learn how to play it well, but that is a very narrow view. Freedom can only be achieved if you are not controlled by others but also, that you on your turn give up all control over others. The manipulator is not freer, than the manipulated one. This is the crucial point to understand in the paradox of freedom. You are not free, if you control others as well, for the "leash" exists not less in hand of the "dog owner", than it does around the neck of the "dog". Real freedom includes independence, which means to cut the leash and let the otherone run free.

And remember Voltaire's famous quote: "If you want to know who controls you, just ask yourself who you are not allowed to critizise."


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