Thursday, January 5, 2017

GroupThink

I often have phrases pop in my head.  This morning, after a night of very odd and evocative dreams, it popped into my head "the essence of GroupThink is the group."

Now, I get the phrases, but then whatever meaning they might contain other than, to reference Dickens, some piece of undigested meat, I have to tease out.

But in the context of the dreams I was having what I think it means is that the Group is vastly more important than the Think.  What people think is vastly less important, particularly in the early phases of an indoctrination process, than that they both think it together, and depend on others to think it with them.

Take the Oscar Meyer song: "my bologna has a first name, it's O-S-C-A-R."  People of my generation used to sing that song.  It's a commercial, but I still remember it.  It is inherently meaningless, but it became a part not just of so-called "pop" culture, but culture itself.  Pop culture is culture.  It is who we are.  We like to think it is out there somewhere, but we are saturated with it daily.

And we become used, as Americans, to continual change, to new daily commercials, movies, TV shows, products, apps, video games, clothing trends.  We reference them with each other.  It's how we know we belong to the same culture: we are referencing the same things; we've seen the same movies, watched the same shows.

I was watching this rant from Paul Joseph Watson last night: http://www.infowars.com/why-does-popular-culture-glorify-being-a-pussy/

He's both right and wrong.  Wrong, in that I really do think many people are not getting their emotional needs met, but right in that helplessness is not a virtue.

He is also right that signalling "I'm so depressed" can also become a de facto unifying theme.  It becomes a way of creating a grouping in an atomized world where no reference points last more than a few weeks.

And this is perhaps the miracle--intended, as I think, or not: our young particularly always feel no more than a few weeks away from being socially isolated from their peers.  Hopefully they have good, stable parents--although many, perhaps most--don't, but when they are trying to connect horizontally, they need to have watched the movies, heard the music, know the words, all of which are always changing.

What roots people?  Church roots people.  What happens on Sunday is not very susceptible to larger cultural fashions.  It is something you can depend on, and people you can depend on, who are not very concerned with the broader culture as a whole.

A sense of place roots people.  Things not changing, or only very slowly.  Seeing the same people on the same street corners every day.

Given this, is it any wonder Trump's support came from stable places where church-going is still a "thing"?  This, despite his manifestly unChristian lifestyle and urban roots?

Virtually everything in our culture exists to create a constant matrix of change, distortion, and perennial movement.  You teach people that the latest fad is their connection to others, then you simply connect the IV drip of political propaganda, and you have the spectacle, which I have recently seen, of people literally repeating HuffPo headlines as their own thoughts, and accusing anyone who dares think differently of being in a propaganda bubble, and engaged in GroupThink.  Well, which of us can have a five minute discussion without getting triggered?  Which of us can explain in depth what we believe and why we believe it?  Hint: it's not the person who starts with propaganda--with repeating a superficial, factually inaccurate but emotionally evocative phrase--and moves immediately to hate.

This does perhaps explain the extent of the emotion felt by the Headless Ones when confronted with alternative viewpoints: their very sense of self, psychologically, has been staked on their conformity to GroupThink, but they cannot admit this to themselves, or they will face the devastating truth that they have been living someone else's life, which I personally have always viewed as my own worst fear.  It is literally an existential attack on their sense of self.  As such, it is treated rightly as a matter of grave concern, one of far more significance than a mere political disagreement, which individuated, psychologically stable people can and do have often, but which they cannot.

Think about it: they have taught themselves to adapt seamlessly--perhaps even prided themselves on being ahead of the curve--to all changes coming down the pike.  This is how they live their lives: they adapt to the ideas of others.  How does one rationalize this?  How do any trendy people justify themselves?  Pride in being DIFFERENT.  Pablo is quite the clothes horse.  Pablo is so TRENDY, so fashionable.  So different from those of us who are not trendy.

Someone who is a trend-setter is out front, but do they too not have to remain in constant motion, constantly setting new trends, lest someone else overtake them?  It is inherently an unstable and insecure position.

Does being fashionable not create anxiety too?  Does one not become worried about getting behind the curve?  What if you are the last one to realize that the Russians hacked the election?  What if you are the last one to realize that Obama HAS to take some sort of action, and that if necessary nuclear war is absolutely an option if the Russians hacked our election?  What if thinking all this through has nothing at all to do with the mortar which holds you together?  Well, you get the headlines at HuffPo and the Daily Cause.  That is what if.

So you combine this HABIT of conformity, with the FEAR of being left behind, and you get this monolithic mass of people confronted, at this very moment in America's political history--following not just a resounding defeat on a national level, but 8 years of failure at the State level, and an overall out-going tide where the Democrat Party is concerned--with the choice of realizing they have gone far, far down the wrong path, and now need to turn around if they want any meaningful capacity for independent thought and accurate reality testing to develop, or choosing to double down.

Keith Ellison is what doubling down looks like.  He is the choice of lunatics.  And to be clear, I WANT them to choose Keith Ellison.  I really do.  I would normally dissemble that, but here is the thing: they can't understand what I am writing here without waking up.  It is one or the other.  And emotionally, the simplest thing is to just say "fuck that guy, racist motherfucker, we're going to do what WE want to do, and that is nominate somebody who isn't white, isn't Christian, and who is therefore best qualified to lead us to a post-racial era."  I get that.  I don't live in a box.  I move around.

So logically, of course, they will need to accuse me of being stuck, fixed, and utterly entranced by right wing propaganda. Projection, pure and simple.  We all tell ourselves the lies we need to to get by, but hopefully for all of us, at some time in our lives, we realize we are not really who we thought we were, are not really controlling our lives consciously, and can and should choose new directions.  This starts with the notion of choice itself, with agency, with the capacity to devote time and energy to what you decide, as an "Undividable", what matters.  Your body may not be whole, but all of our minds can be.

But living in a propaganda matrix is a half life.  I can't say I know for sure what is true--in fact I'm quite sure I get things wrong often--but I can say I do my best to make my own decisions on that score.  That is all any of us can do, but far less than most of us DO do.

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