I’m sure you’ve had the experience recently. You are talking to someone when you notice they have switched off with their “cemented opinion”. But you continue talking, still hoping to convince that person with your “rational argument.”
I fall into the trap every time, knowing full well that no matter what information I provide, it will not convince the other person to adapt or change his or her mind.
A medical doctor friend of mine recently vented frustration at the growing number of patients questioning his diagnosis with information they had found on the Internet. It is mind boggling that the expertise of scientists, who have spent a good part of their lives becoming experts in their fields, is ridiculed by persons with only scant knowledge at best of the topic they are talking about.
We surround ourselves with friends and associates who share our opinions and mannerisms. We subscribe to media that feed us with information we want to hear. Its human nature. A questioning of our belief system is perceived as so “dangerous” that it might alienate us from our tribe and leave us cold and alone. The unfortunate part of this human trait is that it makes us prone to manipulation, especially if the perceived threat to group identity is threatened.
What happens to the individual manifests itself into what I call the mass brainwashing and fogging of minds. Political strategists and the master manipulators understand this part of the working of the human mind very well.
Take for example my home country South Africa. The media is churning out almost daily evidence of the looting of the country’s state-owned enterprises and national treasury by the ruling president and his cronies. In any normal situation President Jacob Zuma would have been booted out of office and sentenced to a long prison term for crimes ranging from massive tax evasion to personal enrichment and treason. He is only getting away with it because he has convinced his electorate that they are poor because the wealth of the country is controlled by “white monopoly capitalism.” Worse still, the media controlled by this “monopoly” is spreading lies in a bid to re-install apartheid. That is all you need to communicate in a country still deeply divided along racial lines.
Feed into already existing prejudices or fears by spreading half-truths, lies and misleading information and you control the masses who believe what they want to believe. Adolf Hitler understood this mechanism perfectly by feeding into existing anti-Semitic prejudices of a highly educated society until he had them all screaming “Sieg Heil” as the rail carriages rolled into the death camps of Auschwitz. The economy of the oil-rich country of Venezuela was ruined by a despot riding the mantra that all the troubles could be attributed to American imperialism.
This is why I find the rising nationalism in so many countries so dangerous. It appeals to the most basic of human instincts, whispering into the ears of the masses: “Someone is out there taking or denying from you something that you regard as very precious and dear.”
The wise teachers from all the major religious traditions teach us that you need to “neutralize” your mind in order to open yourself to true spiritual experience. It sounds so easy but is probably one of the hardest things to do. Don’t we all have toxic emotions, prejudices and fears that we desperately hold on to?
A first step toward neutralizing the mind is the admission of those existing pre-conceived ideas, or emotions and in analyzing their origins.
- What made you think the way you are thinking?
- Do you really have an open mind to a new angle or perspective?
- Are you versed in the art of listening?
Inside each human lie embedded the seeds of doing either good or evil. What you feed your mind with on a daily basis is what you become. You make your decisions based on your belief system.
Reino Gevers – Mentor for Leaders and Achievers – Your Health Matters
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