Universal literacy was supposed to educate the common man to control his environment. Once he could read and write he would have a mind fit to rule. So ran the democratic doctrine. But instead of a mind, universal literacy has given him rubber stamps, rubber stamps inked with advertising slogans, with editorials, with published scientific data, with the trivialities of the tabloids and the platitudes of history, but quite innocent of original thought. Each man’s rubber stamps are the duplicates of millions of others, so that when those millions are exposed to the same stimuli, all received identical imprints.
Edward Bernays — “Propaganda”
Since I read those words yesterday, I cannot stop thinking about them and about what it means to be a person, a human, a man, or a woman. A couple of sentences that, I think, are among the most profound thoughts I ever read. This is the best, most succinct, and powerful description of us, humans, and our human condition. What we might see as individuality is actually shared by millions of others. All of us are conditioned to react or think or feel, or behave in a particular way. That indoctrination starts right at the cradle and only ends with a death. Right words, right expression — be it a piece of music or a political rally or a football game or a news report or a protest march or a witch hunt, will unleash our already programmed-in behavior. We will react for “it” or against “it”, like robots who can only make binary choices. I know I do — even though I pride myself on being well-informed, well-researched, well-tolerant and I guess well-full of myself, too. That propaganda of what it means to be a good person, good citizen, good husband or wife, good employee, good believer, a good customer, a good Samaritan is so overwhelmingly subtle that we don’t even see that the choices we make are not really ours. I mean, we make choices that are only an extension of our mental conditioning. There is nothing free about so-called free choice.
Now, what can I do about it? Now that I know it. Or I think I know it. Maybe I was conditioned in a particular way to think and feel that outrage and powerlessness after reading those words above? I don’t know… yet.
But I feel like this is only a beginning of a revelation of something huge and life-changing in my mind. Something that I truly want.