• The Mindless American: A Tragedy in the Making

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    As
    a result of nine-eleven’s jarring impact upon our nation, journalists
    have discovered a near paranoid rise in retaliation against individuals
    attempting to expose governmental malfeasance. Increasingly government
    officials have begun punishing individuals for nothing more than
    reasoned attempts to inform the American public concerning: How
    the military has systematically abused (tortured) foreign detainees;
    How the government intentionally withheld evidence suggesting that
    an attack upon the United States by Al Qaeda had been eminent; How
    the military has begun to wage war upon soldiers who, in good conscience,
    have come to believe that it is wrong for them to kill in a war
    that, according to international law, is illegal, one that, the
    reasons for going to war, were fabricated by the President of the
    United States; How the United States has a sixty-year history (1945–2005)
    of assassinating foreign leaders who have chosen not to support
    the government’s foreign policy goals, initiating the overthrow
    of duly-elected foreign democracies, while simultaneously supporting
    brutal authoritarian dictatorships all in order to fill the coffers
    of America’s military-industrial complex, an egregious imperialistic
    force with but one goal: To take command of the world economy.

    As
    a result, many of these individuals have been incarcerated, accused
    of being a traitor, of having sided with the enemy, told that their
    career will be destroyed, and threatened with extended imprisonment.
    Accordingly, on September 21, 2005, U.S. immigration officials banned
    Robert Fisk, an internationally renowned British journalist, on
    his way to deliver a speech in Santa Fe, New Mexico, from entering
    the United States of America due to incisive criticism of the Bush
    administration’s handling of the Iraq war. No doubt such a
    scenario has, and is, being repeated many times over in our country.
    A rather sad fact for a president who has chosen to make such a
    big deal about the oft-quoted ideals of “freedom and democracy!”

    But
    even more shameful is the fact that there are people who seem not
    to care that such things are taking place in our country; a rather
    ignorant crowd of jingoes more comfortable choosing to sit back
    pretending that everything will be just fine, a people with apparently
    little regard for the facts. As a behavioral scientist, I am grieved
    at what appears to be a near pandemic of disinterest in what is
    happening to our country.

    Given
    the election of George Walker Bush as our president, our country
    made it quite clear that it is pleased to have as its president
    a scoundrel, a true terrorist, one more than willing to bully the
    rest of the world, as opposed to having chosen a real man, one that
    humanity might embrace as a man of true character (someone like
    Jimmy Carter), an individual committed to doing what is best for
    the world (rather than what is most profitable for those running
    the petrol, armament, pharmaceutical, and construction industries),
    one with a desire to do what must be done in order to create a more
    humane world, one of peace, justice, and love. Although we claim
    to be a Christian nation, having chosen George Walker Bush to be
    the leader of our nation is a scandal beyond belief, one that mocks
    the very name of one whose life embodies that which we have been
    said to believe.

    However,
    now that I am well into my seventh decade of life and very near
    retirement, I have come to the conclusion that the world basically
    sucks, that there are few who seem to have the investigative courage
    to take a good hard look at things that, if discovered, would no
    doubt destroy one’s image of a land that can do no wrong, one
    that they believe has somehow received the eternal blessing of God.
    So I must ask: How is it that we have become such a mindless nation,
    a society populated by deadheads, folks who seem to have little
    desire to look beyond the thinly-veneered surface of life?

    As
    a behavioral scientist, it appears that a vast share of folks in
    our nation have chosen to relinquish a quality no doubt essential
    to authentic human life…… an existential responsibility to think
    for themselves, an ontological need to discount the petty concerns
    that drive the minds of those directed by triviality. It seems that
    such individuals have become so fantastically preoccupied with,
    essentially enamored by, the norm of what others think, they have
    effectively relinquished, through a process of cognitive foreclosure,
    the capacity to think for themselves. Having become so extremely
    alienated from the core of their own being, they have little choice
    but to follow the crowd’s madding need to forge a symbiotic
    attachment to, in essence relationship with, a society, that for
    all practical purposes has become the basis of their own identity,
    the bedrock of their very being. Having done so, the image they
    have forged for themselves (who they believe themselves to be) has
    become every bit as fabricated, every bit as disconnected from reality,
    as their image of society. So in wanting to have at their disposal
    a more positive image of themselves, they have been left with little
    choice but to construct a glorified image of society; an image of
    what they wish society would have been rather than what it has,
    in fact, turned out to be. Something like having chosen to have
    built an ego-incased frame constructed upon the shifting sands of
    inane social rumor and outright public lies…… truly a
    flight of fancy bordering on the absurd!

    Very
    few would disagree with the proposition that in Hitler’s Germany
    there was a determined effort to brainwash the people so they might
    support Mein Fhrer's efforts to conquer the world. However, what
    if one were to suggest that much the same is occurring in the United
    States of America, that there has been a determined effort through
    the socializing influence of our schools, the government, the mass
    media, the churches we attend, even that of our own parents, to
    pressure us into believing (just as Hitler) that our country has
    received the blessing of God, and because of this, we therefore
    have not only the right, but more importantly, through the use of
    military weapons, a divine responsibility to see that the world
    acquiesces to our needs and expectations. Just as Hitler in the
    1930’s prepared his countrymen to accept the authoritarian
    control of the Nazi government, much the same may well be occurring
    in the United States. Just as Hitler indoctrinated his people to
    believe that Germany had the right to conquer the world, George
    Walker Bush “in the name of freedom and democracy” may
    well be doing the same (preparing the American people to support
    his administration’s imperialistic drive to dominate the world).

    Behaviorally,
    it is clear that citizens, from cradle to grave, are primed to conform
    to the dictates of those in power, instructed never to question
    the validity of what those who would like to take control of our
    lives have to say. Most Americans have no idea: that what we are
    fed by the news media (televised and paper-print news) is nothing
    more than a portrayal of what powerful corporations (those who pay
    the salaries of those who run mass media) want us to believe, that
    what happens to pass as education is as often as not mere propaganda
    (e.g. that Americans are the good guys and their enemies are, without
    exception, always the bad guys), that what we learn in church may
    have very little or nothing to do with the truth, that what our
    parents teach us may be nothing more than an accumulation of their
    own personal biases…… no doubt a rather subtle modification
    of what they were taught by their parents. And through such a process,
    governments and nations around the world wield control as to what
    their citizens, believe, value, and do.

    And,
    of course, in our own society, the primary way most of us are controlled,
    the way the vast majority of us are forced “to toe the line,”
    is through the ominous threat of being fired. Something like this:
    If you are interested in keeping your career on track, that you
    would like to keep your job, then you ought to consider the following
    in order to assure your employer that you deserve the right to keep
    your job: get married and have a couple of kids, become a member
    of a social club (such as the Lions Club, the Kiwanis Club, or the
    Rotarians), be a good capitalist, be a patriotic citizen who loves
    his country, and make sure that you attend a local church so that
    everybody will know that you believe in God almighty. However, if,
    for whatever reason, you decide that you would like to become a
    rebel, that you would like to begin thinking for yourself, then
    you’d better brace yourself for trouble, because there is a
    reasonable likelihood that you will be fired! You see, in America,
    there is a rule of thumb concerning the working world which basically
    says that those who do what they are told to do are likely to keep
    their jobs, whereas those who tend to think for themselves, tend
    to buck the system (tend not to do what they have been told to do),
    end up jobless, powerless, and left to fend for themselves on the
    mean streets of society.

    But
    why? Why does such a thing occur? Why would America the beautiful,
    land of the free, do such a horrible thing to its own citizens?
    The answer is quite simple: Knowing that knowledge is power; the
    secret is control, controlling the out flow of information, making
    sure that citizens know no more than they “are supposed to
    know,” making sure that they remain relatively uninformed,
    making sure that they are given “just enough” that they
    will go along with, peacefully accept, the premise that they are
    well informed, that they have a good idea of what is going on. It
    is necessary then that the government keep the people from learning
    the truth. Keep them from even wanting to know the truth. Put the
    fear of God into them to the extent that they will never question
    what they have been told to believe. You see, those in power may
    say that they want their citizens to be educated, to be well informed
    as to what is going on; however, such is simply not the case. Ask
    yourself this question: What happens to those of us (teachers, preachers,
    philosophers, writers, journalists) who do not “toe the line,”
    those intent upon proposing alternate ways of looking at the world?
    Look at what happened to Jesus Christ, Martin Luther King, Mohandas
    Gandhi, even Socrates. I mean, really now, who among us wants to
    be crucified, assassinated, forced to drink hemlock…….
    wants to risk the possibility of losing one’s job, the ability
    to put food on the table for one’s family? However, just in
    case you do not believe me, try this on for size…… the
    next time you go to work tell the boss that you are an infidel (that
    you have grown up and no longer believe in God), that you have decided
    to become a socialist (that capitalism essentially sucks), that
    you no longer give a shit about your country (that you have decided
    to become a rebel, an actively-participating antiwar protestor),
    and then see what happens. Do you get the point?

    There
    are many (Robert Fisk, Cindy Sheehan, Sybil Edmunds, Bunnatine Greenhouse,
    Coleen Rowley, Captain Ian Fishback, Col. Anthony Shaffer, Kevin
    Benderman, Jeremy Hinzman, Brandon Hughey, Camilo Mejia, among others)
    who have illustrated the courage to risk their jobs, their careers,
    their reputations, their marriages, their wealth, imprisonment,
    and, in some cases, even that of their own sanity. But the sad fact
    is that for every hero out there, there are literally thousands
    of citizens (each who no doubt consider themselves to be conscientious,
    hard-working individuals who have a sincere belief in God and a
    loyal commitment to their country) who yet, for whatever reason,
    detest men and woman such as these who have shown the moral gumption
    to put their lives on the line for no other reason than to make
    a stand for that which is right, a willingness to tell anyone, everyone
    who is willing to listen, that it is a far better thing for one
    to have sacrificed his own life so that others might see, than to
    have chosen to remain silent ensuring the blind pretense that all
    is well, that there is nothing to worry about, that Big Brother
    will no doubt take good care of us as long as we simply keep our
    mouths shut and do exactly as we are told.

    Postscript:
    The most dangerous thing one can do is to tell the truth……
    the sentence for which, one way or the other, is always death!

    October
    20, 2005

    Doug
    Soderstrom, PhD [send him mail],
    is a psychologist.

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