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TOTD 24 Jan 2002

We humans are conditioned from birth to automatically repress our honest impressions and responses in order to maintain collective social illusions -- we don't like to "hurt people's feelings" or be disagreeable, and in order to avoid cultural embarrassment we learn how to become compulsive and continuous liars. By the time we have reached adolescence most of us are so socially programmed that we are no longer even aware that we are doing this.

-Jim DeKorne, Psychedelic Shamanism

We delude ourselves that we want to implant "honesty" in our children; what we really want is to imbue them with our particular kind of dishonesty, with our culture's dishonesty, our class's dishonesty, our cult's dishonesty.

-Sidney Harris

Comments

( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
zagella
Jan. 25th, 2002 12:34 am (UTC)
Very thought-provoking - with a 13 year old daughter I frequently find myself challenging my views, in light of her challenges. For example, why should her room be tidy? Why shouldn't she eat with her fingers? I'm often aware I am trying to force my values on to her and do my best to refrain - or at least try and help her understand why I hold those values so she can then choose whether or not she wants to adopt them as well.
kmo
Jan. 25th, 2002 08:01 am (UTC)
Thank you for the feedback
Hi Zagella,

My son is 14 months old, so I still have all that good stuff in my future. My wife is dreading Logan's teen years. I can't wait.

Thanks again.
zagella
Jan. 25th, 2002 08:08 am (UTC)
Re: Thank you for the feedback
I've found parenting to be a constant challenge ... most of the time in a satisfying way - but challenging none the less! Good luck.
carocrow
Jan. 25th, 2002 04:37 am (UTC)
The Thin Veneer
Intellectually I can edgily agree with the quotes.

However, I'm also aware that there is very little that separates us from degenerating into "Lord of the Flies" every five minutes. Most members of society have no internal locus of control that would prevent it, and despite the fact that I don't always agree with society's morals, ethics and laws, they do keep people from rutting in the streets and getting away with murder.

We have been watching the trial of a man who killed a fellow parent at hockey practice here in Massachusetts. I have a feeling that the veneer is very thin, and it doesn't cover the stains in some peoples' characters. (insert picture of two gorillas fighting to the death here, screeching, one on top of the other beating his head open in front of horrified witnesses... did you watch Planet of the Apes?)

Is it a lie? Yes, it's a lie. We are not pretty and clean and civilized inside. Inside we are all wet and selfish and visceral. Why do you think the Buddhists tell you that you must deny your basic nature for love in order to spiritually advance?
kmo
Jan. 25th, 2002 08:24 am (UTC)
Thanks for your feedback
Hi Caro,

You seem to be playing Hobbs to Zagella's Rousseau.

In the interest of staking out what seems like a middle ground, I offer this thought from Michael Pollan, author of Second Nature: A Gardener's Education:
The habit of bluntly opposing nature and culture has only gotten us into trouble, and we won't work ourselves free of this trouble until we have developed a more complicated and supple sense of how we fit into nature.
mungojelly
Jan. 25th, 2002 03:04 pm (UTC)
Re: The Thin Veneer
Hmm. I think it's odd that people are constantly attempting to use the tremendous violence of our culture as proof that we are doing something right. That strikes me as a rather sharp confusion. The laws and inhibitions of our society do no such thing as preventing murder -- there is lots of murder. There is a tremendous amount of murder and rape and domestic violence and there are wars, if you haven't noticed, for God's sake.

If there is any way to fail more dramatically than our present society has in preventing violence, it is difficult (and nauseating) to even imagine it. We have riots, muggings, lynchings, executions, land mines, rape-murders, school shootings, assassinations, carpet bombing, torture, napalm, cruise missles, prison rape, domestic abuse, suicides, murder-suicides, tanks and warplanes and smiling marines with rifles and G.I.Joe dolls and Super Animated Chopping Action, buy one today. We are steeped in violence as no culture ever has been before.

Even the atomic bomb, the most unbelievably destructive and total and gruesome of all imaginable weapons, perhaps of all possible weapons, even that we have used. The best we can say is that at least we didn't nuke any major cities. It's a good thing that we all held it in, eh? It's a good thing that we lied, every day of our lives, that we restrained The Beast inside us, or else perhaps we would have bombed Tokyo instead?

(Also, as a Buddhist I must strongly disagree that we have been telling you to deny your basic nature. Where did you hear that? The Buddha came to his realizations only after he stopped denying his nature. He went through many torturous experiences attempting to deny his body and emotions, and failed in finding release. It was only when he yielded and ate the milk and honey that he was able to sit under the Bodhi tree and unravel the mystery.)
carocrow
Jan. 26th, 2002 07:01 am (UTC)
Re: The Thin Veneer
You have obviously not paid much attention to the teachings that are rather constantly telling people to ignore their base urges seek instead enlightenment through right action.

There are several kinds of Buddhism, however, so I will overlook your indignant response and assume you are not one of "those" Buddhists, the kind that tell men not to ejaculate and refuse to eat meat, ignoring the fact that plants are also sentient. There are extremists in every religion, and there are a large number of Buddhists in the world.

Chaos is at the root of everything. We have to recognize that, but we do not have to embrace and endorse it.

Everything you have said about society simply reinforces in my mind that humans are not in any basic way civilized. The imposition of civilization also comes with the drawback that inevitably someone wants to be "in charge" and will revert to their baser nature to achieve that, whether it is with sticks and stones or nuclear bombs. Democracy, communism, are not "natural". Observe animals. There is always a top dog, a greyback, a lead buck, etc. There are battles, children are killed, females are raped, individuals are ostracised from the tribe. Is it pleasant? No. But it is only the veneer that separates us from that, and it doesn't do a very good job.

Denial may not be the answer, but rejection may be, to a degree. You cannot wallow in the mud without getting dirty. Just because you want to do something does not make it a good thing to do it.

Yes, it is only the internal locus that prevents us from regressing. The laws and strictures of society simply restrict those who don't listen to their locus from destroying everyone else. Unfortunately they limit the innocent with the guilty. Have you a better method that is not so idealistic as to be inapplicable?
zhmort
Jan. 25th, 2002 07:29 pm (UTC)
I find myself agreeing strongly with both of these quotes. With the first one, though, I wonder where he's going with it. Is the point that we should realize there is so much dishonesty and seek to eradicate it altogether, or that we should recognize it, understand it, and then learn to use it more thoughtfully and healthily? I tend to espouse the latter opinion.

I noticed quite some time ago that whenever I would start having a conversation with friends and acquaintances who feel honesty is a primary value (to be placed higher than all other values, always), that the conversation would inevitably get bogged down and go nowhere. I would try to explain that, actually, no matter how important they might feel honesty to be, no matter how much they might feel like they were striving to be honest people all the time, they simply couldn't help lying over and over again, probably daily, probably multiple times in a day. And not just when speaking aloud to others, but also, and probably even moreso, when thinking inwardly. "No," they'd say, "that's not how I am."

There's no arguing with that. You can't prove to a person who doesn't want to face their own dishonesty that it exists. It would wreck too much of the their view of themselves, and it would introduce contradictions that just aren't easily dealt with if your philosophy doesn't allow for the possibility that honesty is some times okay.

I'm not saying dishonesty is inherently good. I am saying that understanding that it happens is the first step to gaining an ability to be more honest. Because we are trained to be dishonest even before we learn to use words, it can be difficult to face this truth. But once you accept it, then you can start thinking about yourself in ways that will eventually lead to depths of self-understanding that can't be approached any other way.

Of course, what you do with that understanding is a different topic. I don't think it's necessary to be a lying bastard all the time. :-) But we are indeed animals, and we are not always rational and decent, no matter how much we might like to be. Even the best of us are often impulsive and confused and unreasonably selfish. Making much progress on changing any of that simply isn't possible until you can face the truth of it and still manage to love yourself and your fellow humans.
kmo
Feb. 14th, 2003 05:44 pm (UTC)
Brutal Honesty
zhmort
Feb. 15th, 2003 12:55 am (UTC)
Re: Brutal Honesty
:-)
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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