The Illusion of “Thinking for Yourself”

As I have discussed before, in the 1960’s, the world changed drastically, at least in the West.  For the most part, I believe that this change has been, for the most part downhill.  In the The Feminine Universe, Miss Alice Lucy Trent calls this change “the Eclipse.”  Now, I can imagine that at least some readers will protest and talk about all of the horrors of cruelty, unkindness, violence, and oppression from the past.  I am not denying that this was so.  The past of this world has been violent and cruel for at least as long as we have recorded history.  I discuss this in a more detailed fashion on the Seed in the article, The Patriarchal Revolution.  This is one of the more compelling arguments for the changes in society since the Eclipse, but I think that much more has been lost than has been gained.  I talk about this in more detail in an article I wrote regarding an Anime I have recently watched.  The article is here.

One of the things that has been lost is any sense that authority can be trusted, or really that anyone can be trusted.  We are taught to “think for ourselves” and engage in “critical thinking” of everything.  Instead of being a contributing part of a community, or seeking a higher purpose, people see it as their duty (and everyone’s duty) to keep “informed,” which really means to keep track of all of the bad things that everyone is doing or may do.

The reality is that really none of us “think for ourselves.”  We all rely on other people.  For example, when choosing a service or a product, we look up “reviews,” which are the thoughts of other people.  When deciding our opinions on “issues,” we rely on others to tell us what these “issues” are and how we should think about them.  We are shaped by others in almost everything we do, and often when we think we are “thinking for ourselves,” we are really just choosing between ideas that have been told to us.

The same is true of “critical thinking.”  I think that there is a place for that; however, how it usually works is that the “critical” part becomes rather overemphasized.  People criticize everything, all of the time.  Even if one wants to be pleasant and let things go, often friends and family will talk about how she should complain and make sure to get what is fair.  Yes, I understand that there are times when it is important, but most of the time, the matters are often rather superficial, when one really stops to think about it.  How many of the things people complain about really matter in the grand scheme of things?

The reality is that it is hard to really engage in “critical thinking” in this day and age, because we have lost the idea of an objective right or wrong.  One of the big differences between pre-Eclipse and post-Eclipse movies is this idea that there are things that are right and things that are wrong.  Yes, there is plenty of immorality shown in pre-Eclipse media, but, it is not justified like it is in post-Eclipse media.  Good was good and bad was bad.  Shows might depict people being bad, but they, and everyone else, knew they were being bad.  Now, good and bad are so muddled and twisted that no one really knows what they are anymore.

Now, one may say, well what about circumstances?  An example of which would be someone who steals or engages in criminal business ventures because she can not afford the basic necessities of life for herself and her family.  My answer to that is that none of us are perfect, and there are times, people make compromises out of necessity in a very difficult, and often rather harsh, world.  That does not change the fact that what they may be doing is wrong.

It is a funny society where one is supposed to “think for yourself” and “think critically,” but one is also supposed to be non-judgmental.  So, what does one base one’s critical thinking on?  Well, what I have seen in practice is that people do several things.  They often become part of a group, and accept that group’s judgments, often without question really.  In the United States, there is a liberal “team” and a conservative “team” that is now fueled by a 24-hour news cycle.  People also tend to base their opinions on their own feelings and whims.  This actually makes people even more subject to outside influence.

The Metamorph 2So, what can one do?  One of the few Western post-Eclipse shows that I think is good is Star Trek, or at least the Original Series and the Next Generation.  Anyways, one of my favorite episodes in Star Trek: the Next Generation is the episode, “the Perfect Mate.”  In this episode, there is a woman who is a metamorph, which means she naturally becomes the person that perfectly suits her mate.  In this show, she makes the choice to bond with Captain Picard, even though she is promised to marry someone else in an arranged political marriage.  She does this because she likes who she is when she is with Captain Picard.  In molding to Captain Picard, she understands the importance of duty, and she goes through with the arranged marriage to fulfill her duty.

I think this is a rather good metaphor for us.  All of us are influenced and molded by our social groups, the media we watch, and by what we expose ourselves to.  None of us really think for ourselves.  What we can do is to decide who we are going to listen to and who we are going to trust.  We can decide who is it we are going to be molded by.

These decisions become easier when we have a sense of right and wrong, and when we are not just basing things on our own opinions or whims.

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4 thoughts on “The Illusion of “Thinking for Yourself”

  1. I am reminded they say that it takes a village to raise a child, and I think this reinforces what you are writing about in the article. We are are all part of a web no matter how small which effects and improves the next line of decisions.

    • Thank you for reading and for your comment, Miss Elizabeth. I agree that all of us have wisdom in our hearts, and that this wisdom governs (or should govern) how we think. The difficulty with this is that many of us have grown up being taught and molded in a post-modern world. We think we are thinking for ourselves, but really we are actually following what we have been taught in one way or another. One of the ways that we can see this is by how little real diversity there is in allowed opinions. There is the liberal/progressive “side” and the conservative/fundamentalist “side” each with a rather fixed worldview. We have been educated and socialized out of listening to wisdom of our hearts!

      You are right though, that when we do listen to our hearts, really listen to our hearts, we can get past all of the noise in our heads! The thing we find, though, is that our thoughts, even the thoughts of our hearts, are really not original thoughts, but the truest wisdom of our hearts has been spoken by teachers and sages all over the world throughout the ages! It is through our hearts that we can recognize wisdom and truth!

      I hope this makes some sense! I really do appreciate your reading and commenting on this article.

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