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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Welcome Back, Sandra Dee!

As part of the changes I have been making lately, I have been doing my best to avoid most Western post-Eclipse media (media produced after the mid 60’s).  I admit, though, I slipped a bit this evening.  I watched a movie from my childhood, Grease.   When I was a child, this was one of the most popular movies around.  Children would brag to each other about the number of times they had seen this movie.  The soundtrack for Grease was one of the first albums that I had.  I listened to this album over and over again, and I can still sing “Hopeless Devoted to You” from memory.  Given this, when Grease was on the television, I found myself watching it.

Hopelessly Devoted to YouI am actually glad that I watched this movie, and I watched it in a much different way this time.  Watching this movie was quite instructive for me in understanding how the Image Sphere of my generation was shaped.  In remembering my own reaction to this movie, this shaping is not just theoretical, it was personal.

The movie came out in 1978, but it was set in the 1950’s.  The main female character in this movie was Sandy Olsson.  At the beginning of the movie, Sandy was innocent and pure.  During the previous summer, she fell in love with a boy, Danny Zuko, who was part of the clique, “the greasers,” who were the “bad boys” of the school.  The central plot of the movie was relationship and romance between these two characters, but I think that there was a theme to this movie that was quite insidious.  At least it was insidious for me, particularly because I identified strongly with Sandy.

Throughout this movie, Sandy was ridiculed and teased for her innocence and purity.  She had just transferred to the High School from Australia, and she was befriended by Frenchie, one of the “Pink Ladies,” who were the “bad girls” of the school.  One of the early scenes is a sleepover that Sandy attended with the Pink Ladies.  One of the songs of this theme was “Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee.”  During this song, the other girls mocked Sandy because she did not drink, smoke, or swear, and because she was too innocent.

There were also several scenes where Danny rejected and even mocked Sandy as well in order to maintain his reputation with his friends.  The two do eventually get together, and Danny does try to make changes.  He joins the track team and earns a Letterman sweater.

Sadly, though, Danny’s changes were not the focus of the movie.  The focus of the movie was the pressure upon Sandy to renounce her innocence and her purity.  Eventually, she did.  When she did, she became fully part of the group of girls, and she and Danny came together.  The moral of this story seemed to be that if a girl wants to be happy and have friends, she must give up being innocent and pure.

I remember as a young girl, along with “Hopelessly Devoted to You,”  I also sang over and over again the song in which Sandy makes the decision to renounce her innocence, the reprise of the mocking song, “Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee”:

Goodbye Sandra DeeLook at me,
There has to be something more than what they see
Wholesome and pure,
Oh so scared and unsure, a poor man’s Sandra Dee

Frenchie:  They won [a drag race].  Isn’t that great?  Aren’t you happy?

Sandy:  Not really, Frenchie, but I think I know a way that I could be.  Could you help me?  Can I come to your place?

Frenchie:  Sure, come on.

Sandy, you must start anew
Don’t you know, what you must do
Hold your head high, take a deep breath and sigh
Goodbye to Sandra Dee

The help that Sandy asks for from Frenchie is a makeover.  She changes from her pretty, wholesome look to one that was decidedly unwholesome.  It was then that there was a happy ending.

The message of this movie was clear to me as a young girl.  One could not be innocent and wholesome and be happy.  In order to be happy and accepted by her peers, a girl needed to say “goodbye to Sandra Dee.”

I am an adult now, and I have learned a lot.  One of the things that I have learned is that there have been many changes in our world starting in the mid-1960’s, and one of the things that happened was a process of Conscience Inversion, a process by which we are taught to be proud of our worst instincts and ashamed of our best ones.  This is one of the forces that shaped a larger change in society marked by atomization, deracination, and deformation.

So, as part of my journey, I am reclaiming Sandra Dee.  Rather than being embarrassed and ashamed of being wholesome, I am reclaiming and celebrating it.  A lot of things have happened in my life, but I believe that I can reclaim my innocence.  I also believe that reclaiming our personal innocence is one of the best things that we can do, not just for ourselves but for our world.

So Welcome Back, Sandra Dee!

See also:

Is Your Innocence Lost Forever?

Group Self-Policing: How Innocence is Arrested