We have all seen the endless line of experts paraded on TV media. They are professors of this university, head of personnel relations in that social services institution, or CEO of some mega corporation, or a head justice of some influential political district. They all have some sort of qualifications that can be verified by other people. They are asked by their interviewers for “their thoughts” about issues that we have come to believe are relevant to our own. If we don’t find answers in the news, we find ourselves asking the doctor what to do about certain conditions, asking the lawyer how to handle our difficulty with a dishonest company, asking the lawn people how to trim a particular bush and on and on asking others how and what to do about simple issues in our lives. We even ask Google what to feed our dog. What has happened to thinking things through for ourselves? Why do we no longer trust ourselves? Why do we immediately rush to consult “an outside source” on how to handle simple daily problems? Why do we do that? Because we’ve been subtly trained to trust the opinions, values and beliefs of others more than our own. How has this happened? Easy. We’ve had many years of encouragement. No, not in trusting ourselves but for listening to everyone else who we’re told “knows” the “right” thing to do.
As we are raised as little children, there is no choice as to whether we should or shouldn’t trust our parents with what is “right” for us or not. We’re small, vulnerable and we need protection from the world. When we’re prevented from crossing the street in traffic or something toxic is removed from our mouths when we’re an infant, we need the guidance and protection of our parents. This is very easy to understand and accept. We expect that they will be there and assume that they know what is best for us. Hopefully, as we grow older, we have conversations with them while we mature and enabling us to assess potentially dangerous situations ourselves and learning how to make choices in our own best interest that favor our welfare. But over the last forty- or fifty-years peripheral circumstances have changed that seem to mitigate our learning to think for ourselves.
As it became necessary for both parents to work, the quality time we’ve been able to spend with our parents as children has shrunken dramatically. There have been many circumstances that had arisen conflicting with their ability to support themselves and have time with their family but I believe that one of the most poignant examples of their diminishing resources was the advent of the credit card in 1958 presented by Bank of America. This allowed revolving credit where our parents could charge for the things they wanted and needed and pay later. But credit cards were a new issue for many people who were unfamiliar with the awareness and discipline that is necessary to handle them. The temptation to use them was overwhelming. Now, on top of the mortgage, food and clothing a new and growing bill hit them at the end of each month; a credit card with interest.
Regardless of whether this was the major factor or not, with both parents working to make ends meet and their parents getting moved to nursing homes, the time parents, or even grandparents, spent with their children shrank tremendously. Television and the media were fast becoming the go-to baby sitter. Children we getting less and less quality time as their parents became more involved in their survival and the requirements of the outside world. As parents became compressed, children learned to respond more to the demands of the outside world and following rules set by those outside the family who were professing how best to live life. It soon became natural for children to seek answers or permission rather than try things themselves. While parents didn’t have the space to spend quality time with their kids and were looking outside themselves to gauge their survival, children we looking to others to learn how to live. Everyone was now focused on what was going on outside of themselves. Letting the world tell us who we should be and what we should do has become the expectation and perspective to live by. Everyone stopped thinking for themselves, let alone, thinking through solutions to their issues. We were now trained to ask the pundits, the experts and anyone who even professed to know something about anything or claimed to be an authority. This perspective about life has left us dangerously susceptible to whatever the media or the authority (same thing) has chosen to present to us, truthful or not. We’ve become slaves of our own ignorance and passivity.
So, now to the question I began with. Who’s in Charge? Well, obviously, not us. At this point we have been trained to believe that our fate is in the hands of others. It’s now easy to understand why anyone with a big enough mouth or righteous enough cause can substitute for the authority that we believe we must ask permission of in order to live our daily lives. We have forgotten that most of us have access to common sense through thinking for ourselves. However, if we do think for ourselves and it disagrees with the prevailing world’s “wokeness,” we risk being labeled as a traitor, extremist or racist. This labeling seems to be more important to us than the actual fact that we are capitulating to an outside world that is less stable or capable than we are.
As humans, our psyche is very fragile. Our social image is the main ingredient in how we actually value ourselves. On some level we know that we have given away that part of our power to the outside world. Yet, we don’t want to think or believe that we are not in control. Somehow, we’ve come to believe that that makes us less valuable, less respectable and less adequate as a person. What’s even more unnerving is the fact that someone else important to us may see that we are not in control. And not being seen as being in control seems to be the most active of our self-image detractors and strongly diminishes how we value ourselves. Not feeling in control leads to many behaviors designed to mitigate that feeling. Needing to be right is one of them.
Needing to be right comes from the need to create the impression that we are in control. The bottom line is, we are petrified of making a mistake. We believe that being “in error” makes us less of a valuable person in the eyes of others. We then rush to cover our “mistake” through persuading others with the external “proofs” of our “rightness.” We all know people that just “can’t let go of it.” The truth is that everyone perceives the world differently. We must because our experience is different. If our experience is different than everyone else, how can what we believe be inadequate? It’s just different. Yet most of us can’t accept the fact that we are all individuals. We experience life differently. We perceive life differently. So, what is true for us is likely not true for others. Yet, because we weren’t trained as a child to be allowed to see and perceive differently, we’ve come to believe that it’s not okay to do so and that there must be one truth that is true for all. Being trained to believe that we are all created equal has created a tremendous misconception about our individual lives. God, if there is a God, did not use a cooky cutter to create us. We are all different. Our DNA is different. Our experience is different. Our perception of life is different. Why then is it not okay to appear different? Because we’ve been trained and conditioned to give away the power to judge ourselves to others. Because we’ve given them the power over our self-image and they inevitably must see us differently, we can’t be right and we aren’t in control. Now tell me. Who’s in charge? And why? What are you going to do about it?
“The only thing keeping us from being ourselves is who we think we should be.”
John Lawrence Maerz - 2014