Conventional Wisdom, Conformity, and Cognitive Dissonance: The Three Headed Monster of Ignorance

“How often one hears, as an excuse for not reforming our lives, the argument that any act that is contrary to the usual mode of life would be unnatural, ludicrous—would look like a desire to show off, and would therefore not be a good action. This argument seems expressly framed to prevent people from ever changing their evil lives. If all our life were good, just, kind, then and only then would an action in conformity with the usual mode of life be good.”

Hi everyone,

Our time is precious, so thank you for carving out some of it to visit my blog. The above quotation is an excerpt from one of the greatest works I’ve ever read, The First Step, written by Leo Tolstoy in 1892. It’s only about 20 pages, and it lays the foundation of the first step in how we can improve as a person and as a human race.

This blog is going to be one of great importance. It’s going to be about an issue we face as a species, and that issue is ignorance. I mentioned in my intro blog on the importance of escaping Plato’s cave. If you are unfamiliar with the allegory of the cave it should be on your list to research.

It’s a cave of ignorance, and we’ve all been there. This cave doesn’t discriminate. Most people never make it out of the cave. It should be everyone’s goal in life to get out. How do we get out? Well, that’s something that’s been studied for ages, and, unfortunately, the answer has been suppressed for ages as well. Some might argue nobody knows the real answer, but I know a few things that can get the ball rolling towards getting out.

The first step is to empty our cup. We can’t learn anything if we think we already know. We need to wring out the sponge of information we’ve been told our whole lives, so we can be ready to absorb different information and ideas. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes by Aristotle. It is the mark of an intelligent mind to entertain a thought without accepting it. Most of us cannot entertain new thoughts due to the amount of references we have. Our subconscious has been programmed with references throughout our lives, and we are arguably the most programmed generation in human history. That is due to the amount of information we have at our fingertips. Our brains are bombarded 24/7 with bad information by way of TV, movies, influencers, teachers, the media, smartphones, social media, PR firms, bureaucracies, all the way to down to our friends and family.

Neuroscientists have discovered that 95% of our daily decisions and actions come from our subconscious, meaning we don’t even realize we aren’t consciously making 95% of our decisions. I like to think of our subconscious as smartphones that are set to ‘automatic software update’ that requires no password to approve the update. It just happens. The way we can reprogram our subconscious is through meditation, affirmations, positive thinking, and changing the fuel we put into our bodies. I go into detail on affirmations and subconscious in this post. We need to change our way of thinking in order to survive and thrive. We limit ourselves too much, and that’s because the system in place is set up for that to happen. We need to wake up to this reality and start thinking for ourselves.

So what is conventional wisdom, conformity, and cognitive dissonance, and why do we need to study this as a community?

To put it bluntly, conventional wisdom is when everybody believes in bullshit. Unfortunately, when the masses believe in something it usually means that it’s been paid for. Contrived. If everyone believes something, it’s probably wrong, or we aren’t getting the full story. Lying through omission as my mother would say.

Here are some examples of conventional wisdom: pharmaceuticals restore health, vaccinations bring immunity and are thoroughly tested before being mandated, the federal reserve is controlled by the government, the cure for cancer is around the corner, when we are sick we need antibiotics, type 2 diabetes is a life sentence, milk does the body good, doctors know everything there is to know about health, nutritionists know everything there is to know about nutrition, we need meat for protein, we need more than 20% of our daily caloric intake from protein in order to be healthy and/or gain muscle, chemotherapy and radiation are effective cancer treatments, the mainstream media is a good source of information and has our best interests at heart, the global elite and world leaders genuinely care about the masses’ wellbeing and wish us to thrive, chronic pain is a natural process of getting older, the official story of 9/11 is accurate. The list goes on and on. You may not like what I’ve said here. Some might even close out the article or unsubscribe. That’s where cognitive dissonance comes into play.

Most people will not question the narratives that I’ve just stated. Everyone knows they are true, right? If someone were to present a contradiction, then your brain will literally shut down to convince yourself otherwise in forms of denial, trivializing, modification, or just plain making up stories. There is a mental processing error so to speak. Think of a computer shutting down when when you have too many tabs or programs open. This is a form of cognitive dissonance. We become braindead and will not accept any new information on the subject. We then turn to the comfortable lies we know and have come to love. Our brains can’t handle the unpleasant truth. Fear, denial, unrealistic optimism, and defensiveness kick in. We do everything in our power to protect ourselves from trauma. Anger and instant gratification are the most common reactions. Oh, I wish I had my soma.

As I stated earlier, we are bombarded with hundreds, even thousands of clips, billboards, people walking on the trail, advertisements, etc every day reinforcing these ideas in our heads, so when something challenges those references we shut down and say, “No, that’s impossible.”, “You’re crazy.”, “What are you a conspiracy theorist?”, “There’s no way that can be true.”, “I refuse to believe that.”, “What do you know, you’re not a doctor.”, “What are your credentials?”, “That’s not what I heard.” Fear and denial protects us from anxiety, and remember denial strikes twice. It keeps us from finding the knowledge we need, and it keeps us from applying the knowledge we need. The presented information will not be processed, and we have an emotional reaction instead stepping back, evaluating both sides of the story, and using reason and logic to make a decision. Instead we become parrots just repeating information. When you actually sit down and think for a moment every opinion you’ve had in your life, you’ll realize that most of those aren’t actually your opinions so to speak. They may have come from the media, movies, tv, our parents, our friends, and we just parrot them (aka conformity) until it becomes the norm. Polly want a cracker!

What we need to understand about the media and the people who control our information is that we are only getting a fraction of that information, but it comes off as the entire shabang. It’s done very well, and we, as a collective, become so conditioned that we don’t question things anymore. That’s too much work. At a very young age we are told to stop asking ‘why’ from our parents, teachers, coaches, and other authority figures. I mean, heck, I’ve even used the all-powerful expression, “Because I said so,” back when I taught swim lessons and coached kids.

We need to start asking why more. Why is this happening? What is the context? What are we being sold here? We’ve become zombies on certain subjects. I mean, my goodness, how many times do we hear the expression ‘ask your doctor‘ when watching TV nowadays. It used to be illegal to advertise pharmaceuticals, and now it’s jammed down our throats literally and figuratively. We’ve forgotten how to teach ourselves. And now we have our smartphones, smart TVs, computers, and tablets that are designed to be so engaging that we are constantly distracted. We don’t have time to process information. We’re too busy playing X-Box, scrolling social media, and binging Netflix to make any sense on what’s being done over our heads. It’d be foolish to assume there isn’t some sort of agenda. Unrealistic optimism at its finest. We need to stop looking at events and the world under a microscope and start looking at it from a mountaintop. Use logic.

So what is conformity? Conformity is when we just go along with what is “socially accepted”. The old ‘I’m just doing it because everyone else is doing it’ routine. We’ve all been there. Unfortunately, conformity in our world today is conforming to bad habits, ill behavior, and deceit. I love the way Tolstoy put it as I stated at the beginning of this post, because it hits close to home with me. When I wanted to drastically change my diet and way of living I got hit with a lot of objections. That’s not normal. What you’re doing can’t be healthy. You’re going to stay in tonight? But it’s Jack’s birthday, come on. I’ll admit I’ve fallen for this stuff many, many times in my life. I’ve let friends and authority figures sway me from my path. It all goes back to me, though. I let it happen, but a lot of times we don’t realize these decisions have been made for us. Free will is not free, my friends. True enslavement is the illusion that the manipulated individual believes with conviction that they are acting on their own free will.

When you start diving into PR and marketing’s tactics, if you dig deep enough, you’ll stumble across Edward L. Bernays, also known as The Father of Spin. He was nephew to Sigmond Freud. Instead of using his uncle’s ideas for uncovering issues in the unconscious, he flipped it around to use his ideas to mask agendas and create illusions to deceive the masses for marketing purposes. One of Bernays’ biggest fans was Josef Goebbels who mentored Hitler on his propaganda techniques. Bernays popularized smoking as a health practice, bacon for breakfast, and sold the American public on the first World War. He discovered that the public can be swayed through the repetition of messages hundreds and thousands of times per week. Now, let’s fast forward to present day with our smartphones and direct access to information. Frightening.

Here are a few quotes that are worth thinking about:

“Those who manipulate the unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. We are governed, our minds molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society. In almost every act of our lives whether in the sphere of politics or business in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires that control the public mind.” -Edward Bernays.. Some Matrix stuff right there… Freaky

Take a look at the contrast in a quote by Thomas Jefferson. “I know of no safe depository of the ultimate power of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise that control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not take it from them, but to inform their discretion.” Thomas Jefferson stating the importance of the public being informed and enlightened how to use our power properly. Ironic seeing where we are today.

And finally, “Education is a weapon whose effects depend on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed.” That quote was said by none other than Joseph Stalin, arguably the most vicious psychopath in human history who murdered millions of people. Education and information are weapons that are being pointed at the masses. Information warfare.

So how do we combat the three Cs of conventional wisdom, conformity, and cognitive dissonance? First, we need to empty our cup. We need to open our minds before we open our mouths. Remember, we cannot learn anything if we think we already know. There is the classic story of a college professor who visited a Zen master to learn all about Zen and truth. The master began to pour the professor a cup of tea, and when the tea reached the brim, the master continued to pour. The tea spilled all over, and finally, the professor said ‘It’s full, no more can go in!’. The master replied, “This cup is you. How can I teach you about Zen unless you first empty your cup.”

Second, we need to detox. This is how I discovered our gaping path of ignorance. I went into something I never thought I’d do with an open mind and learned everything I could about detoxification and fasting. I cleaned myself out and purified my body and mind. I came to the realization that everything I knew about health was a lie. It got me thinking that if everything I knew about health was misinformation and a lie, then what else could be lies that we’ve been told. At that point there was no turning back, and I had to question every narrative that had been parroted to me my entire life. With detoxification comes de-indoctrination. It’s a natural process. You begin to fill your cup with your own notions, references, and ideas. It brought new meaning to another one of my favorite quotes by Aristotle. Believe only your own experience. There is no fact like a fact learned from your own life. I decided to create my own facts. That’s where I am today, and I wish for everyone to experience this. For more on the reasons we need to detox, please check out this post.

Third, we have to do extra internal work. Our subconscious has been deeply effected and programmed our entire lives. We need to practice silent reflection and affirmations. If marketing, the media, and advertising can hammer thoughts into our brains with constant repetition, then conversely, we can hammer new thoughts into our brains with constant repetition. It’s time to take responsibility for ourselves. We need to cut back on the TV, social media, and everything that bombards us and desensitizes us. Think. Has watching TV or scrolling social media provided us anything quantifiably positive? For the most part the answer is no. It brings nothing but stress and wasted time, and our time is our most valuable commodity.

All that we can control is our perceptions. We can’t control other people’s, so we can do all the internal work possible but still have people parroting bad information around us. When that happens, just step back, take a breath, and not react emotionally. Everyone has their own path. It doesn’t mean we have to join them. Remember what Tolstoy said. The only time conformity is good is when everyone is doing the right thing.

Instead of parroting what “everybody knows”, it’s time for us to start thinking for ourselves and making our own decisions. It’s going to take time and effort, but it’s worth it. It’s up to you, though.

Let’s live logically, folks.

Jeremy

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