Contrarians & writers needed more than ever
30 September 2019
TUMBY BAY - Bernard Corden, in commenting on Chris Overland’s article about neo-colonialism, made an interesting point about indoctrination as a function of education.
For the ruling classes in any political system - be it democratic, autocratic or totalitarian - inculcating an ideology in the young is an invaluable tool in exercising and retaining power.
Knowledge is power but, if you can manipulate what sort of knowledge is available to people so it serves your own ends, it becomes even more powerful.
Knowledge can be manipulated in many different ways. Media, for instance, play a big role in deciding what sort of knowledge is available to the population. Conversely, withholding knowledge can be a very powerful social tool.
It is in schools, however, where most people are first exposed to different sources of knowledge and develop the lifelong habits that dictate what sort of knowledge they will seek.
If those habits can be programmed by the education they receive, they are likely to remain captive to the ideals of those who trained them and to the social systems these people represent.
Such indoctrination will determine what sort of lives they lead and what their aspirations in life will be.
Indoctrination through education is why so many young men and women are happy to march off to war without really understanding what they are fighting for and exactly who is likely to benefit from their sacrifice.
And at a more banal level, it is why young men and women are prepared to slave at mindless jobs in the hope of achieving goals that often turn out to be superficial and of fleeting satisfaction.
Ironically, it most often in old age that such realisations become apparent. Wisdom comes with age and it is only then people discover that they have been fooled by vested interests that have used them for selfish interests and ends.
Of all the people who pass through the education system, only a few will question what they are being taught.
Most students will develop into what Martyn Namorong calls ‘sheeple’, the trusting majority of the population that follows the leader wherever that might take them and at whatever cost.
For any thinking person, the only viable alternative in life is to be a sceptic. Take nothing at face value, be it what your teacher is telling you in school or what your local politician, prime minister or pastor is telling you when you are an adult.
Seek the evidence, look for the facts and work things out for yourself. Just because someone has high office, apparent success in business or a cupboard full of degrees and honours doesn’t mean they know what they are talking about.
It could be they are lying to you for their own wicked reasons or, perhaps worse still, actually believe the bulldust they are spouting.
If you study the important events that have turned the tides of history for better or worse, you will find at their base a contrary view that questioned established beliefs.
That is, they questioned the idea that what they had been taught was normal and in everyone’s best interests.
And the way they did this, at least in the last 300 years or so, was overwhelmingly through the written word.
Those of us who are part of the baby boomer generation (born between 1946 and 1964) saw this happen in the 1960s.
This was a period of massive upheaval in which many accepted ‘truths’ were overturned and that saw the beginning of a new and progressive way of thinking.
Books like Joseph Heller’s ‘Catch 22’ and Kurt Vonnegit Jr’s ‘Slaughterhouse-5’ laid the foundations of the 1960s revolution. Among other things they spearheaded opposition to the Vietnam War and ridiculed the mindless pursuit of power and money.
All that is now past however and we now find ourselves entering another dark and selfish period that eschews equity and ridicules ideas like man-made climate change.
Many of us old fogies are truly worried about what is going to happen to the world and how our grandchildren are going to fare.
The contrarians and writers who are prepared to question the status quo are now needed more than ever.
There are contrarians and there are contrarians Arthur. I think what you are talking about, judging by the reference to the website, is different to what I am talking about.
I essentially mean people who are capable of thinking outside the square and can come at things from left field as the cliches say.
Leonard Fong Roka in his recent articles is what I would call a contrarian.
Michael Dom and Francis Nii and many more of the contributors to PNG Attitude also fit the same category.
Posted by: Philip Fitzpatrick | 03 October 2019 at 10:06 AM
Not so long ago in Wales we didn’t call them ‘sheeple’.
They were just ‘sheep’ or those who had apparently been labourites from conception in their mother’s womb in the Welsh mining valleys.
Most Labour MPS in the Rhondda were elected with over 65% of turnout. At the further left of the political spectrum were the Communists who stood nearly every year from 1929 until 1992 with best years being 1930s until 1945 which year they almost won with 45% of turnout.
My first wife though from a pretty strict Baptist family was educated from Grades 1 to 10 in a Catholic school very near to the family home. On our 5 November night she would remind me that from her ten years at school she gathered that Catholics considered Guy Fawkes as a hero.
Mind in today’s heady political climate perhaps many in Brexit Britain would secretly think a bomb under parliament in Westminster would also solve many things.
Also to her playing cards were known as ‘The Devil’s Cards’ Sadly she married a fella, also a Baptist, but whose dad and grand-dad were great card players. I miss them both and our cribbage sessions.
There are quite good posts on Contrarism at:
Posted by: Arthur Williams | 03 October 2019 at 02:39 AM
I am on the road to Damascus and off to bed with a battered copy of The Fountainhead.
Posted by: Bernard Corden | 01 October 2019 at 10:35 PM
Good article Phil.
In this era of ubiquitous social media, where Twitter is used to conduct what now passes as international diplomacy, we are submerged in a veritable deluge of information.
Trying to separate fact from fiction in this seething maelstrom of bits and bytes is a labour of Hercules.
In the world's democracies, the political elites have discovered that unleashing an avalanche of alternative facts (or, more accurately, a barrage of bullshit) via the unregulated social media, allows them to promulgate their message unfiltered by anything or anyone in possession of actual verifiable facts.
They can create an alternative reality for those who either wish to believe them or are sufficiently credulous to do so.
Trump has already started this process in relation to his infamous phone call to the president of the Ukraine.
Trump knows that denying the obvious truth and simultaneously denigrating his opponents using alternative facts is a viable defensive strategy, provided his version of events arrives on target in an unfiltered form. In doing so, he is merely taking a lesson from the Joseph Goebbels playbook.
In a PNG context, O'Neill routinely used the bullshit baffles brains principle and, worse still, succeeded in suborning most of the people who ought to have called him for it.
Of course, the truth eventually comes out and so now James Marape et al are having to both break the bad news about the true situation of the country and take unpopular steps to fix it. No doubt they will receive little credit for doing so.
The only antidote to this is a healthy scepticism about virtually anything our political and business elites say and sufficient education to have the intellectual tools to sift through the media dross to find the precious nuggets of truth.
The truth is out there, but can be damned hard to find.
Posted by: Chris Overland | 30 September 2019 at 01:37 PM
"A healthy loyalty is not passive and complacent but active and critical" - Harold Laski
Laski was an early Fabian along with George Bernard Shaw although he was often excoriated by George Orwell.
Posted by: Bernard Corden | 30 September 2019 at 09:47 AM
I remember a line from a psychology book I read that said the best market place for ideas is the mind and that it is in the classroom.
I read this book some years ago, but it influenced my decision to put my kid in a school were she is correctly indoctrinated.
My five years daughter is in elementary prep, and any time if she talks about anything from her school or if I worked with her on her homework, she would repetitively say, "the teacher said, the teacher said..."
She said this most frequently whenever we converse about anything in her school. And I am always reminded of how true students can be indoctrinated in school to treat their teachers as supernatural and as right all the time.
I just wonder how this also influences the way children respond to information they receive from them.
Posted by: Steven Magil | 30 September 2019 at 09:18 AM
Thanks Phil. Good reminder.
Aside from having a having positive attitude and outlook whilst sojourning on planet earth, one must cultivate the essential ability to be curious and to question/challenge assumptions and models presented. That shouldn’t be feared and castigated as being “critical”.
Being non-critical is for the robotic industry, and certainly not one of those must-have-traits toolkit in any organisation where innovation is encouraged, schools and place of habitation.
Robust debate and critical analysis are more important than value judgments.
There is a lot of lopsided history (sometimes spiced up nicely to mislead and dumb down) perpetuated by the corporate media that needs to be dismantled and buttressed with factual accounts and truth.
Oh, by the way, the 1960's also witnessed noteworthy events worth appreciating - the era of dismantling colonisation and ushering in of self-rule in continental Africa and the signing of Civil Rights Act in the United States.
Posted by: Corney Korokan Alone | 30 September 2019 at 08:38 AM