Friday, August 24, 2012

The Down Side Of Beliefs

Beliefs are taught perspectives of life, the world, everything. Perspectives are a way of looking at and perceiving things in a particular way.

There is the classic example of perspective, a line drawing of a set of stairs. Depending on how you look at it, you could just as easily think the stairs are leading down as leading up. There is no correct answer, both perspectives are equally valid. But, with beliefs, a choice is made between two or more views. One view, or perspective, is labeled good and the others are labeled bad. This labeling is enforced and reenforced by the dominating culture.

Given people's propensity for conformity, for desiring to belong to the group, (however you define "group") people will adapt their personal perspectives/beliefs to that of the group. If the group says that the perspective of the stairs going up is good, then that perspective eventually becomes the definition of good, for you and everyone else under the influence of that group. All other perspectives, especially the perspective of the stairs going down, conversely, will be considered bad.
History has proven time and again that the desire to belong to a group will cause people to adjust their perspective, and thus how they think about any particular subject, so to be in alignment with the group. People will even go so far as to deny logic and physics and other common sense thinking so to conform to the group.
Americans in particular have been subject to this phenomenon. Even though many people admitted that slavery was wrong, they still participated in it because society dictated that slavery was the accepted form of labor. Once people have conformed their own thinking to that of the group, or society, it seems that their conscience is no longer plagued with doubts or insecurities about their actions as members of the group. In the photo above we see Nazis who work at Auschwitz having a good time, seemingly unaffected by the wholesale slaughter of human beings for which they are responsible. They are doing what they have been told is the right thing to do, and they have received approval and acceptance from the group in which they belong. For people who are removed from the situation so that we can see things more objectively, and are not influenced by that society, we have no desire to belong to it, we can see clearly the actions of the Nazis as spectacularly terrible. Be careful then, of the groups you wish to belong to, that you allow to persuade you, to influence your perspective of the world. Be brave enough to question your own beliefs, and remember there is a down side to every perspective.