Some Thoughts on Beliefs,
Progressives and Conservatives
By Richard K. Moore
What is it about the truth that can be painful at first blush? A fascinating study by Dr. Drew Weston at Emory University, using brain-mapping techniques, showed that "we derive pleasure from irrationally sticking with beliefs against evidence" because there are "flares of activity in the brain's pleasure centers when unwelcome information is being rejected." (Barry Zwicker, Towers of Deception, 2006) Conversely, compelling new information and startling truths first reach the pain centers of the brain and are therefore commonly rejected. According to Saunders, this is related to the "hardwiring of individual self-preservation, i.e., we strive to preserve ideas that are part of our identity, and reject anything that conflicts with that."
The paragraph above is from Brian O'Leary's new book, The Energy Solution Revolution. Brian, a PhD scientist, and the host of last year's Phoenix Gathering, has done quite a bit of research into new energy and psychic phenomena. He's written several books, all trying to get the word out about his research, and to let people know that energy can be tapped from the zero-point quantum field. Needless to say, he and his colleagues are ignored by mainstream media and mainstream science. In his latest book, as the citation above illustrates, he attempts to understand why well-meaning scientists, and people generally, persist in ignoring hard evidence when it disagrees with their preconceptions.
I first heard about Barry Zwicker from Jeff Jewel, a long-time subscriber, who co-hosts a radio show in Vancouver, BC. He gave me a CD of his own radio talk, where he reviews Zwicker's work. From that CD, I recall another perspective Zwicker presented, on what we might call this rejection syndrome. Zwicker explained that when we first hear about something, such as a news event, the story we hear goes into our right brain, and becomes our initial understanding of what happened. Any new information on the event must then pass through our left-brain filters, before it can be accepted or rejected. Zwicker's claim, based on other psychological studies he had seen, is that the left-brain will tend to go to great lengths, indulging in irrationality, in order to 'defend' the initial story — which has now become, to some extent at least, part of our identity.
In this light, consider what we were presented with by the media on 9/11. With towers crumbling in the background, and endless replays of exploding airliners, we saw on the screen "America under attack", "Al-Qaeda & Bin Laden did it", "Planes caused the buildings to collapse". The story was drilled into us, echoed on every channel, repeated by every newscaster and official — and all while we were in emotional shock, yearning for a way to understand these unprecedented events. Under such conditions, we are vulnerable, and the story goes in deep.
To the extent Zwicker's thesis is valid, it becomes easy to understand why so many people find it hard to question the official 9/11 story. The perpetrators of the psy-op knew their business well. Brian goes on to say, following the initial paragraph above: This phenomenon of human nature is a basic tenet of psy-ops and mind control. Truth-seekers who search for contrary evidence to media-fed official consensus perceptions of reality are not only labeled as "conspiracy theorists," they can also suffer psychological pain in what is clearly an unpopular and uncomfortable endeavor. It is much easier to join the crowd that ridicules and persecutes the messenger.
I'm sure things are more complex than this, with lots of individual variations, but I think Zwicker is close to the truth concerning some of the main principles involved in what we believe and what we reject. I know his theories match up pretty well with my own experiences in discussions with people, here [in Ireland] and elsewhere. It's not just people's arguments. It's also the things they get angry and defensive about. 'Defensive' is the word Freud used to describe a mind that is irrationally defending its ego identity.
Let's now consider this question: What is the essence of progressive and conservative? What are the deepest core beliefs — the identity-forming beliefs — that create this great divide in public opinion? Of course there can be no one simple answer to such a question. And I'm sure the answers have changed over time. I'd like to pursue one thread of the answer, in today's USA ...
I would characterize the deepest core beliefs of progressives this way: The system basically works, and it has brought us steady progress over time. The system is essentially pluralistic and democratic, and no one can accurately predict where it's going, let alone control it. If only people will inform themselves better, and vote accordingly, things will continue to improve.
An interesting thing about these beliefs is that they are exactly what we were taught in school, and exactly what the mass media, including most movies and TV series, continually tell us. And in my experience, those who go the furthest in school, with university degrees, tend to be progressives. They have been the most successful at echoing back what they've been 'taught'. Their scholastic success has been based on their ability to digest and internalize 'received wisdom'. The ability to think for oneself is not rewarded until graduate school, after the 'story' has been well and truly implanted.
I'd like to quote a paragraph from a previous posting, Jacques Ellul: how modern propaganda works: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/cyberjournal/message/312
A related point, central to Ellul's thesis, is that modern propaganda cannot work without "education". Thus he reverses the widespread notion that education is the best prophylactic against propaganda. On the contrary, he says, education, or what usually goes by that word in the modern world, is the absolute prerequisite for propaganda. In fact, education is largely identical [with propaganda] — the conditioning of minds with vast amounts of incoherent information, already dispensed for ulterior purposes and posing as "facts" and as "education". Ellul follows through by designating intellectuals as virtually the most vulnerable of all to modern propaganda, for three reasons: (1) they absorb the largest amounts of second hand, unverifiable information; (2) they feel a compelling need to have an opinion on every important question of our time, and thus easily succumb to opinions offered to them by propaganda on all such indigestible pieces of information; (3) they feel themselves capable of "judging for themselves." They literally need propaganda. Jacques Ellul, Propagandas (1965) Introduction, p.VI.
It is easy to see why 'conspiracy theories' of almost any kind will be threatening to progressives. Such theories call into question the pluralism of the system and the validity of 'democracy'. They also imply that I am being duped, which is absurd given how well-educated and well-informed I am.
The progressive belief system is what I call The Matrix. It is those beliefs that I 'deconstruct' in my article and book, both called Escaping the Matrix (quaylargo.com/rkm/WE/jun00Matrix.shtml and escapingthematrix.org). I find it very interesting that when people read that material, they never describe it as being about conspiracy theories. And yet, it is basically claiming that the whole system is a conspiracy and always has been. I suppose the material 'passes the filters' because I argue there in terms of systems and historical patterns, and don't emphasize the actions of particular individuals. Also I use academic language, so it comes across like a textbook, which educated people are trained to tolerate.
I also find it interesting that people can read the book, say they agree with it (at least the early part about 'the system'), and yet by what they say I can tell they didn't understand it at all. They followed the story, and came out with a feeling of agreement, but they didn't really process the material. They go right on being progressives. One fellow, carried away with enthusiasm for the book, said, "Richard, you should run for President". How could he so miss the whole point of the book and still be enthusiastic about it? Looking for leaders is the problem, not the solution.
In any case, my belief is that the whole progressive belief system is factually and demonstrably wrong. The historical record is clear, to anyone willing to examine it objectively. But to ask a progressive to reconsider whether the system works, is like asking a Christian to reconsider whether God exists. For the one, received wisdom comes from academia and 'experts', for the other it comes from the church and the Bible. In both cases there is a complete story, explaining everything in a consistent way, and in neither case does the story emerge from independent thinking.
Let's move on now to conservatives. I'd characterize today's conservative core beliefs this way: The Republic has been betrayed by a liberal conspiracy of corrupt politicians and media who want to destroy the family and our traditional American values. Progressives may be well meaning, but they are being duped by the liberal mass media, and a government that wants always to extend its power.
Ironically, most of my sentiments are in harmony with those of progressives, and yet my understanding of reality is more in harmony with conservatives. Whereas the progressive belief system is wrong in its essence, the conservative belief system is wrong in its subtleties.
The media is a conspiracy, and it does preach liberal values, but it's not because the media is motivated by those values. It's because the media is exploiting those values, framing its defense of the establishment in liberal terms. The media doesn't say We want to destroy State's rights, it says, We want to enforce civil rights. The outcome, however, is that all power is now centralized in Washington, and most blacks still get the short end of the stick.
The media doesn't say We want to destroy the family, rather it talks about a woman's right to a career, and about protecting vulnerable children. All well and good, but the outcome is the destruction of the fabric of the family, and the intrusion of the state into family affairs. In Britain recently the teachers wouldn't let a mother kiss her child goodbye when he was leaving on a field trip, because that would be child abuse. The folks running things don't give a damn about women's lib, but they like to have both members of the family working, so they can squeeze more profits out of each family.
The family is undesirable [according to such people], because in the context of a family a child can learn values other than the ones the establishment wants to promulgate. Much better to get hold of the child as soon as possible, and keep mommy and daddy out of the picture. Let's get a head start on the indoctrination; let's leave no child behind.
One of the things I love about Ireland is how the family is still so strong, compared to the States. Part of this is that history is passed down from generation to generation, in the family. In conversations with people, I'm always hearing bits of Irish history, or Wexford history. Not things from school lessons. Perhaps this is inherent in Irish culture, or perhaps it became a practice during six centuries of British rule, when the state was openly trying to destroy the Irish culture. In any case, I rarely encounter such 'personally passed-down history' in the States.
Another thing about Ireland is that it is still backward, and behind the times, compared to the States. And in every way that it is backward and behind, I prefer it. It's more relaxed, more comfortable, and more friendly. So much for the value of progress. Why is it that people believe in progress, when for holidays they want to escape to backward, simpler places?
Posted to Richard K. Moore's mailing list, cyberjournal, on October 10, 2009.
Richard Moore has developed the ideas in this article further in his essay
Beliefs, cultures, and human brotherhood: a vision of social transformation
a 228 KB PDF file downloadable from this website.
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