I often wonder how seemingly intelligent people hold certain opinions that slap the face of logic. The fact is that we are to an extent the product of the groups we live or work in. The danger for anyone in a group, work or otherwise, is that ideas formed in those groups get bounced back and forth, and doing so, gather momentum, strength, whether they are right or not. Individuals in those groups stop questioning these ideas because they are accepted in the group. I am a libertarian, but I spend a lot of time with die-hard liberals, a few die-hard republicans, Christians and atheists. That keeps me in check when my thinking goes overboard, maybe I keep them in check too, sometimes. It also certainly sharpens my social skills, as far as not stepping on toes too hard goes. I do enjoy a good argument, but when emotions take over reason and logic, it can get ugly. That’s when I usually end the conversation, for then there is nothing for me to learn or teach. Exchanging ideas is great, forcing them on someone else, not so much.
I would suggest anyone in a group (which can be a college, family, church, office, etc.) to step outside of it on a regular basis, and “fraternize with the enemy.” Simply because group ideas will always be more extreme than necessary, if not outright wrong. That is probably how young muslim men end-up strapping themselves with explosives and blow themselves up. Nobody around them is there to keep them in check. Extreme ideas become more extreme, and what would have seemed crazy before now looks perfectly reasonable.. So, step out of your group, and go meet people who think differently than you do! Nobody around? Fine, read a book people around you totally disagree with..
Group interactions can become group brainwashing. Cults know this better than anyone. A cult member will be isolated from his/her family and friends and rather quickly accept the ideas of the group. We all want to belong, we are gregarious creatures. Don’t think it can’t happen to you.. The most intelligent people get trapped. When I hear the political opinions of students at New College in Sarasota for example (I call it the “People’s Republic of New College”), I can’t help but think of mass self brainwashing.. Not everyone there falls in, mind you. I know some very bright (smarter than me) students there who don’t conform. Unfortunately Socialism has taken hold of most colleges and universities. I won’t get started on the evils of Socialism here.. Just keep reading my blog.. It is interesting though to notice that the most extreme young liberals come from wealthy Republican parents..
I actually decided to write this post after suggesting my friends to read Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged.”:
I was also directing them to two great articles:
Most of them will probably make the same face they would have sucking on a bitter lime! However, consider part of the first article: “readers rated ‘Atlas’ as the second-most influential book in their lives, behind only the Bible.” I did read it many years ago, and it defined ideas I had for a long time, but never knew how to put together in a coherent form. For some people, it will be a turning point in their lives. Amazing how a book written in 1957 can be so timely, in light of the present economical situation.
But enough with politics. I just hate it when someone I know gets into a group and absorbs their ideas like a dry sponge thrown in a hot bath. Especially when those ideas are weird, extreme or even dangerous. There isn’t always someone close enough to shake you and say “snap out of it.” You have to check yourself. If a friend you’ve known for years gives you a weird look after a statement you made, ask yourself if you may have been influenced..