Collective self-deception

I just finished reading Global Brain. There were lots of parts deserving of comment, but I wouldn’t really be adding anything to the discussion except saying “Look, THIS” and pointing at quotes. Suffice to say, I think it’s worth reading (and if anybody wants to borrow it, they are welcome to – it’s actually quite short, since the book is essentially half references and notes).

Anyhow, there was one part that resonated with me that was related to my attempt to be open and honest about certain aspects of my life, which is unfortunately in conflict with what the law deems to be true. This particular piece is discussing a Baptist town in New York State which is fervently against this “era’s godless sins”, and how the reality was that most individuals indulged in those same sins to their holy shame, assuming that they were the only transgressors:

“How completely the annointed had commandeered collective perception became apparent when Schanck asked the closet dissenters how other people in the community felt about face cards, liquor, a smoke, and levity. Hoodwinked by suppression, each knew without a doubt that he was the sole transgressor in a saintly sea. He and he alone could not control his demons of depravity. None had the faintest inkling that he was part of a silenced near-majority.

Here was an arch lesson in the games subcultures play. reality is a mass halucination. We gauge what’s real according to what others say. And others, like us, rein in their words, caving in to timidity. Thanks to conformity enforcement and to cowardice, a little power goes a long, long way.”

Obviously that’s an extreme version of the issue I’m obtusely referring to, since within our personal groups there is openness about these things. But to go beyond that, and announce it to your work colleagues is to risk job loss. However, without facing that risk, we are buying in to the validity of those laws. I don’t suggest anyone do so, but it’s a difficult catch 22 situation to be in.


#1   Walter Sear on 08.14.09 at 8:33 pm

You need to move, my friend.

The are other countries where your affection for ruminants, while not completely legal, would at least be afforded the turn of a blind eye.

#2   Joel on 08.15.09 at 11:55 am

Hah! I see what you did there…

#3   Lynn on 08.23.09 at 9:19 am

Just rec’d Global Brain for my birthday from my husband (Jimi45 on lj). I’m just at Chapter 9 today, and needless to say, am enthralled. Have you read any Mark C. Taylor? He has a handle on complexity theory and network culture. I recommend After God (about religiosity and secularism and the rise of neo-foundationalist thinking) and The Moment of Complexity. Also, Stuart Kauffman, evolutionary biologist and complexity theorist, is outstanding, too. Try The Origins of Order and At Home in the Universe. I enjoy your blog.

#4   Joel on 08.23.09 at 10:44 am

Hi Lynn,

I haven’t read Mark C Taylor, but I’ll add him to the reading list…

I read a whole lot of Stuart Kauffman while doing a “Systems Biology” course at university, possibly one of the most enlightening courses I took during my undergrad years. It at complexity theory, self-organisation, chaos, among many other interesting topics.

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