Saturday, December 26, 2020

Systemic Extortion

 This was my morning post on social media.

Overthinking again! I think therefore I am. Therefore I will depart. Or should I say retreat? Where?

Perhaps into the deep and dark secluded corners of the mind.

Conclusion: our individual perception of "the present moment" is the concatenation of life experiences. There are no two snowflakes alike. There are no two "realities" alike. As individuals reality is established through the lenses of life experience through which we view the natural world.

So off I go to my quiet secluded space, with my voice recognition software, Grammarly and the Hemmingway Editor, fighting procrastination all the way. Wish me luck! I will be back…


Systemic Extortion

Now isn't this an odd title for an article? Yes of course it is, because only with the harsh reality can we be enticed or forced to arrive at new conclusions. Through personal observation, I would suggest that important critical changes are only achieved after experiencing a variety of natural human emotions.

So you've been to the pet store, and you are now home with a new member of the family. What a cute puppy. Now begins the many many months of "puppy training". Treats in your pocket, and perhaps a rolled-up newspaper. Good behavior is rewarded with praise and a treat. Deterred behavior with a swat from the rolled-up newspaper. This continues day after day, many times throughout the day until automatic responses are generated in the puppy, and we now consider our "best friend" housetrained.

The same is true of our social communities, as young individuals we are groomed into the community. Praise and stroking of individual egos, and criticism for noncompliance. No two communities are alike. No two individuals within the community are alike. Each individual grows and develops as an adult according to their early life experiences.

The title "Systemic Extortion", because the "puppy training" of each of us as individuals in our early years is a process of "reward and punishment". Praise and ego-stroking, and harsh criticism or rejection. In extreme cases, individuals are ostracized. The cornerstone of Western civilization is perpetual "Extortion". We don't call it extortion, because when the shaping and grooming of social behaviors are done by individuals that have conceded, their right to do so, from "Divine Providence ". "Systemic Extortion", has become standard social practice, the fabric of "faith-based" social networks.

We live in a world of engineered reality, that has evolved over many centuries. The leaders, the facilitators, the perpetrators are elevated to layers of social standing everywhere around us. If we examine human behavior, for the term "narcissism", we may reflect a new and deeper understanding. With the underlying purpose of "Divine Providence", in the hands of leaders, facilitators, and perpetrators the label "narcissist" is conveniently dropped. Conveniently dropped because in the broader context a greater good for the social structure is perceived. This begs the question, why drop the term narcissist? Do not each of these individuals mentioned retain social status, power and authority? Therefore their community and social group standing is solely dependent on narcissistic traits to be perfected to maintain the social hierarchy. In all instances along the way, "a power greater than myself" as self-determination defuses any criticism.

How is it that we continue to perpetuate these chains of events? It begins possibly during times before the example I will give. The early Greeks and Romans established the social process of removing the young boys from the home environment and placing them in compounds with other young males. From the earliest age, young boys found role models in their every day new environment and were gradually shaped. These times were before the establishment of what we observe today to be modern-day Christianity.

Psychology today understands the development of the human mind in much greater detail than our ancestors. The overall conclusion is this, the biological and physical maturity of our human brain is completed approximately at age 30. Keep in mind the previous two paragraphs as we move forward.

In the early months of human development, young child is observing their surroundings. Language and communication have not developed yet, but observations are establishing conclusions in the young mind. Keep in mind that there are a variety of environments, each one uniquely different. The widest gamut possible is the possible reality for each of these new members of our species. It can be a well-meaning and dedicated evangelical Christian household. It can be at the other end of the spectrum and narcissistic and abusive, substance-dependent environment. Without communication, the young mind can only come to conclusions and make decisions resulting from observations. The "reward and punishment" is understood and conclusions arrived at. Both of these extreme examples of the family atmosphere and all deviations exist in our communities.

In those early preteen years, communication is established with the outside world through acquired language. Clich├ęs and phrases, shape the cultural lensing of the young mind. Dependent on geographical and cultural immersion, the young mind becomes a modified copy of both ancestors and community.

Now arrives adolescence. Language and cultural practices have been adopted, and now is the time to give responsibility to the developing mind. Stroking of the ego, reward and punishment go hand-in-hand with establishing the desired endpoint. Perhaps in the evangelical home, the young person takes on responsibilities to assist in their Sunday school program. At the other end of the social spectrum, substance abuse might result in the young individual beginning the use of these substances themselves. Why? Because in each case the young mind perceives a value in conformity. The young mind desires to mimic what is perceived to be advantageous traits. Throughout the teenage years, behavioural confirmation by the group begins to set firmly in place the personal conclusions. By the time the teenager passes through adolescence and reaches the age of 30, constructs in the mind can become firmly entrenched. No further knowledge or understanding is required, I have learned all I need to know, I am now an adult, I'm all grown up.

Here I will throw a curveball into the mix. As I had mentioned in a previous rambling, I attended a Congregational meeting in Saskatoon, perhaps 10 years ago now. It was suggested by a childhood friend that I attend, however, he had other commitments and would not be joining me. Innocent enough, I did. The meeting began with a recorded presentation of a debate between a believer and a nonbeliever. The presentation chosen was such that I can assume most people watching concluded the believer won the debate. After a brief interlude, perhaps 10 or 12 individuals from the congregation seated themselves on the stage. The lead facilitator of this gathering stood up and made a statement. "We are here to try and understand why more than 90 percent of our young people leave their faith after two years of higher education."

The reason I have related to this personal experience is that from the time the young mind leaves high school and enters institutions of higher learning, change is still possible. I recall out of context, from my preteen years, attending the rural Lutheran church service. "Maintain the innocence of a child." I do not recall the context or any other details, or even when in my early life this memory remains. I bring it forward at this time as an example that even upon completion of high school, "maintain the innocence of a child", has not solidified the possibility of a broader understanding by our human mind. In some individuals, even after the age of 30, conclusions are arrived at and major life decisions are made.

In conclusion, there are many facets of our human social interactions. We are all shaped by our life experiences. Those that claim to be the most caring, and for the greater good, clearly by example are the ones that practice "extortion" to the highest degree in the disguise of "divine providence". Collectively as members of the species, we must open our eyes to these practices and behaviours, and gradually through whatever processes necessary, stamp them out as detrimental to our collective advancement. During an earlier time, Hans Christian Anderson wrote "The Emperor's New Clothes", a poke in the eye of the social conformity during his time, of the obvious. Peter Boghossian, assistant professor of philosophy at Portland State University, defines faith as "pretending to know things you don't know."

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