Up & Coming Weekly

February 19, 2019

Up and Coming Weekly is a weekly publication in Fayetteville, NC and Fort Bragg, NC area offering local news, views, arts, entertainment and community event and business information.

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Page 6 of 36

6 UCW FEBRUARY 20-26, 2019 WWW.UPANDCOMINGWEEKLY.COM Developing and sustaining thought deprivation by KARL MERRITT OPINION ere is a dangerous, but tremendously effective, political approach being employed in America. It could be called "thought deprivation." It's conditioning people so they do not think with depth regarding the issues that face us as a nation. Sadly, allowing this thought depriva- tion approach to become routine and embedded in the political process has brought us to a point of real danger in the governing, and very survival, of this nation. Many actions that should reasonably be taken are not taken. Other actions are taken that adversely impact the well- being of Americans. Gridlock is a frequent consequence of this political approach; nothing is done regarding important matters affecting the people of our country. e examples of how politicians and political prac- titioners use thought deprivation to win elections and wield power seem endless. A prime example shows in the substantial support that Democrats are gen- erating for Medicare for all. In a future column, I will explain my contention that the support being voiced by citizens is, in great part, the result of expertly executed thought deprivation. In this column, and others lead- ing up to the examination of support for Medicare for all, I discuss my observations regarding the process by which thought deprivation is developed and sustained. My observations as to how thought deprivation is developed and sustained in a person, by others, can be summarized as follows: 1. Tremendously lessen, if not demolish, the capacity for critical thinking. 2. Lead citizens to focus on identity as members of a group based on race, ethnicity, economic standing, religious affiliation, etc. 3. Promote tension between groups or groups of groups. 4. Contend that some groups are victimized, mis- treated, discriminated against, etc. 5. Convince a target group, or groups, that they are entitled to certain benefits. 6. Promise to deliver the benefits to which people have been convinced they are entitled. 7. When the promised benefits do not materialize, blame others. e opening step of lessening or demolishing the ca- pacity for critical thinking might seem to be an exaggera- tion. However, consider the meaning of critical thought as it appears at www.criticalthinking.org: "Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skill- fully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or gener- ated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action." Pause and mentally list the times in the last month when you, in media, in political speech or conversa- tion, in social media, observed what is defined above as critical thinking. My guess is that your list is very short or lacking any entries at all. I do not post very often on Facebook, but I do read the posts of other people. I am amazed and saddened by the scarcity of critical thinking that is present in most posts. ere are mostly emotion- driven rants that present no facts or thoughtful analysis of whatever topic is being discussed. is is especially true where political or social issues are addressed. Another section of the information presented at www.criticalthinking.org provides a possible explana- tion as to why critical thinking might be so scarce in American society: "Critical thinking varies according to the motivation underlying it. When grounded in selfish motives, it is often manifested in the skillful manipula- tion of ideas in service of one's own, or one's groups', vested interest. As such, it is typically intellectually flawed, however pragmatically successful it might be." I contend that we have become a nation where selfishness is disavowed as a general condition of our society, but our overall conduct cries "selfishness." In this atmosphere, the truth of the quote above shows. e thinking that happens, limited as it might be, is too often intellectually flawed. at is the case because in- dividuals and groups are encouraged to focus on what is good for them, without considering the impact on others; even further, serious collection and examina- tion of facts and the honest defining and consideration of outcomes hardly ever happen. My comments to this point might leave the impres- sion that what I am describing only applies to the general public. at is not the case. is thought depri- vation condition is very much present in the American political class, in politicians. If you doubt that to be true, watch some congressional hearings or listen to some politicians as they address challenging issues during televised interviews. ere is hardly ever a sliver of genuine, critical thought. eir failure to model critical thought contributes to the scarcity of it in the general population. With critical thinking lessened or demolished in indi- viduals, the next step is rather easy to accomplish: lead- ing citizens to identify as members of a group based on race, ethnicity, economic standing, religious affiliation, etc. When there is little or no focus on facts and thought- ful analysis of facts, people do what is natural. An article by Nayef Al-Rodhan, "Divisive Politics and the Brain: Primordial Determinism vs. Responsible Egalitarianism," speaks to our natural response process in identifying with a group. In part, Al-Rodhan writes: "Furthermore, the urgency to barricade oneself against 'others' — immigrants, ethnic and religious minorities, etc. — stems from ancestral predispositions that associate belonging to one's tribe or group as critical to survival. "Using noninvasive methods, neuroscientists have identified that the neurocircuitry of tribal behavior that separates 'us' from 'them' occurs in the prefron- tal cortex. Without much reflexivity, and within 170 thousandths of a second from the moment we first see them, we already distinguish between members of the in-group and those of the out-group. Our brains have inherited this hardwiring from our ancestors, but there is another interesting fact. "While this basic bias is subconsciously formed, our exact definition of what constitutes 'us' and 'them' is learned. We may be hardwired to distinguish between us and others, but the actual definition of the other is not internally hardwired; it is something we are social- ized into throughout our lives." I hold that what Professor Al-Rodhan explains ad- dresses our natural tendency of identifying with groups and separating ourselves from other groups. e critical piece of the process is in deciding which group, or groups, we identify with and which ones we see as separate and apart from us. ose separate and apart groups constitute "them" and are normally people who are treated as the enemy. Our defining of "them" is, based on Al-Rodhan's explanation and my observations across many years, the result of socialization. Socialization is the process of learning to behave in a way that is acceptable to society. erein lies the great challenge: individuals need- ing to make choices that produce fair and positive outcomes even while having one's "us" and "them" defined by a person's dominant societal influences. Given that we live in a country, even a world, where critical thinking is rare, individuals and groups easily influence people's thinking in ways that adversely af- fect individuals, their primary group and even soci- ety in general. It is in this atmosphere, under these conditions, that politicians, joined by politically active individuals and groups, are able to manipulate citizens for political gain. Next time, more on steps to developing and sustain- ing thought deprivation. According to Nayef Al-Rodhan, "the neurocircuitry of tribal behavior that separates 'us' from 'them' occurs in the pre- frontal cortex of the brain." KARL MERRITT, Columnist. COM- MENTS? Editor@upandcomingweekly. com. 910-484-6200. WCLN 105.7 UNIVERSAL TRUTH. AUTHENTICALLY LOCAL. what faith sounds like

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