the act of submitting engenders submission
the ethical and psycho-social case for perpetual petty rebellion.
since the dawn of time, philosophers have debated ideas about being. is to be to do? or is to do to be? of all the unlikely heroes, i think perhaps the one to nail it winds up being a dog:
that which we do to a great extent determines which we believe which in turn determines who we “are” which, of course, then determines what we do next.
performance drives perception and perception shapes identity. it’s all laundered in the rinse cycle of our search for and cultivation of self and that which we do colors that which we are.
this has so many fascinating ramifications as to preclude possibly doing more than scratching the surface on them in one place, so i’d like to take this in a very specific direction:
shaping the beliefs of a society by determining what actions are permissible and which proscribed.
because that one is a biggie and seems highly topical of late.
i was chatting further with gatopal™ kbirb, and he made another choice observation that got me thinking.
(if this keeps up, i’m going to need to offer him a byline or something)
this very much aligns with my own perceptions. you hear it all the time. “it’s just too big.” “i cannot believe that.” “they would never do X, or Y, or Z.”
the exact people who just got done being lied to by the government for the gazillionth time turn around and trust it. and they never stop to wonder: “why do i keep doing this?”
i think it's a self defense mechanism. what you’re really seeing is this:
people toss the phrase “cognitive dissonance” around all the time, but i think few really understand what it means or how it works and fewer still what that implies. it’s one of the truly counter-intuitive psychological processes. humans seek consistency. if you believe something, especially about yourself, and you run into data that contradicts it you have two choices: change your mind or ignore/change the data. anything else yields inconsistency. so you’re always seeking pretext, context, and explanation to make the world align.
there is a famous experiment with buttons i remember reading in college where people are given a bucket of buttons to sort into different types. it’s a long, boring, annoying task. they are led to believe that the experiment is around how well they sort but it’s not. it’s about how they feel about having done it. half are paid, half are not. they are then asked “from 1-10, how tedious was this task?” those who were paid find it MUCH more disagreeable. and the reason all comes down to story.
those who got paid have a good reason to have done an annoying thing. so they can see how annoying it was.
those who did it for free do not, so their minds literally decide “i guess it was not that annoying” because otherwise they feel foolish for having done it for no reason.
this is the sort of stuff that makes cats make fun of humans…
now consider how this applies to tyranny or any other perceived danger being plotted or perpetrated against you:
when you are faced with dire danger and act the coward, you need an excuse for your actions. you never want to admit your fear and your tepid inaction. so you decide "it must not really be dangerous. those people saying it is are crazy." the phrase “conspiracy theorist” often pops up. you tell yourself “it’s not really that oppressive or we would not all be putting up with it.”
and that way you can still see yourself as a good person.
if you accepted the magnitude of the threat, you'd have to do something about it or feel like a craven and a failure for doing nothing. and very few are willing to do that, especially if the cost of standing up is high.
but this means that the very act of compliance makes you more compliant. wearing a mask makes you more likely to do other things you’re told and (perversely) the more you disbelieve that a mask works, the more potent this effect becomes on you. if you believed it protected you, you’d already have a reason. if you don’t, the reason must be “because you have to do what you are told.”
and you do NOT want to internalize that.
even i wore masks on planes because i HAD to fly and failure to comply would get you lifetime banned. that price was too high for me. so i sat and seethed and raged and cultivated the dislike. i focused on the fact that this was duress, coerced, and threat driven and tried not to let it seep into some sort of compliance acceptance. i made waters and coffees and crackers last HOURS to keep the masks off in acts of self-protection.
and thereby, i cemented a different lesson: i am fighting this as much as i can and the act of taking this risk and getting yelled at by cabin crew must mean that what i am doing is important.
and therein lies the rub:
the flipside of this is REALLY potent as well because the more you stand up and act, be brave, do something about it, the more you can and will see what’s coming.
your brain wants justification. so it looks and finds. what your brain was not allowing you to see comes into focus because your actions now align with that reality. the more you speak and act in opposition to tyranny, the more you will be able to see the tyranny that is being imposed. obviously, this can go too far, but like many things in life, there is a sort of “goldilocks zone” balance in the middle.
and as a society, we are nowhere near it.
and many vested interests would like to keep it that way.
perhaps this is why leviathan responds with such unfettered rage and disproportionate force of arms and law when it sees people standing up in manners that it opposes and yet remains so permissive and laudatory when people “act” on the narratives it prefers.
allowing people to act on an ideal makes them believe the ideal more strongly.
forcing them to do so works even better.
taking “action” for climate change makes you believe in climate change. this is why they LOVE the stupid little performative rituals like “banning plastic straws” that clearly have zero effect but provide daily actions and reminders to keep kindling faith as they are forced upon you.
it’s just behavioralism and behavioral economics “nudging” you until you get shoved off your spot.
those actions you are allowed or encouraged to perform help create and anchor your belief set.
i did this so i believe X.
i was too scared to do this, so i must not really believe Y.
it’s just how humans are wired.
and the size of the penalty to be feared can be decisive.
if one seeks to control the prevailing mores of a society, what actions are allowed and which banned becomes a critical and dispositive matter:
burn a car dealership and a police station to the ground and it smiles indulgently. maybe you get probation. probably not. those ideals are OK.
loiter peacefully in a buffalo hat in the capitol rotunda, and they drop the world on your head. terrorist. treason. confess and repent and maybe, just maybe, we’ll let you out of prison in 5 years. these ideals are anathema.
they want to render the cost of opposition so high that any sane person would fear to pay it.
they also want to provide indulgences for those who act beastly in leviathan’s name.
and as long as they control the system, they control the incentives.
and as long as they control the incentives, they will try to use them to use your “do” to change your “be.”
but this is a thing we can take back from them.
and the defense against this dark art is actually rather fun.
the defense is petty rebellion.
even the smallest thing matters in terms of how your mental shape winds up. if forgoing a straw can make you into a greenie weenie, then “forgetting” your mask and making them ask, every single time, can make you into less of a branch covidian and entrench your belief in resistance.
this can manifest in 1000 ways in a million arenas.
even just speaking it aloud helps.
start small, work up.
challenge ideas instead of avoiding conflict.
be a nuisance to the nudge wardens.
profess incomprehension or disagreement.
ask people “really? are you serious about this?”
add a cost.
make them dissonant instead of you.
often and hard.
the sanity you save may be your own.
you may find you develop quite a taste for it.
you may find you develop quite a flair for it.
you may find that you are having fun.
because freedom is fun, and each nudge back helps cement your belief in liberty.
and anyhow, who doesn’t love a good popinjay pratfall?
so what have you got to lose?
it’s a good train.
so maybe you want to get on board.
what you do will help shape what you see.
and in that lies joy.