These days, it's getting harder and harder to tell what is real and what is not.
However, not if you're a native New Yorker. Most New Yorkers can spot a snake from a mile away, which leads me to the topic at hand.
It seems to me that there are millions of people out there who are deluded. As a society, we're now believing in this warped, inhumane and unfortunate version of the American Dream that's putting us at odds with one another. Tragic.
In the past decade, this has given rise to something that has troubled me. I've often noticed it during my encounters with certain people. As a journalist, I've interviewed literally hundreds, if not thousands of people. Through this work and even in my free time, I think I’ve learned to discern whether or not someone has been brainwashed. Seriously.
Now let me say here that I am not a psychologist or sociologist and I'm well aware that "brainwashed" is a very strong and frightening word that smacks of government or social conspiracy and all sorts of religious and even scientific scandal, so let's actually define the word.
The Cambridge Dictionary defines "brainwash" as, "To make people believe only what you want them to believe by continually telling them that it is true and preventing any other information from reaching them ..."
I don't know about you, but I find that very disturbing ... especially as an American. We're supposed to be diametrically opposed to everything in that definition.
Yet I must admit, that very sentence is nailing us right now as a nation. Truth be told, the entire world. It's dead on. I refuse to give an example because I know that you can come up with numerous prominent ones at this moment on your own. That said, let's get back to the issue ...
How can you spot a brainwashed person? It's really a no-brainer. Oops, sorry.
Anyway, in the past, I think many of us would've assumed that someone who is brainwashed has this wild look in their eyes and they're quietly obedient to whatever is controlling them ... among other things. Yet we're living in different times today. In my own personal experience, here are some of the telltale signs I've seen amid those in question...
1. BLIND OBEDIENCE: The person is blindly, dogmatically and unquestionably obedient in their allegiance to the person, concept or institution they're following. They're horrifying inflexible and won't consider anything that challenges their established belief. In short, they cannot be objective. As you well know, we sometimes need to take a step back and look at ourselves and life objectively in order to "get the bigger picture" and see things clearly. With a brainwashed person, objectivity is completely out the window. Frightening.
2. VICIOUS DEFENSE: The individual will viciously defend the person, concept or institution they're supporting ... to the death. Vicious is the operative word here. It's as if they've been programmed ... or ... well, brainwashed. They are very stubborn and exhibit the behavior of a spoiled, bratty child. When you look at them, given their behavior, you cannot believe this person is an adult.
3. NO HUMOR: This is a big one. The person has absolutely no sense of humor. I mean NO sense of humor. They have no humor about themselves and certainly not about the thing that's being questioned. Their humor is replaced by palpable hostility and disrespect for anything that's "not on their side." As if “sides” need to be picked.
4. TOTALLY EMOTIONAL: The person is often very emotional. What I mean by this is the person is ruled by their emotions, their responses tend to be very emotional and they lack the ability to listen to reason. In fact, they're completely uninterested in reason or in what is reasonable. They simply will not hear it, even if it's for their benefit. For them, compromise is a dirty word. And by the way, I'm not even talking about when it comes to compromising on their cherished principles. I'm talking about compromising on ANYTHING.
5. NO SELF-AWARENESS: The person lacks self-awareness and isn't even remotely inclined to engage in introspection. Everything is about them and their faulty belief system. They believe you are either for them or against them. It's almost as if they subconsciously know they've been brainwashed, but they're afraid because they don't know how to get out of it. As a result, they take the “hard line” to convince themselves that they have some sort of control over the situation. However, ultimately, those who are brainwashed are NOT aware of it. Ignorance and its fraternal twin, arrogance, are the secret sauce of any good and juicy brainwashing.
I don't know.
I write this with profound seriousness because I think that education - or lack thereof - is at the heart of the issue here. People have got to learn to think for themselves so they won't be brainwashed. I'm not sure who might be to blame for brainwashing. Should we blame the "powers that be" or the person who has been brainwashed?
Are the so-called victims of brainwashing truly victims or are they co-conspirators? One could argue that if people simply used the brains God gave them, they wouldn't be victims in the first place. It's not enough to have a brain, you actually have to exercise it and use it.
Brainwashing works best on the weak-minded, but strong-willed people also need to remain on guard. I've actually heard people say that they need to listen to this pundit or watch that TV show host before forming their "own opinion." Hmm. It's great to listen to what's out there IF you sample many varying views, but it's quite another to chug the Koolaid from one single source. Darth Vader would love that. Can't you just hear James Earl Jones' deep voice saying ...
"YOUR TRAINING HAS BEEN COMPLETE!"
The point is that we're living in dangerous times. We need all hands on deck and all minds need to be in full, working order. We need independent yet considerate thinkers. We need people who want to push society forward for the sake of everyone. We need people who like other people. We need people who love other people. To do otherwise would be to leap into the abyss.
Has your training been completed?
The real problem here is that brainwashed people have no clue they've been programmed. That's the point. You can’t really offer them help because they believe you’re the one with the problem ... or they want to believe that anyway.
Look around. The mental conditioning process is subtle yet relentless. It often disguises itself as something that's "good" for you. Once you buy in, you're done.
For many of us, life can be very difficult at times. It's way too short to go through life with blinders on. I'm writing this piece because I think that in this 24-hour media world, it's so easy to craft and put out messages that influence and even control people. And again, I know that "brainwash" is a strong, scary word, but it exists for a reason.
Few things are more heartbreaking than to hear people recite almost word for word what they've heard somewhere else and yet they have no idea that they've been chugging down the Koolaid. Brainwashed people and independent thinkers are like night and day. At the end of the day, it often comes down to whether you buy into the "talking points."
Have you been brainwashed?