Sunday

Handing Over Our Power and Fitting In.

"Re-examine all you have been told.
Dismiss what insults your Soul."
- Walt Whitman

We arrive in this world as blank slates.

Bright eyed little learning machines, we soon start to understand and be taught what is acceptable and what isn't.

This of course will vary from country to country, culture to culture and even family to family.

Some of the pretty universal things we are taught are vital for our safety. Such as . . .


  • Don't touch that it is hot and will burn you.
  • Don't go too near the edge, you may fall.
  • Be careful with sharp things, they may cut you.

We are also taught basic manners, to say please and thank you. We are taught not to hit our siblings, not to draw on the walls, not to pull the cats tail. We have an inbuilt need to be accepted by those close to us, by our family, our tribe, so we quickly learn to modify our behaviour to fit in with them, to receive their love and to be accepted.

We also start getting taught to
  • Be nice
  • Don't make a fuss
  • Don't be 'difficult'
We are taught that this sometimes means going against our instincts - for example "Give your Uncle a kiss". Maybe you don't want to kiss your uncle, maybe he is a bit creepy. So what do you do?

In the end we swallow our instincts and follow orders. We start shutting our selves and our individuality down in order to be accepted by the 'group'.

We are taught that those 'above us' deserve our respect and we must do as they say. This includes. -
  • Parents and adults in general.
  • Teachers.
  • Doctors.
  • Religion and it's 'staff'.
  • The government.
From an early age we are indoctrinated to 'be nice' and accept orders.

We are taught to suppress our feelings and to accept the fact that those in charge know what is best for us. We learn to follow orders, to accept direction and perhaps no longer to ask questions.

We become good children, good citizens. We learn to respect authority.

"Just because something is tradition doesn't make it right."
- Anthony J. D'Angelo

You then have people who are so divorced from their own shut down guidance systems that they NEED someone to be in charge, to tell them the 'right' thing to do. They are still looking to the 'parent' in the shape of authority/the church/religion/the government to take charge. So they can follow the orders/guidance that they were trained so well from childhood to do.

There is also still the need to be accepted by those close to us, our friends, our family, our tribe. When you have given away your own will to a certain extent, then there is safety in being part of a herd.

The media make sure we are 'imprinted' with the common issues, fashions, concerns, even soap opera's, so that we feel identified with those around us. We get the sense we must be doing the right thing, everyone else is doing it too.

It then reinforces that feeling of belonging, being accepted by the crowd. We have all seen what happens to the child in the playground who doesn't wear the latest fashions or listen to the same music as others.

So as adults a lot of the population has become so indoctrinated with 'being nice' and not standing out from the crowd or making a fuss, that we go along with things that we shouldn't.

"You taught me to be nice - so nice that now I'm so full of niceness,
I have no sense of right and wrong, no outrage, no passion." - Garrison Keillor


Most times people don't realise that this has happened and are quite happy to go along with the status quo. There are women who give their power away to husbands, workers who allow bosses to talk down to them, people who let churches indoctrinate them with fear.

So we don't make a fuss when people disrespect us. We don't make a fuss when our society or our government does something we don't believe is right.

"If society fits you comfortably enough, you call it freedom." - Robert Frost

You hear a lot of talk of "they should do something about it" whatever the particular 'it' may be.

People are divorced from their own power and autonomy, they have been taught to give it away. There are times when it is vital to break out of this mould that society has poured us into.

Perhaps we should realise that WE are the 'they' that should do something about it. There are times for our own self respect when it is good to say 'no' - when it is right to make a fuss. To take back our own power. In fact it is necessary.

4 comments:

jenmorrison said...

I think this is an important issue, and I talked about it recently on another blog. I first came around to the idea back in the 90s, when in a Communications class in university we read a book called "Amusing Ourselves to Death" by the wonderful Neil Postman. He posited that we are being controlled by a sence of complacency and "pleasure" rather than by force. Kind of like Brave New World as opposed to 1984.

We were born with the ability to think critically, and I believe it's our responsibility to do so. I taught my daughters to ask questions - it's one freedom they can take for themselves, at least.

JTC said...

You write about something so fundamental: understanding and transcending the order into which you arrive, and then OUT-creating it. Nietzsche would say that failure to do so is the result of a belief in God. He's right, but one has to understand that by God he means ANY power to which one has submitted and deferred.

In any case, great post Susannah, especially like "'we' are the they..." Nice!

Susannah said...

Hey Jen, I like what you say "We were born with the ability to think critically, and I believe it's our responsibility to do so" I agree.

I am glad you taught your daughters to ask questions.

Thanks for coming by and thanks very much for your comment.

Susannah said...

JTC, thanks for explaining about Nietzche and what he means by God - I understand.

Thanks very much for coming by and leaving a comment, much appreciated.

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