Thinking Outside The Cultural Box

Yeah, you can.

h/t to Ian Welsh for this link to Dissident Voice

Thinking Outside The Cultural Box

Aside from a few notable exceptions, empathy experts have failed to unpack the political questions involved in investigating the encultured brain. For example, to the extent that traditional social science has explained culture as the neutral transmission of beliefs, values, mores and laws, it doesn’t illuminate the conscious, active invention of culture by institutions serving particular class interests.

Studies on the evolutionary and biological origins of empathy are ongoing but we now have hard empirical evidence,not wishful thinking or even
logical inference, on behalf of a case for organizing vastly better societies. There is sufficient evidence that our potential for empathic engagement is being subverted by the dominant economic system and its ideology.

If an ethos of caring is an essential part of what it means to be human and an elemental requirement for human happiness, then empathically impaired societies must be found wanting and challenged. The tacit decision by neuroscholars to ignore or exclude this hypothesis from the research agenda, debate and conversation on empathy is inexcusable but not wholly unexpected.

   My thoughts: it is a quick, non-technical read of some neuroscience studies. Bottom line is that we think the way we do because we are imprinted by our culture and that imprinting affect the way our brain works. It controls what we notice and what we ignore; how we act or fail to act; what we value and what we devalue.

   For the last several decades, the cultural imprinting has been deliberately orchestrated toward producing people who think in a particular way, advantageous to those in control of the wealth, economy, government and media. Those in power have always promulgated as virtues the mindsets and actions which support their dominance.

   New belief systems disturb the status quo and are either suppressed or successful. In the former instance, they may modify some of the practices of the establishment. In the latter instance, they become the new establishment and the whole process starts anew. That’s why dissidents are absolutely vital to preventing what I might call the ‘calcification’ of society’s mentality. And a ‘calcified mentality’ is unable to change course as circumstances change, dooming us to endlessly repeating what no longer works.

   In recent decades, traditional religion felt itself unable to compete in the ‘marketplace of ideas’. They could have stood their ground regarding values and behavior, moving from a ‘because God says so’ justification to a more commonsense and practical justification for their beliefs and practices. Instead, they bought into the pseudo-liberal bullshit, watered down their message or couched it in NeoLibCap terms. Religion became just another Capitalist Venture. The result is a culture without enough dissidents to keep it morally and intellectually honest & compassionate. To keep it human.

   We have a population widely unable to think outside their cultural box and therefore at the mercy of and completely under control of those who define the boundaries of what is culturally normal or acceptable. With a mix of regional subcultures, rural/urban, native/immigrant, there used to be enough diversity in the country to avoid a monolithic culture. but the culture has become homogenized today. Just as there is a .1% ruling class and a 99.9% ruled class, so there is a 99.9% agreement on the cultural reality. If there is anything that can save us, it’s that .1% who are dissidents.
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3 Replies to “Thinking Outside The Cultural Box”

  1. I definitely agree that Belief is an unwarranted luxury we indulge in, mostly because we are unable or unwilling to think. It’s so much easier to accept the Weltanschauung prepared for our consumption and just get on with the lives we’ve been taught we are supposed to lead.

      The point of the article is that the patterns of thought and beliefs we hold establish physiological pathways in the brain, which in turn heavily influence what we are capable of thinking. The brain starts out pretty plastic and very programmable, but as we age it tends to lose plasticity; the programs get hardwired, our ‘software’ gets converted to fixed ‘microcode’ and it’s much harder to think Outside The Box.

      My point was that Established Culture is no accident – it was deliberately built over decades as a means of control and profit. Throughout history, religion has built the Culture as a means of control and profit. Our current religious dogma is Better Living Through Capitalist Progress.. There is some argument whether Capitalism does or does not offer a viable future, and a lot of squabbling about methods, but there seems remarkably little questioning or examination of Progress or the implications of its centrality in our culture.

      As far as diversity is concerned, I think the variety you see is delusive when it comes to the most important issues. It does exist in all the areas you mentioned, but that diversity is not focused on the over-riding agreement on What The World Is Like, at least widely enough to threaten the accepted culture. As mentioned in an earlier post, there is disagreement about methods but it is the common belief which is a delusion. We’re running hard in the wrong direction. It comes back to your observation that Belief – with a capital B – is dangerous and ultimately self-defeating.

  2. It is precisely that fracturing that defeats any homogeneous response to what’s going on; societally (sp) and governmentally (sp).
    Thinking outside the cultural box is an absurd concept when people are striving to survive and put food on the table, paying the rent, etc.
    It’s a nice concept for those who have the where with all, to be philosophical, and think of the many possibilities of solutions to the very real problems of where the next meal will come from…
    However the fact is, people in America are hungry and lack the knowledge of what’s available for their continued existence.

  3. Belief and the Goldilocks syndrome.
    Belief is the single most dangerous luxury we afford ourselves. Belief is anathema to curiosity. Curiosity is the cornerstone of discovery.
    Belief is anathema to freedom. And for most, freedom is just a word hidden behind belief and most people can’t cogently define freedom.
    The Goldilocks Syndrome has been the drum beat of the last four decades. Not too hot, not too cold; not too conservative, not too radical; think, but not too much; freedom tempered with security, but not too much freedom. Not too much government, but just enough to control the population.
    Conformity is your friend, get along, don’t get angry, and be nice.

    I take issue with the U.S. being a homogeneous society; it is surely anything but.
    Society (U.S.) is fractured and separated by race, religion, economics, culture, language, politics and belief systems. And it’s getting worse, not better.

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