Obedience to the system
There is another payoff for having my self-schema filled out by external suggestion (other people): It alleviates me of personal responsibility. If I just live my Life according to the ‘basic/generic ways to live Life according to society’, I can trust that the societal system will take care of me. As long as I do what the system wants, I can rest assured that the system will take good care of me. When I go to my physician’s office, and do as he says, I can make a trade-off: I will do what he says, and in exchange for that he’ll take good care of my health.
The reality is that it’s just so easy to be obedient to what the societal system wants us to do and not have to carry the burden of being responsible and personally accountable for many areas of our Life. Obviously we have to be able to have faith in the expertise of other people and we can’t educate ourselves on everything, but it can be very empowering to explore areas of Life in which I have diffused responsibility by simply trusting the system to take good care of me.
This concept is clearly demonstrated in the field of nutrition. Millions of people, worldwide, today, are eating a high-carb diet filled with ground-up birdseeds (grains), rapeseed oils and way too much sugar, simply because they trusted nutritional advisors to take care of their eating habits. The currently distributed guidelines on nutrition were based on false information and driven by an economic agenda, yet people blindly trust the system. Most people don’t want to take a risk by stepping out of the herd mentality and they just blindly follow what other people suggest they should do, without examining and trying out things for themselves.
Herd mentality can become very dangerous, as we have seen in many wars.
Blind obedience and compliance with social norms can have devastating consequences; World War II Holocaust being one example of this, where normal, decent people are willing to do cruel things to other human beings just because some megalomaniac created an absolutely retarded social norm. Think about the consequences and risk of defying that social norm as a German soldier. Imagine being a Nazi and defying an order to execute Jewish people in a concentration camp. Defying an order would mean having to answer to a higher general and who knows what would happen to me when my fellow men decide to reject me from the in-group.
People stop taking personal responsibility for their actions and rationalize to themselves:
“I’m not killing these people. Mister Megalomaniac Leader is killing these people.
I’m just following orders.”
We’ve also seen what lengths obedient people can go to in Stanley Milgrams experiments on diffusion of responsibility and obedience.
Working hard and being obedient (compliant) will not ensure that I will be rewarded by the system. In the current system, a lot of folks rely on dominance, being authoritative, bossing people around and gravitating towards power positions simply because they feel they deserve to be there. In the Netherlands, we have a saying:
“The bold and brutal possess half the world.”
It is unfortunate, but it is reality. In today’s society we have all these beautiful ideals about freedom and equality, but in reality, there are a lot of differences between people in terms of socio-economic classes and the challenge is that a part of us likes it that way. A part of me is invested in the competition aspect of making sure I get the highest rank as possible within the social hierarchy. This is my primitive instinct to secure as much resources (food, money, social support) for myself within the tribe. The problem with this primitive instinct is that it is outdated; it was necessary in an environment where resources were scarce. In today’s society, we no longer need to get to the top to get all the resources we need to meet our needs; we can generate enough to get everyone’s needs met in a quality way. But in order to get to such a place, I first need to realize that there is enough to go around and I need to stop being so concerned with looking good. Also, I should stop expecting the system to take care of my needs and start taking responsibility for getting my needs met in a quality way.
Blaming the externals
People like to blame externals for things in their Life they are dissatisfied with. The list for blaming externals is endless:
“I can’t get ahead, the economy is bad.”
“I can’t learn something, I have learning disabilities.”
“I can’t change my behaviour, my habits are too ingrained.”
“I can’t possibly be happy in life, someone convinced me that I have a mood disorder.”
“I can never love again, someone crushed my heart.”
“I can’t quit drinking, I have a genetic predisposition.”
“I can’t make any money, the system is corrupt.”
As I described in Part I, this diffuses responsibility, but also makes me feel out of control and incapable of making a change. This tendency is directly contingent upon having the social system handle and take care of things for me, rather than taking personal responsibility for making my Life work.
The hallmark of this is the recently started “Occupy”-movement. People have become so desperate, that they just go sit in the streets and do nothing and protest, hoping that ‘the system’ will change. Sorry, folks, if you do nothing, nothing is going to happen.
I think Gandhi put it best: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
No one cares, really
The reality of it is that the social system does not give a fuck whether or not my needs are met. This is not because society is careless, but because society is not an entity, it can’t have regard for every single person in the social system.
When it comes down to it, every person is focused on him/herself, just like I am. If I wait for someone external to me to take care of my needs in a quality way, I may end up waiting a long, long time. A large part of why I may not meet my needs in a quality way is because I have simply become accustomed (habituated) to how my needs are currently met.
If I survive, that’s good enough. It may not occur to me that there is a higher quality of living. When I am busy living and getting by (when just being alive is challenging enough as it is), I may not even be aware of the fact that my needs are not met in a quality way.
The next book piece drops on Monday February 6th on the topic of the Actual and the Ideal Self and setting High Standards…
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