Decades ago, psychologists working for advertising agencies and marketing departments of large corporations discovered two truths about the human mind:
1: Even though everyone has their own unique beliefs, we all have the same basic desires and psychological tendencies.
2: Since everyone has differing beliefs, anytime your product advocates any belief, it will disenfranchise a percentage of your audience. Therefore, the best way to avoid alienating your audience is to never advocate any beliefs other than the most basic, vague, non-offensive, non-committal ideas possible.
This means, the best product a media company can make, is one that appeals to our base desires and is void of any meaningful substance. The major media companies have been producing vapid content for the entire history of mass media. This means generations of Americans have been raised on brain candy time filler.
Americans defend their addiction to pop culture by arguing that it’s healthy to take a break from the serious struggles of life every once and a while. That’s true, but the average American spends as much time in front of the TV as they do at work, watching substance-less entertainment. Even if you don’t own a TV, you can’t get away from pop culture, because it’s mainstream culture, and it’s everywhere you look.
When the majority of the information you process day-in and day-out is white noise, you end up mentally deafened by the silence. Spend enough time in the silence, and you forget that life was ever, or could ever, be any different. So you accept the silence as the norm, and when you’re faced with real, hard information, you’re likely to view it from your mentally weakened perspective, as cumbersome, tedious, pretentious and irrelevant.
Pop culture isn’t so evil it will turn you into a maniacal, baby-eating monster if you watch one primetime sitcom… but once you’ve felt the soft, warm, intoxicating, addicting embrace, you’ll want to go back to that place anytime life gets hard. The more time you spend in that honey trap, the less time you spend facing the real world.
Rome wasn’t built in a day. Mozart wasn’t born a genius. Talent is cumulative. Genius is cumulative. Sanity is cumulative. Becoming the person you’re capable of being, having the mind you’re capable of having, and building the world you’re capable of building takes decades of daily practice and refinement. When you spend 2-5 hours every night zoning out in front of the same clinically unintelligent stimulus, you irrevocably wipe away your potential, and by the time you reach old age, all you’ll be is exactly what you put your mind to: nothing.
To make matters worse, all those years you were lulled into that cozy dream state by the flashing lights in your living room and the pulsating music in your car, the real world problems that made you want to seek shelter in a movie theater, never went away. In fact, since the majority of the population has been ignoring those problems and pretending they’re Jedi Knights in space, those problems have only compounded. Look where’s it’s gotten society, on the verge of collapse.
If television and radio had been used to their full potential as educational tools ever since they were invented, and we had all devoted ourselves to improving our minds instead of glazing them over, we would literally be colonizing Mars right now. We certainly wouldn’t be worrying about the eco-system collapsing from the careless destruction wrought on it by mass consumerism.
Is there hope for the world? Well, what is the world? The world is society, and society is made up of individuals. If we’re to save the world, then every individual needs to stop numbing their minds with pop culture and dedicate themselves to using the majority of their free time to improving themselves.
You can’t make anyone else’s decisions for them. The world isn’t yours to change, but your fate is your responsibility. You have a choice. Boycott pop culture and actively improve your mind, and thus the world. Or continue enjoying pop culture and passively dumbing yourself down, and thus the world.
“Pop culture is the entirety of ideas, perspectives, attitudes, memes, images, and other phenomena that are within the mainstream of a given culture, especially Western culture of the early to mid-20th century and the emerging global mainstream of the late 20th and early 21st century. Heavily influenced by mass media, this collection of ideas permeates the everyday lives of the society.”
The United States of America would have a mainstream culture even without mass media. However, every aspect of life in America is so saturated with mass media that you can’t even walk into a grocery store or dentist’s office without seeing televisions, magazines, and advertisements. Since every American has been raised on ideas, perspectives, attitudes, memes, and images broadcasted through mass media, those ideas and behaviors have become America’s mainstream ideas and behaviors, and since the rest of the world also consumes American mass media, America’s habits are becoming the world’s habits.
This wouldn’t be a problem if most of America’s mass media were enlightened and humanitarian. Unfortunately, intelligence in American media is the exception, not the rule, because media producers don’t sit down and ask themselves what they can do to edify the general public and make the world a better place. They ask what they can do to make more money, and the way you make money is by creating a product that costs a little as you can get away with paying, and then you sell it to as many people as possible for as high a price as you can get away with. In order to sell a product to the most people, your product has to appeal to the most people.
It’s hard to sell something to everyone because individuals are so different. Plus, we’re all cognitive misers, which means our brains are programmed to use mental shortcuts to help us navigate our way through life without thinking. Sometimes this is efficient and useful to the individual, but sometimes it causes one to think irrationally, which can be bad for marketers, whose job it is to convince people to buy a product because it’s hard to reason with irrational people. This can also be good for marketers because irrational people are easy to manipulate… especially if the manipulator understands psychology, and thousands of trained therapists, who should be making the world a better place, are making a comfortable living advising businesses on how to better manipulate their customers.
Almost every incarnation of pop culture in the mass media is a product. The lyrics to your favorite songs are products. Your favorite movie/television characters are products. Your favorite sports team is a product. Your politicians are products. Even the news you learn about the world from is a product. Most of the products you’re being sold are themselves (just like the advertisements promoting them) designed to appeal to the irrational, short-sighted, base instinctual desires in the primitive part of the brain. Pop culture, in general, is a dumbed down reflection of reality designed to appeal to the most idiotic region of people’s subconscious… for the sole purpose of duping people into consuming profit-driven products. To put it more bluntly than that, pop culture is designed to turn its fans into hardworking, non-thinking, politically impotentconsumer whores. To be fair, not all pop culture is as bad as that, but here are a few ways pop culture does warp your perception of reality:
1: Pop culture provides immature authority figures to mimic
Children learn behavioral values by mirroring or imitating whichever authority figures they spend the most time around growing up, which is usually their parents. Adolescent and teenage children also mimic the authority figures in their own social group and age range. In other words, kids tend to look up to the coolest kid in class. When children spend more time home alone watching television than they do interacting with real people, they mimic the authority figures they have to go on. This might not be a bad thing if the adults and alpha kids in pop culture set a good example by acting like mature, self-actualized, educated thinkers. However, most characters in pop culture tend to be irrational, anti-intellectual, petty, whitewashed consumer whores. They come in several different flavors, but they all add up to stupid.
The problem with growing up learning from authority figures such as these is they don’t live in the same cold, hard world as real people do. So mimicking them won’t prepare you to survive in the real world. It will only prepare you to be a petty, suburbanite who worries more about having sex and making money than educating yourself or changing the broken world you live in.
Granted, a common theme found across all mediums of pop culture is that you should be yourself, break the mold, dance to the beat of your own drummer, and not worry about what other people think of you. This inspirational message is undermined by the fact that most of the characters telling you this are petty, materialistic, backstabbing, perpetually horny yet sexually dysfunctional, irrational suburbanites. The way they rebel is by changing their hair color, dressing different, listening to different music, hanging out with different people. They rebel by becoming a different flavor of consumer whore, but at the core, they’re all made of the same plastic.
2: Pop culture normalizes a consumption-based economy built on slavery.
Watching fictional characters living exactly like you is like looking into a mirror that reflects the world around you. When you spend your entire life in the same place you were born, and the only thing you know about the outside world is what you see in a mirror, you come to the logical conclusion that the entire world is just like your little bubble. If you only ever experience one flavor of reality, that’s the only reality you can imagine. The longer you experience that reality, the more your brain will rewire itself with schemas to help you navigate and survive your environment without you having to think about it. Eventually, it becomes so ingrained in your brain, that your kneejerk response to anybody criticizing your reality is cognitive dissonance.
The lives of most pop culture heroes take place in a universe much like our own, where people spend their lives working as hard (or as smart) as they can to make enough money to impress the opposite sex, get married, retire and provide for their family. They wear designer clothes and aspire to own expensive things. They accept that suburbia, the ghetto, the gated community and congested city life is the norm. They accept the status quo and structure their lives around it.
Children who are raised on pop culture grow up to become adults who spend their lives working in an economy designed to make the rich richer by setting up the poor to fail. They believe that, like their television heroes, they’ll achieve the American Dream, but in the real world, most people’s lives are never-ending drudgery. Some Americans can’t see that because their brains have rewired themselves to believe they live in Television Land. So they’ll spend the rest of their lives as wage slaves who are destined to become millionaires, and they’ll defend the system that guarantees they never will.
3: Sexual censorship only creates anxiety and confusion.
Censorship laws in America are based on American Christian values, which are not mutually exclusive to what the Bible says. The laws are based on a few cherry-picked Biblical passages loosely interpreted to conclude that sex is a taboo subject that’s immoral and shameful to have anything to do with most of the time, and the more open and exposed to sex you are, the worse of a person you are, and the worse your life going to be. That’s why it has to be censored.
This line of reasoning is based on a loose interpretation of a primitive Middle Eastern mythology, as opposed to a modern, enlightened, scientific, practical, healthy, productive understanding of sexual psychology. There isn’t one single psychological study that concludes it’s mentally unhealthy to deprive humans of sexual stimulation. However, there’s a world of evidence showing that sexual deprivation is mentally unhealthy.
Children who grow up in a world where sex doesn’t exist and civil law even says that sex is bad will have to struggle to cope with the contradiction between their learned values and their biological sexual urges. This is a recipe for anxiety and unhappiness. Coincidentally, a distracted, self-loathing population is easy to control.
At the same time as pop culture censors sex and legitimizes irrational sexual taboos, its creators also understand that one thing most people have in common is the desire for sex. So they cram as much as sex as they can into almost every product they create. They put sexual images in places that don’t even make sense. Even the underage heroes in children’s television programming wear sexy, revealing clothing. PG-13 sexual stimulation is everywhere, which makes everyone want sex more than they already do, but then the censors step in and tell everyone that their feelings are wrong. So the population stays in a constant state of heightened lust, shame, and anxiety.
4: Censorship of verbal vulgarity is institutionalized insanity.
American censorship laws reflect the belief that the words, “shit, cunt, fuck, ass, dick, crap, cock, pussy,” and a few others are inherently evil. They’re cursed phrases that will cause harm to those who hear them… but only some of them some of the time. So these words have to be censored sometimes, usually when kids are around. There’s no logical justification for this. It’s not even based on passages from the Bible. It’s just creating a problem out of thin air where there doesn’t have to be one.
People who grow up with a fake problem their entire life tend to eventually accept, and even embrace and defend that problem. People who spend long enough living under rules that don’t make any sense will eventually stop questioning their leaders when they create new laws that are obviously bad. A population that wastes its days dancing around pointless rules and stressing over pointless anxieties doesn’t have a lot of free time left over to focus on fulfilling their true potential or changing the world.
Granted, it’s not mentally healthy to be vulgar and negative all day, every day. However, the cost of taking away people’s freedom and creating expensive government agencies to police vulgarity does not outweigh the benefit of simply letting people be free to talk however they choose and spending all that money on more vital social issues… especially since sanitizing reality creates a fantasy world that teaches regular, moral-striving people to spend their lives harping on other people’s freedoms instead of harping on vital issues.
5: Entertainment news isn’t news. It’s entertaining insanity.
If you’ve never left your bubble, and all you know of the outside world is what mass media tells you, then the mass media will shape your view of the outside world. Since mass media is littered with fiction and disinformation, you have to rely on someone to tell you what really happening in the world. News programs advertise themselves as presenting an accurate perception of reality. They espouse to follow professional standards of journalism, but they rarely live up to their claims.
If news sources told the truth, they’d have to admit that they’re a for-profit business competing against thousands of ruthless competitors. Their “news” is a product, and they have to sell as much of it as possible to the most amount of people. In order to do that, they have to give the customer the product they want most. News agencies have spent millions of dollars on focus group research determining that all of their customers have a base instinctual desire for entertainment, controversy, sex, mild violence, gossip, and self-affirmation. The news businesses that sell those products make the most revenue. Those who don’t, go out of business. The biggest and most successful news businesses also have close ties with big businesses and the government, and they cater to their interests even when that’s not in the consumer’s interests.
So news reporters weave a dumbed down, titillating, petty, skewed perception of reality for their sheltered viewers. If that’s all you know of the world, you’re going to be very confused and misguided. In a best-case scenario, this will cause you to devote your life to worrying about relatively unimportant issues while ignoring major issues. In a worst-case scenario, you’ll devote your life to defending your own oppression.
The plots of most sitcoms revolve around solving minor domestic problems. Reality TV presents a version of reality where everyone is dumb, rich and good looking. According to pop news, the most important thing happening in the world today is whatever the most beautiful celebrity did. The plots of most movies revolve around falling in love or beating a psychotic villain. Pop art may be the vapidest incarnation of pop culture.
It’s all white noise. It’s a screensaver for your brain. Sure, sometimes we all need to give our brain a rest and just enjoy the moment without stressing over all the problems in the world. But pop culture is everywhere all the time, and it’s always hollow. So it perpetually drowns out life. It keeps everyone from fulfilling their potential, which keeps humanity from fulfilling its potential.
7: The radio is all dumb all the time.
Most radio stations play the songs the biggest music production companies tell them to, which is pop music. Even if it’s country, rap, metal, goth, techno, indie or any other genre, they’re all the same songs sung to different sounds. It’s all white noise produced and distributed by the same for-profit companies catering to their customers’ base subconscious desires. In between the songs are advertisements that have been meticulously designed to manipulate your subconscious into buying things you don’t need for an unfair price and being excited about it. The celebrity DJs who narrate this never-ending river of auditory idiocy talk like goofballs and rave about celebrity trivia and petty issues 24 hours a day.
When you wake up every morning, and your first exposure to the outside world is 30 minutes of commercials, songs about codependency and famous people talking about toilet humor, you orientate your perception of reality around the context you’ve been given. Since your only frame of reference for how to behave is how you’ve seen and heard other people act, your natural inclination is to act like an idiot too. You’ll think anyone who doesn’t act like you is stupid or crazy.
8: The ubiquity of advertisements normalizes consumer culture.
Commercials are brainwashing. They’re designed to bypass your conscious logic and self-interest to subconsciously manipulate you into spending money you can’t afford on things you don’t need. They’re specifically designed to make you think and act irrationally so that you’ll act in your own disinterest.
Every genre of pop culture is fortified with advertisements. There are even advertisements for products built right into songs, sitcoms, movies, radio commentary and news articles. Driving to work you’ll see billboards with advertisements. Ads are spray painted on the sidewalk. They’re put in your mailbox and slipped under your door. You can’t escape them if you tried. They’re all telling you that there’s a problem in your life, and the only way to fix it is to buy something.
When products are all you see, they’re all you know. Pop culture consumers would have a hard time imagining a world without Gillette, Coka~Cola, McDonald’s, Pampers, Colgate, Calvin Klein, and Cheerios. People who are obsessed with buying things don’t have time to stand up for child sweatshop workers or migrant field laborers. Instead, they spend their lives enthusiastically feeding the system that creates and sustains poverty, and by spending all their money on things they don’t need, they end up staying poor and trapped in debt their entire lives as well. They just have better toys to distract themselves from reality with.
I regularly receive E-mails from readers saying they share a lot of my views and feel relieved to hear someone else express what they were thinking because they were starting to feel alone and crazy. I enjoy getting letters like that because sometimes I feel like I’m taking crazy pills too. So the relief of meeting a like-minded person is mutual.
I recently received an E-mail from a reader, who I’ve been corresponding with for a while. He wrote an eloquent rant that summed up many of the feelings I’ve been having and questions I’ve been asking. It resonated enough that I asked the author if I could post their words on my blog, and they agreed.
You don’t have to agree with any of the author’s opinions or conclusions, but you can probably sympathize with the frustration and exhaustion that drove the author to pen this rant:
It has been quite some time since we spoke, no doubt you might have forgotten my name or the subjects we discussed, but it has been a learning experience, after which, I have further progressed my world perspectives and have formed an even more grim conclusion: our lives are never going to improve and our potential will never be fully utilized, as long as this socioeconomic system is in motion. Never.
When we spoke last, on Skype, I was very saddened to see your living conditions, knowing that such an intelligent and truthful individual is not being appreciated by the corporate system designed to maximize the profits of the few at the expense of the majority.
You told me that I’ll never get as good of perks as I do in the military, and those perks provide much security at the expense of several freedoms, which I am sure does not need elaboration given your former military experience. That statement seems quite accurate. I have met geniuses in the military, but the individuals I am surrounded by have the lowest intellectual prowess I have had the displeasure of dealing with, and there is very low probability that these types of folks could thrive in the civilian environment.
Recently I have been conducting a social experiment, that is, in fact, a very easy one: silence and listening. And behold, the topics such as Will Ferrell movies, ways to torture people, worthless ESPN and media trivia and other pop-culture nonsense is in never-ending supply during the 12-hour shifts which we now stand, thanks to the boss wanting to look better on paper. And now all 12 people, save me, pay grades E3 to E8 are gathered around Google Images to see which celebrity each person resembles, while no free education that could be accessed 24/7 is being regarded.
George Carlin could write dozens of books about people like these, unfortunately, he is not in this material world to call wasteful people out on their bullshit. Like many others before him, he has perished at an earlier age than the life expectancy of the people in that country at that time, and it just seems the intelligence attribute is inversely proportional to longevity. Perhaps because the more intellectually inclined folks are appalled and saddened by the depressing reality of this world and declining social functionalities, and this stress manifests in terms of immune damage, disregard for health conservation and substance abuse. But maybe those individuals have long foreseen the irreparable damage coming, where most people are enslaved to be a cog in the wheel and spend most of their lives doing things they do not want to do.
Like you said, the rich cannot exist without the poor. The 1% does not exist without the 99% and as such, to create this expanding socioeconomic inequality, products are overpriced despite being made with cheapest resources and workers are being remarkably underpaid despite ever-increasing working hours of repetitive jobs, many with little productive merit. So you are forced to spend 40+ hours per week to make the minimum salary that the business owners can spare, and end up having little free time for yourself with little entertainment you can afford.
The promise of going to college in order to make more money would hold some water if education was easily accessible, professionally applicable and free. But as it stands, right now the college loan debts in the States exceed those of credit card and auto loans, and the companies who hire new employees do not care for the intellectual potential of the candidates unless a piece of paper says so. Certainly you have met some brilliant people without a college degree, unfortunately the employer also seeks someone who has credentials and incentive to pay back the expensive education that could be obtained for free on the Internet and public libraries, and as such the people without a degree are considered an inferior human being regardless of the actual values they represent.
So now, some poor blue collared workers, some of them with families, also try to attend college part-time, and have even less time to sleep, feed (and of course the food is mass-produced with damaging chemicals and overpriced) and of course be covered from natural elements with reliable shelter and clothing. As far as air and water quality, many times those attributes have to be accepted at the expense of having the opportunity to live in a populated area where a job can be obtained.
All of this leads to health degradation in the long run, and as such, your potential is forever hindered unless you have a very high paying job that can produce enough monetary influx to not only have the needs covered, but the material wants as well. Not a very common occurrence, and so you see how most of our lives we devote to doing what is against our immediate wishes, even though resources, technology, and knowledge to create an intelligent and cooperative utopia are very real, albeit not mass propagated.
Trying to explain such ideas to the public is often unsuccessful, as the majority of people are conditioned to be ignorant, primitive and materialistic. Not entirely their individual fault, as many variables are responsible for shaping public attributes, whether it be teachers, parents, or the media. But one thing is for certain: resisting this system is going to be a losing battle, even if thousands of people exert public pressure, the special force like police is ever ready to crush any resistance to defend the standing of the corporate owners. Numerous riots today have the same after effect, and the rich continue to thrive.
Meanwhile, my wife and daughter have me to protect them, and even though I can stay in the military until l I retire safely and comfortably, I feel like there is no great achievement on the horizon anytime soon, that I’ll still blend in with the gray crown of unfortunate middle-class people and that any contribution to this world will be drowned out by the system that offers minimal securities at the maximum loss of freedoms.
Please tell me, what is the best course of action I can take to help propel humanity to socioeconomic equality and efficiency? Thank you for your intellectual content and politically incorrect, but technically correct explanation of reality. Hope to stay in touch.”
I don’t believe anyone has to die to make the world a better place. We don’t even need to agree on a Utopian philosophy. My current theory is that best course of action one can take to help propel humanity to socioeconomic equality and efficiency is to invest in sustainable infrastructure and free education. I explain why in the posts below:
Great leaps in human progress have often come from the meeting of minds. The Crusades brought Europe out of the dark ages. Christianity would have never evolved out of Judaism were it not for the cultural diffusion the Romans brought to the Middle East. The founding fathers of America based many of their political ideas on what they learned from thinkers all over Europe as well as the Native Americans.
The printing press made the ideas cheaper and easier to transport, and the internet has sped up the growth of human knowledge exponentially, but throughout history, our minds have been cut off from each other’s by physical, linguistic and political barriers… and they still are. If we had free energy, one language and no political barriers our knowledge would explode like an algae bloom in the ocean… but the people with the power to remove these stumbling blocks from our path fear change. So despite the globalization that is shrinking the world and bringing humanity together, all of our minds are still limited by the relative cultural isolation that remains.
The greater the disparity between the rich and poor becomes, the less wealth there is for the poor to fulfill their base needs/desires, much less achieve self-actualization. The harder and longer the poor are forced to work, the less time, energy, opportunity and motivation they have to turn their minds towards self-actualization and learning for the sake of learning.
Throughout history, the gap between the rich and poor has stretched and contracted in cycles, but the contractions have been few and far between. If human nature wasn’t to be so greedy, and the distribution of wealth had been more equitable all along, then the human race would have progressed at an exponentially faster rate, but since the vast majority of humanity has been poor and stressed throughout history, we’re suffering the compounded consequences of generations of ignorance. Even today most people are still too stressed over their base needs/desires to turn their attention to becoming more complete people.
Humans don’t like it when people act differently than them. Our brains are designed to fear what they don’t know. It was a useful survival instinct for cavemen, but in modern society it mostly causes us to bully, insult, ostracize and find other ways to punish each other, for being different. One of the big reasons we’re all so dumb is because we’ve beaten the courage and inspiration out of each other.
Another consequence of fearing the unknown is that progress is by definition, deviant, which means humans tend to reject improving the status quo. History is full of examples of heroes who died trying to pull their fellow man out of the dark age, and humanity is still being dragged towards enlightenment kicking and screaming.
Mass media isn’t designed to enlighten its viewers. It’s designed to cater to its viewers most base desires: fortune, glory, excitement, sex, drama, and shiny things. Mass media is puerile brain candy. If you always eat brain candy, and you never eat brain food, your brain regresses. The longer you stay in Stupid Land, the more you accept and defend stupid as reality.
The world wouldn’t be so dumb if our governments devoted more resources to education than war. If we’d spent our entire war budget on education we could end the need for most of the world’s wars and prisons. Our leaders aren’t doing that though because it’s very difficult to exploit and manipulate highly educated people who are capable of solving all the world’s problems. The rich need the poor to stay poor, desperate and ignorant in order to exploit them. So they lobby our leaders to under-fund schools and over-fund the prison industry.
Ideally, school is supposed to teach students to be curious, to seek knowledge on their own, to ask questions and seek answers. Unfortunately, academia has suffered the same fate as any large, hierarchical bureaucracy that controls vast amounts of wealth and power. It has come to defend the status quo and ridicule, ostracize and punish deviant thinkers.
Universities rarely teach people to think for themselves. More often than not they teach students to think what their professors or the authors of their textbooks think. There are some good academic philosophy classes out there, but standardized tests don’t measure original thought. They measure memorization. So most curricula are designed to challenge students to study old thoughts and regurgitate them, which makes students experts at bragging about how much they know about the history of philosophy without doing much original or practical problem solving of their own.
There may be some force somewhere in the universe that fits some definition of the word God. There’s some evidence to suggest that might be possible, but there are mountains of evidence that all the religions humans have invented are mythologies. While these belief systems may make some good points and give people hope, there are catastrophic consequences to a single person, let alone entire world, of people basing their real-world decisions on a mythology-based understanding of reality.
History is full of examples of people hurting each other and discouraging progress in the name of religion. These aren’t anomalies. That’s what happens when you base your understanding of reality on mythology. That’s still happening, and it’s going to keep happening as long as people keep believing in mythology.
8: Our leaders don’t know what they’re doing, and they lie about it
Society is so lost we don’t even know we’re lost. This is true for the lowest street sweeper all the way up to the highest political leader. We have no idea what we’re doing, and we’re just guessing while putting on enough airs to make it look like we have it together.
In this kind of world, it’s natural to look to leaders for guidance, which wouldn’t be such a bad thing except that our leaders are just as blind as the rest of us. The only difference between us and them is that they’re better at lying. This causes two problems. First, when we attempt to emulate our leaders we end up emulating fools. The second problem is that our leaders are leading us in circles as our world becomes overpopulated and better armed.
9: Parents don’t know what they’re doing, and they lie about it
Nobody knows the meaning of life, and psychologists are still figuring out how what makes a mentally healthy human being. Most K-12 schools don’t teach philosophy, and I’ve never heard of one that teaches child psychology. Parents are mostly making up their parenting skills as they go along, but they still demand respect and obedience from the younger generation. So children are raised to look up to and emulate people who are doing their best at faking it until they make it. This haphazard approach to raising children into adults yields haphazard results.
All of these problems aren’t accidents or anomalies. They’re all inevitabilities considering how evolution has designed us. As surely as evolution gave us hands, feet, eyes, ears, and noses to help us survive it also gave us pain, pleasure, hunger, fear, love, greed and all the other emotions and base desires that steer us away from logical accountability. It also put shortcuts into our brains like cognitive dissonance, cognitive bias, schemas, trust for authority, fear of change, the fundamental attribution error and a slew of other mental processes that reduce our need to think about what we’re doing and encourages us to sleepwalk through life on autopilot.
The truth is ugly, but we have to face this demon in order to fulfill our potential. We were born to be stupid, and make no mistake, we are stupid. I don’t say this because I’m better than you. I’m no better than you. I’m stupid too. The big difference between me and the gangstas, rednecks, preps and religious fanatics that infuriate me day in and day out is that I’m afraid and ashamed of my stupidity whereas they celebrate theirs.
How terrified are you of your stupidity? Because the greater your terror is the more motivated you’ll be to do everything in your power to get unstupid. The more confident or even resigned with who you are the less critical of your own stupidity you’ll be and the more you’ll wallow in your own stupidity, infuriate the intelligent people around you (who you will have ignorantly mistaken for being stupid) and waste your life and lower humanity’s potential.
You don’t need a $40,000 vehicle to get from point A to point B. The only reason to own a $40,000 car is because you want one. Why do you want one? Because you were told to want one… and you obeyed.
9. You watch the top 10 highest rated television shows.
This wouldn’t be the case if the top 10 television shows were beacons of genius. As it stands, the top 10 television shows are beacons of petty ignorance because stupid sells better than genius. The reason stupidity sells so well is because people who don’t think flock towards stupidity because it’s familiar and safe. It reinforces their egos without ever challenging them. If you’re confused as to whether or not you’re a sheeple you can check to see if any of your favorite television shows are on the top of the Neilsen ratings.
8. You believe that the music you listen to and the clothes you wear make you unique and/or rebellious.
Music and fashion are mass produced consumer goods no matter what label they fall under. I don’t care if you’re hip/hop, grunge, indie, metal, emo, punk, hardcore, country, death metal or classical. There’s somebody else out there listening to the same music as you, wearing the same clothes that were made in the same sweatshops, congratulating themselves for being unique just like you. But you’re not unique. You’re defining your identity by associating it with mass-produced consumer products that you’re going to stop listening to/wearing when it goes out of style. I’m not saying you can’t listen to music or wear clothes. Just don’t assume any of it makes you a rebel.
7. You don’t read or you only read popular fiction.
In order to grow and change you need to learn. In order to learn, eventually you’re going to have to read a book. If you’re not reading then you’re not learning much outside of the pop culture you’re bombarded with every day.
6. You get along with pretty much everybody.
On the surface, it sounds noble and virtuous to get along with everybody, but most people are stupid. Stupid people are afraid of ideas. Smart people have ideas. If you’re smart, stupid people won’t like you. If you get along with everybody you either don’t have any ideas to offend their stupidity with or you’re not standing up for your intelligent ideas, and if you’re not going to stand up for what’s right then you’re stupid.
5. Similar to #6: You automatically disagree with people all the time.
If you do this you probably don’t notice, but it’s pretty easy to spot when other people do it. So think about this. Non-thinking people don’t weigh pros and cons logically. They just defend what they already believe and automatically reject everything else even if it’s mundane and trivial. If it doesn’t already have a place in their mind already it’s not coming in. So they constantly disagree with other people. They think this makes them smart because they’re so “good” at coming up with arguments and playing the devil’s advocate. The more they shoot down other people’s ideas and shut them up, the smugger and more genius it makes them feel, but all they’re really doing is building a higher and higher wall around their mind.
4. Your best friends are stupid.
We hang out with people we’re comfortable with. Now be honest. Are your best friends stupid? If they are, then the reason you’re friends with them is because you’re stupid.
3. You have no philosophy or your philosophy is vague to the point of being useless.
Here’s a simple sheeple test in one question: What’s your philosophy on life? Don’t have an answer ready to go? Your mind is empty. You’re following the herd.
But don’t take my word for it. Go do a survey. Go ask everyone you know what their philosophy on life is. Most people won’t have an answer. That means they don’t know how to live. So all they can do is just follow the herd and convince themselves that whatever they’re already doing is novel and ideal. But what they’re doing is neither novel nor ideal.
A thinker would be able to immediately give you a summary of their philosophy and tell you a long, arduous story about how they came to that conclusion, and they would go out of their way to make the disclaimer that their answers aren’t conclusive, their journey isn’t over and they’ll have more to say on the matter every year.
2. You believe in religion.
All religion is mythology. It’s just stuff humans made up and told their descendants not to question. Believing something that isn’t true and refusing to consider the evidence is the definition of a blind follower. Don’t get mad at me for calling people who worship mythology sheeple, get mad at Jesus for comparing himself to a shepherd. I’m also not saying that being an atheist makes you smart and independent. There are plenty of pop atheists who have rejected religion just because it’s trendy, and that makes them sheeple as well.
1. You don’t think you’re a sheeple.
I don’t say this hypocritically. I say it self-deprecatingly. Every one of us is a product of the environment we were raised in. Our most basic assumptions about life, existence, and our own identity are interwoven with the fabric of society so tightly it’s usually impossible to tell where society’s ideas end and ours begin. The world simply can’t be divided into sheeple and nonconformists. We’re all sheeple.
If you don’t think you’re a sheeple you’ll never have any motivation to analyze your beliefs and behaviors objectively to decide if you’re doing anything stupid or herd-minded. However, once you admit you’ve been guilty of following the herd your entire life then you’ll be motivated to tear yourself apart looking for the disgusting stains of society within yourself. And when you do that you’ll also find the good parts of your personality that society helped build within you.