Saturday, October 5, 2019

Have you been Scared into Not Thinking for Yourself?

Riots in Greece | PHOTO: NY Post.

At some point the year before last, I was doing some reading on the late Stephen Hawking and this led me to his Reith lectures and Desert Island Discs on the BBC Radio 4 web site.
From then on, I was hooked on the Desert Islands discs. It's been fun and insightful listening to Steven Pinker, Bill Gates, Jimmy Wales, Daniel Kahneman, Richard Dawkins, Kim Catrall, Lily Allen and many others.
It is on Lily Allen's Desert Island Discs that our story begins...

Speaking with host Kirsty Young, Lily Allen talks about openness in her music by saying:
"I'm a bag of contradictions and a massive hypocrite."

It's all said on a very light note, but the statement carries much weight. It points to an honest truth, sans embellishments about ourselves, that few dare to admit. And speaking of the way we see our lives both now and in the future, this is how Daniel Kahneman puts it:

"We are better at finding mistakes in what other people do than in what we do... People see others much more clearly than they see themselves."

And he goes on to say this:

"Emotional happiness is how you feel about your life while you're living it. And life satisfaction is how you feel about your life when you're thinking about it."

In the modern world, how we see our lives has largely been affected by societal standards. Whereas we dwell more on attaining life satisfaction than happiness, it is interesting how we view the future.

Daniel Kahneman says that "when we think of the future, we tend to think of the future as an anticipated memory." In other words, we do many things in the hope of remembering them.
Kahneman advises that we should focus more on living, rather than on remembering.

This plays very well into how we also want to be seen in the eyes of those we encounter in our lives. We are so adept at making appearances and putting on a show of virtue that we fail to speak our minds lest we taint how others will think of us or remember us thereafter.

And this is something that Niccolo Machiavelli captured very well:

* * *

Last year, Erykah Badu spoke with David Marchese and the conversation was published on the Vulture web site.

At some point, Erykah laments that we are often held back from doing that which we desire because we are emotionally attached to how the group thinks. Whenever we want to live a certain way or do a certain thing, we do not because that hive mentality takes over.

This is the primary reason Twitter has become such a dangerous place to speak one's mind. Thee social network in inundated with people who seem ever ready and willing to express outrage, propagate a cancel culture and engage in mindless outrage porn.
People are so easily triggered and have easily allowed themselves to be turned into hypersensitive keyboard warriors who eagerly await hashtags where people are almost always condemned unheard.

Malcolm Gladwell has, both in the NewYorker and on the Revisionist History podcast made a dig at this inability to resist undue influence from our peers, as often happens in times of crisis such a demonstrations and riots.

We are more open to doing the popular thing, even if deep down we know that it isn't right or beneficial. And more importantly, there is a threshold that determines when an individual succumbs to external factors that affect his or her behavior.

* * *

"Utaambia watu nini?" seems to be the one reminder not to deviate from societal expectations, and this is something that few can resist. The overwhelming temptations is to be like Royals, or aspire to be like them by faking it till we make it.
And in any case, isn't it always time to pretend?


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