Sunday, January 23, 2011

2011.01.23 — On Obedience to Authority A Fushigi*

Okay, fushigi-philes, get ready for a rough ride. This is an elaborate one that begins innocently — as they always do! — with my transcribing (via scanner), on this Sunday afternoon, from Chomsky's Language and Responsibility his strong criticism of the poor quality of empirical thought in psychology(48-52). (That I'd read this at this time was a near fushigi because I'd posted Jung slagging psychologists for their lack of scientific acumen and practice earlier in the month.)

So, after supper, and before finishing with Chomsky, I meandered into the Goodreads poetry threads via my e.mail of the group summaries, and stumbled into:
"There is a psychological experiment that has been repeated many times with the same result. An unsuspecting subject is placed with a group of people who appear to be strangers but in fact are part of the experiment. A simple question is asked, such as "What is 2 +2?" Each person is then asked to give the answer, leaving the subject until last. If every person before the subject gives the wrong answer, the subject will usually agree with the group and give the wrong answer as well."

While I've seen group experiments that support the idea that people want to fit in with a group structure, I have never seen that need so strong as to completely alter someone's grasp on what is mathematical fact. I really would need to see that study. This is off-topic I know but I'm incredulous.
(Here's the link to the comment, and the author is J.)
It is interesting to note that he acknowledges that his post is off topic — which it is, because the thread had wended down the subjective/objective discussion.

I replied to the post with the suggestion that J might want to read Stanly Milgram:
You may want to read up on Stanley Milgram's experiments on human behaviour in his book Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View.

C.G. Jung talks frequently throughout his works about the problem of the group on the individual, and refused to consider as helpful to the individual any therapy beyond one-on-one.
(The link to it is here.)
After I wrote that, I realized that Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View is a book I haven't added to my Goodreads' library. So I proceeded to do so, and wrote a review, too:
This is a powerful cautionary tale about the nature of the human sheep. I see this book as an impetus for those truly interested in their own true individuality to begin the challenging, even painful, task of examining themselves in order to see and even understand where it is within them. Especially where they don't expect it, in the unconscious accepted truths of some so-called authority that they are following but which are invalid and destructive either personally or socially.

This book was one of the most important ones I read in that it began in me the unstoppable need to question the authority of the media. It raised in my mind the strength and impetus to really see the nature of how the media presents its 'truths,' and the the truths of those who support their corporatist owner's ideology. What do I mean by that? Just listen to the parade of experts and so-called experts that they use to influence every human behaviour from buying the right hamburger or the right government, to agreeing to seeking WMD's in a foreign desert or abolishing civil liberties in the name of terror. (I didn't discover Chomsky until about ten years after first reading Obedience.)

I read Obedience the first time in 1981, and then re-read it in the 1990s. As I get older, and as I see countries like the USA spend their wealth building bombers and invading other countries instead of keeping band classes in their public schools, or rebuilding the lives of their own countrymen devastated by hurricane Katrina, it strikes me as an even more accurate testament to human sheep-dom than I had originally feared when I read it even fifteen years ago. It is with great authority that their governance justifies impoverishing the population and the greater social infrastructures for the sake of greater goods and so-called homeland security.

Obedience to authority is alive and well. And so it is that when the one enlightened lemming stumbled into the other enlightened lemming, it said "We're going the wrong way!" Between breaths, the other agreed, "Yes, yes we are!"
So, in typical fushigi fashion, this is all, well, how do you say it, boring. But now things get interesting. Immediately after writing my review, I recommenced with my quick skim through Goodreads's summary, and came across a new entry by Danny Earl Simmons, who quite often has fun challenges, and/or very good poems that he posts looking for critical comments. Was I surprised to read the following:
A blog I visit sometimes ( put up this quote as a poetry prompt: “we had been given our own small version of Paradise” - "Clean Straw for Nothing" by George Johnston. I thought it might be an enjoyable prompt for us. Here is my stab (yes, yes, early draft, but excited to share).

      by Danny Earl Simmons

We had been given
our own small version
of Paradise
and it came
with rigid rules
and shameless shuns
and petty guilts
and caramel apples
served up as answers
for every difficult thing.
It came with mindless
smiles and mindless
obedience and mindless
nods that never
ever stopped.
It came with Faith.
We had been given
our own small version
of Paradise
and I said,
“I'll take Hell.”
          (Here's the link to it in Goodreads.)

Now, if that isn't a real fushigi, then I've never come across one.

Oh! And I enjoyed 'Paradise,' although I don't think it is the best I've seen from DES.

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