Tag Archives: sociology

Mmmm…Sheeeple.

8 Jan

By Gutman Braun

There seems to be this reality that exists wherever humans function in groups. I know that this is not an incredible or deep revelation, but I’d like to share it anyway – especially since I’ve been watching this in action fairly recently:

 

In a certain corporation that I had some interaction with, the management personnel generally made it to where they are, and achieved success, merely by being able to use force of conviction to make it sound like they have the answers. Here’s a typical meeting:

 

Assembled to discuss problems with the technology they are using (and how to solve those problems) are managers, technical experts and various employees (such as programmers, users and troubleshooters). Now, only a couple people there really understand the technology, while most of the assembled have only spotty understanding of those inner workings. Invariably, management personnel automatically begin stating the problems and prescribing solutions – dictating orders as to how the problem will be handled.

 

However, they tend to be the least knowledgeable. Moreover, even their understanding of the problem is generally not accurate – and they seldom (for some odd reason), if ever, seriously consult the individuals who are most likely to grasp the challenges and who have the knowledge to propose good solutions. The assembled participants of the meeting should, and I think do, know this – yet, they happily remain silent and are ready and willing to follow orders, regardless of the fact that it makes little (if any) sense. If they’re lucky, one of the truly knowledgeable individuals may attempt to steer the managers and the conversation towards a sensible direction (and this is also fascinating to watch) – but it’s not always the case and it’s not always accepted.

 

My point is that this dynamic seems to highlight how humans like to function: Those who climb the ladder of success are most often not those who are correct, rather, they are merely those who speak with conviction and an authoritative tone while ensuring that they maintain the peoples trust (which is actually not all that hard to do). And this is true everywhere: Religious leaders succeed primarily because humans suffer from such great uncertainly that they will give almost anything to have someone just tell them the way it is – and what a relief it is to find such a person! And if you think we don’t all do this somewhat, let me point to something that I have always found to be amazing:

 

Take, for example, a reputable newspaper article, book, etc. If we know very little about the subject matter, we generally trust the article to be fairly accurate – however, when we are familiar with the topic, we almost always find the article to be full of inaccuracies and mistakes. Thus, knowing as we do, that they’re almost always wrong when it comes to things that we know about, shouldn’t we consider all the information that we read or are told about as highly suspect?

 

And the answer must be a resounding ‘NO,’ It’s just way too hard (impossible, really) for humans to verify every bit of information we encounter. We are hard-wired to accept information that passes our first line of defense (i.e. it comes from a source that we don’t reject and it doesn’t conflict with the way we are already inclined to think). Therefore, to a great extent, leaders of all groups succeed through force of personality and conviction, and the followers are comfortable with that (often knowingly). Thus, for the sense of security that the individual will gain by trusting in the Rabbi, Priest, Manager, etc, most of us will gladly give up truth.

 

Only a very small percent of us prefer the road less taken.

 

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Racism and Apikursus

6 Dec

It may not seem so at first glance, but these two issues are so closely related, I can’t decide which one is the mashal and which is the nimshal.

The problem I’m talking about is the “line in the sand”. These two issues are the line in the sand for our two societies, frum and secular. In either one, your behavior is overlooked as long as you don’t cross the line. Once you do that, you switch from “good” to “bad”. It’s a defensive, siege mentality that exists to bind the group members and keep the group’s perceived enemies out. And it becomes a problem when it exists in a normal society.

The frum problem is clearly larger than the secular one, so I’m going to start small and work my way up. Secular (Western) society, after experiencing a Holocaust and two world wars, decided it might finally be prudent to abandon the idea of superior races that had been swirling around since, what, feudal times? Roman times? Who knows. It was a dangerous idea that was no longer safe to play around with and feel superior than other people about, so it was banished. Any mention of the old ideas would brand you an enemy to society, and anything sounding suspicious would mark you suspect. The old ideas weren’t disarmed rationally, they were simply buried as is, under strict guard. But united against hate- what could be bad about that?

Well, for one thing, the problems that need to be addressed, aren’t, because there’s no safe way to bring up a discussion without sounding like the enemy and triggering the racist alarm. Ugly-sounding facts are not allowed to be spoken about, simply because they are verboten. Lower black-American test scores, higher percentage of black teen pregnancies, higher percentage of black incarceration, all these problems are staying the same or getting worse (here’s a sobering study), because introducing a change in policy is racist.

Another problem is that I think the old ideas aren’t really gone from people’s minds. They are simmering under the surface in the place where forbidden double-think thought goes, ready to explode should some large-scale, unexplainable catastrophe happen, for example the economy going under, just like it did in Nazi Germany. Don’t think so? Look at the blame being thrown around on illegal aliens (that’s Mexians in single-think) and Jews in Wall Street (a 90% Jew club, of course) for the current state of the economy. Or look a little deeper at the ratio of mixed-race marriages. Here’s one: White/Asian is at 1%, while White/Black is at 0.4% This fits well with established racist hierarchies, but not that well with minority group percentage figures which put Black Americans at 13% of the population and Asians at 4.5%.

Is there a better way to deal with this and still keep the racist ideas contained? Yes, I think so. I think that, as a nation, we are at the point where it’s safe to discuss race openly. As a society, I think we’re enlightened enough to know that there are many causes to problems with society, and that the all-time obvious one -“that boy’s a different color”- doesn’t really answer anything. There are, and probably will always be, some people who say the word, “black” or “Jew” like it’s a bad thing, but that doesn’t mean everyone else has to stop saying it, or dance around with P.C. nonsense like “African-American”. When you stop saying something because you’re afraid of the power it might have, you are the one giving it power, and keeping it in the underlying consciousness of everyone in society. Letting these issues see the light of day, exposing them to reality, is the only way to dry up whatever lingering, festering substance still remains in them.

Oh, and same thing with apikursus ideas, except different in some ways. Didn’t realize how long the race issue would take.

Deja Vu Post: Are People Only As Nice As They Need To Be To Get What They Want?

4 Dec

Yes.

Oh, I was dying to just end it there. Wouldn’t that have been awesome? But I guess I should explain what I mean a little more.

It hasn’t been proven, but I believe that people learn to act either dominantly or passively as a response to their environment. You learn your place in society. Can I get stuff by demanding it, by taking it, or by being given it? Whichever one works is the one you stick with.

Were your parents authoritative, and controlling? Then you’ll be one of those “nice” guys. You will do so because you’re neurotic and still unconsciously fearful of repercussions. Did your mother wait on you hand and foot? Then you’ll expect all women to give you things if you demand it. Did you grow up rich and privileged? Then you take what you want from the lesser folks.

This seems logical, but for some reason, most people have a hard time deviating from standard definitions of good and evil. It’s so much easier when people fall into pre-established categories. But people aren’t evil or good by nature. What they are is adaptive. Can I survive by smacking this guy? No. This guy? Yes. The “super-nice” emotional guy might be a doormat to an adult, but a tyrant to his children. These are all learned. There is no choice involved.

What about the guy who feels like beating/molesting a child, and stops himself for no other reason than because God is watching? This man believes he’ll receive a super-smack in the afterlife. Choosing to forgo a bar of delicious chocolate from Chernobyl may be smart, but it’s not righteous.

The one I would call a ‘Tzaddik’, is someone who sees himself as part of a larger body. The deeper theologies, such as Kabbalah, stress this idea. Moshe saw himself as part of Israel, ‘one with nature’, so to speak. When Hashem told him he’ll wipe Israel out, and rebuild with just him, Moshe said no, we are all one, part of each other, part of creation, part of God.

This is a higher level, of course, but is a righteous man on a different plane of existence, acting with some ethereal value like ‘altruism’? I don’t think so. He has so-called ‘Daas Elyon’, elevated understanding. His mind sees the seemingly differentiated parts of the world from a larger perspective. But he still acts kindly because he sees it as helping himself. We are all connected, we are all one, therefore I am you. I will do a Mitzva because I am one with God, I am God.

I’ll point out a practical difference to illustrate my point. If I am a good Christian with Daas Elyon, living in the American South in 1850, I might fight for the rights of every White man, and own Black slaves. That’s because black people are not part of me. They are lower. I may feel that they are deserving of the same respect and good treatment as other animals by being part of the larger circle of life that I am, but they don’t have the ‘human soul’ that makes me see other white men as part of me.

The tzaddik, then, doesn’t operate on a different playing field. He has accepted certain ideas as truths that allow him to play the game differently, relative to how much of these elevated truths he has accepted. I believe the same idea can be applied to God as well. We believe He takes an active role in us because he cares about us. But He cares about us because we are Him.

Note: I originally posted this a while ago (June 5th, to be exact), so it’s a little different in style than what I’d write today, but the topic just came up in the comments on the Two Angels post, and I figured I’d post it again. Also, this was one of my earlier posts, when I didn’t have a lot of readers, so about 10 people total have read this piece on my site. I think I might start reposting some of my earlier posts that I thought were good when I wrote them, but didn’t get many views.

My Take On The Shidduch Crisis

29 Jun


Well, first of all, I don’t know if the shidduch crisis actually exists. Any problem that people become aware of in the frum community seems to get an automatic addendum of “crisis” to build some fear momentum. As usual, there is no attempt to gather real data, and everyone just spouts their own opinion of the situation. This post won’t be any different. Of course, I’m much smarter than all the rest of you amharatzim, so that should be enough to give me credibility.*

If there’s a spanner thrown in the works here, it’s pretty obvious to me that it’s the modern Yeshiva system. Men and women each bring something to the table that the other sex is looking for. Everyone at some point early on hopes for the 1st draft picks, but they realize that men who have more money will get hotter women, so the other numbers down the line eventually give up and pair off with each other. Monogamy may not be natural, but it is a very socially conscious law, allowing for everyone to get laid.

The problem starts when people try messing with it. The Bais Yaakovs tell girls that a guy who’s learning is the real ’10′, and they should ignore everything else. That may seem like a simple value substitution, but it’s not, and here’s why: All you need to do to become a 10 is sit your ass down in Yeshiva and show up to seder. That’s it. Now you’re automatically on top and hold all the cards. You aren’t forced into your natural position. When the cream of the crop of girls your age is skimmed off, you just go younger. You could be 25 and pick the hottest 18 year old. And why wouldn’t you? It’s not like you have some Americanishe idea of wanting a girl as a friend. This is a numbers game.

*Oh come on, I’m not stealing Rabbi Pinky’s lines. Imitation is the sincerest form of laziness.

(Cross-posted on Frumsatire)

Are people only as nice as they need to be to get stuff?

5 Jun

Yes.

 

 

Oh, I was dying to just end it there. Wouldn’t that have been awesome? But I guess I should explain and add some exceptions to it.

It hasn’t been proven, but I believe that people learn to act either dominantly or passively as a response to their environment. You learn your place in society. Can I get stuff by demanding it, by taking it, or by being given it? Whichever one works is the one you stick with.

Were your parents authoritative, and controlling? Then you’ll be one of those “nice” guys. You will do so because you’re neurotic and still unconsciously fearful of repercussions. Did your mother wait on you hand and foot? Then you’ll expect all women to give you things if you demand it. Did you grow up rich and privileged? Then you take what you want from the lesser folks.

This seems logical, but for some reason, most people have a hard time deviating from standard definitions of good and evil. It’s so much easier when people fall into pre-established categories. But people aren’t evil or good by nature. What they are is adaptive. Can I survive by smacking this guy? No. This guy? Yes. The “super-nice” emotional guy might be a doormat to an adult, but a tyrant to his children. These are all learned. There is no choice involved.

What about the guy who feels like beating/molesting a child, and stops himself for no other reason than because God is watching? This man believes he’ll receive a super-smack in the afterlife. Choosing to forgo a bar of delicious chocolate from Chernobyl may be smart, but it’s not righteous.

The one I would call a ‘Tzaddik’, is someone who sees himself as part of a larger body. The deeper theologies, such as Kabbalah, stress this idea. Moshe saw himself as part of Israel, ‘one with nature’, so to speak. When Hashem told him he’ll wipe Israel out, and rebuild with just him, Moshe said no, we are all one, part of each other, part of creation, part of God.

This is a higher level, of course, but is a righteous man on a different plane of existence, acting with some ethereal value like ‘altruism’? I don’t think so. He has so-called ‘Daas Elyon’, elevated understanding. His mind sees the seemingly differentiated parts of the world from a larger perspective. But he still acts kindly because he sees it as helping himself. We are all connected, we are all one, therefore I am you. I will do a Mitzva because I am one with God, I am God.

I’ll point out a practical difference to illustrate my point. If I am a good Christian with Daas Elyon, living in the American South in 1850, I might fight for the rights of every White man, and own Black slaves. That’s because black people are not part of me. They are lower. I may feel that they are deserving of the same respect and good treatment as other animals by being part of the larger circle of life that I am, but they don’t have the ‘human soul’ that makes me see other white men as part of me.

The tzaddik, then, doesn’t operate on a different playing field. He has accepted certain ideas as truths that allow him to play the game differently, relative to how much of these elevated truths he has accepted. I believe the same idea can be applied to God as well. We believe He takes an active role in us because he cares about us. But He cares about us because we are Him.

(Cross-posted on Dovbear)

Maimonides on Internet Censorship, Martyrdom, and Hanging Corpses

8 May

The newly proposed internet ban by some choshuvah askanim (http://frumfollies.wordpress.com/2011/03/01/the-kol-koreh-to-silence-all-voices) leaves me itching for some actual Rabbinical guidance. But where to look? Of course! Sefer Hamitzvos, Negative Commandment #66, the Mitzvah of not leaving corpses hanging overnight. Let’s see the Rambam:

When someone worships idols or curses God according to specific requirements, he is killed and his corpse is hanged. However, it can’t be left hanging till the next day. The Rambam’s reason for this commandment is that someone will see the hanged man and think of the curse that he said, thereby repeating it in a way. How about idolatry? The Rambam brings a verse from Bamidbar which proves that ‘idolatry’ is also called ‘blaspheming’ in the Torah.

A few questions come to mind: Why would someone repeat a curse of a hanged man in his head? Assuming he would, why wouldn’t he do it on the first day as well? And how would one repeat an act of idolatry by thinking about it?

It seems clear to me that the Rambam’s rationale has to do with the power of suggestion. A person living under a government that punishes harshly for cursing God or worshiping idols might very well be scared into obeying. If a person caught doing those things is killed and hung up, another citizen’s initial reaction will be shock and probably a strong subconscious reaffirmation of what not to do.

But when the person sees the guy a few more times and gets over the shock, he might begin to have other thoughts. Like, Hey, there is another side here. This guy had an opinion and stood up for it. That’s wrong, but kind of respectable. And who tells me what I can or can’t do? Just because you have power and I don’t? Well, you can’t control my thoughts, can you? I’m gonna think about it right now. Hey look, nothing happened. That’s interesting. And like that, dissent is spread amongst the ranks.

Now, since I believe that the Torah is divinely mandated, I also believe that it’s laws, which are true and just, should be protected. But I don’t think that banning sites from speaking about molestation and corruption has any basis in the Torah. Consequently, a ban on the internet, using the tactics of going after the advertisers, will simply make more martyrs like Vos Iz Neias, and in the end, just cause more dissent among the rank and file.

Fortunately for all of us, in the age of the internet, the only way to cut down on negative speech is by attacking the problem, not the speakers.