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Why Societies Fool Themselves about their True Selves

June 22, 2012 12 comments

Have you ever wondered if there was a quick and easy way for identifying the weak points and deficits of any given society? Here is one..

A society usually lacks whatever quality, resource or attribute it portray itself to be  full of.

Maybe a few examples would help you understand my point.

Let us start with the USA as our first example. For some odd reasons, more than a few people from that country will never tire of telling you that it is full of happy, hardworking and honest individualists. However, as many of you also know, the reality is rather different. Even the casual visitor quickly notices that the USA is full of joyless, greedy and fat drones who will prefer to work in some ‘safe’ job selling their soul for a few bucks so that they can buy stuff to fit into a ‘cool’ crowd of people they barely know. Or take their much publicized “best healthcare system in the world” which is supposedly patronized by people from other countries. Oddly enough, it provides markedly inferior general outcomes when compared to less expensive systems in ‘socialistic’ countries. The American justice system, which is supposed to be fair and a system governed by ‘laws not me’, somehow manages to incarcerate more people than China or Russia- both in sheer numbers and percentage. Did I mention that most criminal cases in the USA never go to trial and are settled by onerous plea bargains and mandatory sentences.. kinda like they used to do in those ‘bad’ communist countries. Or what about the savage treatment of peaceful protesters during the recent OWS demonstrations?

However such cognitive dissonance is not uniquely American- by any stretch of imagination. Let us look at India as another example. Most people from that country claim that it is a functional democracy. While that country is certainly a democracy, it is well.. not quite functional. Or take the claims that Indians are vegetarians because they are compassionate and spiritual people. The reality is that vegetarianism in India is a stupid and self-destructive status symbol. As far as compassion and spirituality.. let’s just say that those qualities are rather uncommon in Indians. The average Indian is a greedy, dishonest, money and status obsessed shyster- just like your average American. Most Indians also claim to be keepers of a rich five thousand-year tradition. The only problem with that claim is that most people in India cannot read, or understand, the ancient languages in which those traditions were passed down- in written or oral form. Then there is the unique ability to make poor long-term decisions to pursue short-term profit, while proclaiming their ability to be good at long-term thinking. The progress of east-Asians in the last 100 years has been based on copying and selling products to the west. Sure.. east-Asians make good drones and indentured laborers, but much of their so -called superior culture and traditions are ways to cover their own inadequacies.

East-Asians are also full of shit. They talk a lot about their willingness to work hard, study boring crap, be financially frugal and progress in life based on their merit and competence. But they somehow avoid any discussions about the reasons behind their approximately 4,000 years of cultural, social and technological stagnation. Surely all of those wonderful and wise Confucius-based attributes should have resulted in continuous and relentless progress- but did it? Why not? They also talk about how their society places the group about the individual as an example of selflessness. Paradoxically that trait did not stop their social, cultural and technological stagnation nor did it result in any endogenous improvement in their level of prosperity until they found ways to copy and sell inexpensive stuff to western countries. The reality is that the average behavioral profile of east-Asians comes rather close to greedy, amoral sociopaths whose are unable to imagine a society not based on systemic theft, abuse and scams.

People from European countries are no less delusional. They keep on trying to live in a bygone era when they used to the center of the world. Reality, has however, moved on. Their self-image of themselves as civilized is at considerable odds with their history- especially the parts about numerous wars between themselves and looting of other countries. They pretend to be be more evolved when any objective reading of history will tell you that the lifestyle and mentality of the average European in the last century was not that different from a slum dweller in Nigeria today. They somehow like to brush over the fact that, even a century ago, their social institutions and customs were not that different from people they look down upon today. They try to portray the technological and industrial revolution of the last 200 years as an ode to their superior intelligence, when it was largely funded by stealing and enslaving people in other countries and abusing many in their own. I could go on, but let us get to the next point.

So, why do people and cultures try to cover their inadequacies by lying to others and themselves?

I believe that the answer lies in their efforts maintaining a positive ‘self-image’. Humans have an instinctive sense of right and wrong that is independent of religion, culture or other secondary belief systems. It is this instinctive sense that pushes people to make up lies, cover stories, rituals and propaganda to reconcile their instinctive sense of right and wrong with reality and their own actions.

Most propaganda, lies and misrepresentations are not meant for others. They are meant to convince yourself that you are basically a decent human being inspite of substantial evidence to the contrary.

What do you think? Comments?