Sunday, 25 September 2011

Fools To Ourselves?

Real harm can often be perpetrated by the kindest, most well intentioned people. Real suffering can result from the best intentions. And because of the genuineness and decency of those responsible, the harm is often all the greater. 
By way of example, consider the parents of a child who decide that prayer should take the place of medical treatment. In the United States every year we hear how otherwise healthy children are denied care, often for easily treated conditions such as diabetes. They die slow, agonising, delirious deaths. Or what about the pro-life family planning groups who maintain that in all circumstances abortion is murder? How many unwanted children have been born into squalor on the back of that? And how many young girls have damaged themselves or sought back alley solutions rather than confess to carrying new life? Or on a less lethal note, what about parents who teach kids that Genesis is literal and that the world is less the 10,000 years old, thus raising a child to be scientifically illiterate?
I wonder how many views we form that we actually reached for ourselves rather than simply absorbing them from family or culture? It's something I ask myself because I do my flawed best to apprehend the world around me with as much accuracy and honesty as I can. As I reflect I am grateful to my parents that they never tried to indoctrinate me. I was allowed space to form ideas, to get it wrong, to learn. I hope that's enabled me to mature with a healthy ability to accommodate new information without a wall of natural biases rising up to prevent this.
Now over to you. Ponder the following. Of your values and beliefs, how able are you to identify their source? Did you absorb them? Or did they engulf you? Can you recall periods in your life when you really had to think something through? How did you do this, and to whom did you speak? Did you step beyond the people you knew would agree with you? Did you actively seek to test the ideas you hold so dear?
As a father I'm anxious that I don't shoehorn my ideas into my kids. I want to give them freedom to think about the world and their place in it. This is one of the reasons I dislike indoctrination of any kind. It narrows the view, restrains the mind, and as far as I can tell does more harm than good. Worse, it traps people, often bright and capable people within a fog of ignorance that they rarely emerge from once certain thought patterns are fixed.
Like concrete, indoctrination weighs the mind down and starves it of movement. I know this from experience and there's rarely a day that passes when I don't reflect upon it. And those who fooled me were kind people, loving people, warm and generous and delightful. It saddens me then, that they remain so unaware that the people they fool most is themselves.

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